Paddleboarding Basics and Terminology
In a comfortable paddleboarding stance you will want to have your feet shoulder length apart, toes facing the nose of the board. The key is to be light on your feet at the point of the stroke when you place the most power. Your weight should be distributed evenly when you paddle and beginners who are standing up for their first time should be careful about placing too much weight on their toes. A staggered stance (placing one foot back on the side you are paddling on) is an intermediate foot position used for speed and is also the foundation for pivot turns (using your back foot to turn the board 180 degrees). Another important part of the stance is where to stand. In general you will want to stand where the handle of the board is because this is generally the center point. If you are paddling into the wind move your stance back behind the center point so that the nose of the board is higher. If you get into paddleboard racing, a racing stance is slightly narrower than shoulder length apart to reduce weight on the rails of the board to maximize speed.
There are 3 basic parts that make up a paddleboard stroke: The Catch, Power and Release. The catch is the moment when you place your paddle blade in the water and immediately after the catch is your power phase. When your blade reaches your feet is when you want to release your paddle out of the water, feather your paddle slightly and then repeat. A proper stroke takes years to master and the important thing to keep in mind is that you are not using your arms for power. A proper stroke is when your entire body is working together in unison.
Speed is a measure of distance per stroke, which goes hand-in-hand with the stroke rate, or how many times you can complete one stroke usually measured by the minute. An average stroke rate is 30-40 strokes/ minute and a fast, racing rate is 50-60 +. There are 2 types of paddle strokes that you can use for speed- the Hawaiian and the Tahitian, or an emphasis on power and distance vs. an emphasis on stroke rate. In our intermediate and advanced classes we will teach you that the ideal stroke rate is a combination of these two methods.
Having the right equipment and the right size equipment is just as important as having a proper stroke. The two go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other.
There are a couple different types of paddle boards and two of the most popular include a recreational board and racing/touring board. Your first step on the water will be to rent or purchase a recreational board. These boards generally come in 2 sizes: 10’6 or 11’6 and can be used for a wide range of SUP activities including: all around paddling, ocean surfing, fitness and yoga. Your next step is an intermediate board like the Yolo Eco Trainer that is a little bit narrower in length. As you progress in skill there comes the need for speed available in racing/ touring board models with a displacement hull and narrow design. A displacement hull design is similar to a boat hull design, rounded on the bottom displacing water to the sides of the board. These boards are available in 12’6 and 14 in length, which along with unlimited, are the two standard classes in paddleboard racing.
The area of most improvement that we see on the water is with new paddlers who do not have the right size paddle. Having a good quality paddle, one that is light and feels comfortable in your hands with a soft EVA grip, one that catches and releases with ease, might be the biggest game-changer in the sport. The paddle consists of 3 basic parts including the blade, the shaft and the grip, or handle. In general, the bigger the paddler, the bigger the blade that is needed. We recommend starting off with an adjustable paddle to figure out a length that is comfortable for you. More info on our paddle page which includes a SIZING CHART.
A Brief History of SUP
Standup paddleboarding, or SUP, has been around for hundreds of years thanks to the Hawaiian surf culture. It originated in Hawaii as an offshoot of surfing and by 2005 Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama developed paddle surfing for the modern water sports world. Then in 2007 the very first standup paddle board race was held on the shores of Lake Tahoe- the Tahoe Nalu Paddle Festival. From 2009-today the sport has grown into the title- “the fastest growing watersport in the world” and thanks to its focus from local rental concessions and retailers thousands of new people get on board each year around the world.
In 2005 Matt Thompson had an idea to stand up on his wind surfboard and to use a canoe to paddle while attending grad school at the Baylor University in Waco. He later moved to Lake Austin where he was joined with other pioneers of the movement like Kimree, founder of Austin’s Expedition School, Nick Matzorkis, founder of SUPATX and Andy Lukei with Austin Paddle Sports. Meanwhile the paddle scene in North Texas was being born thanks to Kevan Burt of SUPNTX and Tyler Marshall with DFW Surf. More about Texas SUP history featured in Issue # 9 of Boarders Magazine.
One of the first paddlers in Texas, Matt Thomson, who, in 2005, decided to stand up on his windsurfboard with a canoe paddle.
Paddle pioneers Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton.
“Be Safe, Have Fun” -Brody Welte- PaddleFit Certification Founder
Safety First: US Coast Guard Rules for SUP
According to greenwatersports.com, “To be able to repeatedly enjoy great paddle sessions we need to stay safe. Leading by example for many nations around the world where stand up paddle boarding is booming, the United States Coast Guard, charged with protecting water users in and around the USA, have decided that a SUP, paddle board, etc when beyond the narrow limits of a “swimming, surfing or bathing area,” (what they call “navigating”) is a vessel and therefore the appropriate safety devices are necessary. That includes a PFD Type III life jacket, a whistle and a (flash)light.
Although, with advancements in technology and the introduction of inflatable life vests for big wave surfers, there has been a trickle down effect and fanny pack, waist belt inflatable life jackets are now available. If you’ve ever taken a commercial airline flight, you already know what I’m talking about. But in this case, the life jacket sits around your waist instead of under your seat! These life jackets are light weight, small, and stay out of the way. In an emergency, you just pull the tab and the jacket inflates. You lift it over your head and you’re ready to float.
The USCG rules in more detail:
- Each paddler 13 years of age or older must have a USCG approved Type I, II, III, or appropriate Type V life jacket available.
- A child 12-years old or younger must wear their USCG-approved life jacket.
- The jacket must be in “serviceable condition,” without rips, tears or deterioration that will diminish its performance. The jacket must be of an appropriate size and fit for the wearer.
- Belt pouch-type inflatable PFDs must be worn on the person to meet the life jacket regulation.
- For all life jackets, be sure to read the label to know if special requirements are involved for that device.
- A whistle or other sound producing device must be carried to warn other boaters.
- If you’re on the water after sunset, you need to have a flashlight, or similar lighting device, to warn other boaters.
What you need to do:
As the vessel operator, you need to follow the Navigation Rules. You are also required to report any boating accident or injury to the local reporting authority, either the USCG or other agency that has been delegated that authority.”