Stand-up paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. And because SUP doesn't discriminate when it comes to water—it can be still or rushing—you can find classes and meet-ups just about everywhere. But if you've never done it before, here's Kristin Artz from the World Paddle Association (WPA) on a few tricks of the trade that will ease your virgin SUP experience.
Take a class
Although Artz insists that SUP is a sport for everyone—in fact, she's seen people from four to 80 years old successfully SUP—she does recommend taking a class. "It can be a little intimidating getting up that first time," she says. But even just one lesson with an experienced paddler will teach you the correct way to get up, find your balance and hold your paddle, as well as the confidence to start SUPing on your own.
Get the gear
To SUP, the WPA recommends having a board, a paddle, a PFD (personal flotation device) and a leash. You can rent these at most paddleboard companies throughout the country. If you want to purchase your own equipment, Artz recommends chatting with experts in a store and trying out the equipment before making a final purchase.
When it comes to boards, you need to figure out what you want from your SUP experience. For instance, you can purchase yoga paddleboards, inflatable boards that are great for backpacking trips, or larger boards that are great for parents who want to paddle with a child in tow. There are also a number of different PFDs to choose from. The belt pack PFDs are pretty popular among paddlers because they're small. Plus, confident swimmers can take them off and tie them to their boards if they don't want to wear them.
Know your limits
You can SUP just about anywhere. The WPA has seen SUP competitions crop up on the whitewater in Colorado, the surf in Hawaii and the lakes in the Midwest. If you're a newbie to stand-up paddleboarding, Artz recommends starting out on flat, calm waters. After you've mastered that, you can work your way up to more challenging waters.