Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Beginner Series | Part One: Foundations

My first time on a standup paddleboard was a piece of cake.

After hopping on an 11-foot log and paddling around San Diego's Mission Bay for an hour on a glassy day, I thought I had this whole SUP thing figured out. The board was stable, the conditions were calm and my confidence was high.

Fast-forward about a month and I decided I was ready for the next level. With a background in surfing, I wanted to get off the flatwater and into the local lineup. So I strapped the board to my car and headed straight for the beach, daydreaming about all the waves I would soon catch on my longboard SUP.

Three short-lived waves and about 30 falls later, I lugged the board out of the water, plopped down into the sand and thought to myself –"What the hell just went wrong?"

It would be the first of many learning experiences that I would endure from standup paddling. A sport that is beginner-friendly but deceptively difficult, easy to learn yet tough to master. It may seem contradictory, but most new paddlers can appreciate what I mean.

I’m relatively new to SUP Magazine and like many of you, I have a lot to learn when it comes to standup paddling. Yet with so many different disciplines in our sport–touring, racing, surfing, river, etc.–it’s not always easy to know where to start.

That said, here’s what I’ve learned while trying.

First and foremost, it is critical that you take it slow and practice proper safety techniques. While it may be tempting, pushing too far beyond your comfort zone too early can result in bad habits, injury or worse. That’s not just to scare you either; last year our sport suffered a spate of SUP deaths in which inexperience and lack of safety was the universal theme.

Sadly, those deaths were easily preventable. Safety starts with understanding your limits, the current weather conditions and always wearing the proper safety attire including a leash and PFD. Once new paddlers understand and embrace these rules, then they can begin focusing on paddle technique, footwork, fitness, and all the different aspects that go into being a successful paddler.

In SUP’s new Beginner Series, I’ll take you along on my journey to becoming a better paddler. From tackling new SUP disciplines to simply learning the basics of a successful stroke–consider this a guide for entry-level paddling advice vis-á-vis my personal crash course.

Look for the next installment in the coming weeks. In the meantime, share your SUP questions in the comments below and I’ll answer them in the next edition’s reader mailbag section.


More SUP skills.

The secret technique to finding new surf breaks on your SUP.