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The most common beginner paddle board mistakes (and how to avoid them).

Be ready for your day on the water by knowing the mistakes beginners most often make and how to fix them. You’ll be looking like a paddleboard pro in no time!

Thinking you can’t do it

If you start off sure that you will fall in and thinking you won’t be successful, that is probably what will happen! On the right equipment and in the right conditions almost anyone can be successful at paddle boarding. Be prepared to fall in a time or two, and be prepared to feel awkward balancing on the board for the first time. But remember, the more confident you are, the better you will do.

Holding the paddle backwards

With most paddles, the blade is angled forward from the bottom of the paddle shaft. Many beginners paddle with the angle of the blade pointing backwards. This causes an inconsistent flow of water around the blade as you paddle and makes your paddling less efficient. You want to have the angle of the blade pointing forward so that the blade is mostly straight up and down throughout your entire paddle stroke giving you more drive and efficiency. The paddle handle can also give you an indication of which way you should be holding that paddle. Often one side is rounded where the palm of your hand will sit and the other is curved in, allowing your fingers to wrap around nicely.

Looking at your feet

There is a reason you don’t see successful tightrope walkers looking down when crossing a canyon on a thin wire,because they would be more likely to fall! If you look down, your center of balance is thrown off and you see the movement of the water, which makes it difficult to stay dry. The best way to paddle is to look up at the horizon. This will give you a point of focus, your balance will improve, and you can see what is around you and avoid running into any other paddleboarders or objects.

Being on the wrong size board

Picking the correct board as a beginner can make a world of difference for your first few times on a paddle board. Paddle boards come in many different shapes and sizes that lend themselves to varying degrees of stability, maneuverability, flotation, and speed. In general, picking a wider and longer board for your first time will give you greater stability and flotation. You should also pick your board based on your size and conditions; a bigger person would want a bigger board for stability, a smaller person would want a smaller board for maneuverability, and in rougher water conditions, the bigger the board, the less likely you are to go swimming.

Picking the wrong day or place

Sometimes just the excitement of getting on a SUP board can cloud your judgement to whether you are paddleboarding in the right place or conditions. We get it! This sport is addicting and it is difficult to turn away from the water when you have all your gear ready to go. However, picking the right place and conditions when you’re starting off will keep you safer and allow you to fully enjoy the SUP experience. Generally, you want to find a place that has calm flat water, with little to no current if you are paddling in the ocean. Here at North Beach Windsurfing, we are lucky enough to have calm inter-coastal waters near Tierra Verde and occasionally we get beautiful glassy blue water on the gulf side just across from our shop. It is important to check the weather forecast so you are not stuck in rain or wind, and to be aware of current caused by the tide going in or out which can make for challenging conditions.

Standing in the wrong spot, or having your feet facing the wrong direction

All SUP boards have what we like to call the ‘sweet spot’ or ‘balance position’- this is the point on the board that is typically the widest and most stable place to stand. More often than not, this spot is located right in the middle where the handle is placed. Standing here will keep the board better balanced and will keep the board tracking straighter. There are some types of boards such as race boards or surf specific sups that may require a different stance or foot positioning for optimum balance and stability. When paddling, you also want to be sure that you are facing the front of the board. If you face the wrong direction and paddle the back of the board forward, the fin will catch the water and cause the board to turn making it nearly impossible to paddle straight.

Using your arms too much

One reason paddle boarding is such a great a sport is the fact that it allows you to use your entire body. Starting off, it is natural for people to use the paddle similar to how you would use a kayak paddle. This will get the board moving, but it will also begin to wear on your body sooner- particularly the joints in your shoulders and elbows. To get the most out of your paddle stroke and to stay out enjoying the water longer, you want to use bigger muscle groups like your core and your legs. This can be achieved by keeping your arms straight (but not locked out), having a slight bend to your knees, and twisting your torso as you drive the paddle from the front of the board towards the back. Keep the paddle right next to the side of the board (rather than reaching out away from the board). The effort is sent to your obliques and core muscles with that slight twist and you work less in your shoulders and arms.
hold paddle backwards Don't hold the paddle backwards!
hold paddle right That looks better!
how to paddleboard Whoa! What are you doing way up front?
how to paddle board Oh no - now you are facing backwards!
stand up on paddleboard Don't stay bent over
paddleboard like a pro Looking like a pro!