This is one of the most common questions I’ve heard asked from beginners or those interested in trying out paddle boarding “is paddleboarding hard?” And it makes sense. You’ve just seen someone practically walking on liquid, gliding across the water. For the most part it looks fairly easy, but it also appears fairly tricky. After all, you’re standing on water, which requires balance, and self propelling yourself, which requires strength.
|Paddle Board||Length||Inflatable / Solid||Rating||Price|
|Tower Adventurer 2||10'4"||Inflatable||4.7 / 5||$799.00|
|ISLE Airtech Explorer||11'||Inflatable||4.6 / 5||$695.00|
|ISLE Airtech Touring||12'6"||Inflatable||4.4 / 5||$745.00|
Paddle boarding definitely has its challenges, but how hard is paddle boarding? In short, it’s not very hard at all. Paddle boarding is one of the easiest water sports for beginners to pick up in my opinion. Look at any other water sport and the learning curve is drastically more steep. The risks are also fairly minimal in comparison as well. For instance, look at surfing. For most people, it takes multiple sessions before they are able to stand up and ride waves. And while you’re putting in that time, you’re also eating a lot of sand, and getting lost under crashing waves. It’s totally worth it when you catch that first ride, but the stakes and necessary skills are higher.
The Challenges of Paddle Boarding
Unlike surfing, your first few ventures on a paddle board probably won’t involve eating sand. Surely paddle boarding can’t be that easy though right? There certainly must be challenges, and you want to know what you’re getting into before you jump into the water, right? So, here’s what you can expect. As follows are some of the more challenging aspects of paddle boarding, that you’ll encounter on your first time paddle boarding.
- Balancing – As you can probably imagine, standing on a board in the water involves balance. As wind picks up, or choppy water from boat wakes or otherwise, balance becomes even more of a challenge. Fortunately, if you’re having trouble balancing when you stand up, you can always just kneel down instead and paddle from a kneeling position. This technique actually works pretty well, and I’ve incorporated in many a time in rough situations. Another way to improve your balance on a board is to make sure you get a wide beginner board. The wider the board, the more stability it provides, so you’ll likely have a better time balancing and standing on it. Most rental shops carry these kinds of boards as the default, but feel free to let them know you’re a beginner and they’ll help you out.
- Maneuvering – See that rock over there? I bet you want to get to it? Well, it probably won’t be as easy as it looks your first time out, unless you’re used to paddle sports like kayaking. Learning how to turn can be a little frustrating at first, but pretty soon you’ll get used to it… like driving a car, except more refreshing.
- Falling in the Water – Yup. This is probably going to happen to you at one point or another. You’ll get confident, start being more bold, then the next thing you know you’ve lost your balance. But, it’s really no big deal, as long as you’re paddling in the right conditions. Falling actually becomes fun, especially on warm days. Plus, you can usually avoid falling into the water by simply dropping to your knees to re-stabilize your balance.
- Patience – Finally, it’s probably your patience that will be most challenged when paddle boarding – just like learning anything new. But, if you’re like most people who try paddle boarding, you’ll be too busy enjoying yourself to get too frustrated.
How to Make Your First Paddle Boarding Experience a Good One
- Find a flat body of water – Flat lakes without a lot of motor boat traffic can be one of beginning paddle boarders best friends. But the ocean can also be great as long as there’s not a lot of waves. Waves are great for surfing, but probably not for your first paddle session.
- Wait for Good Conditions – You don’t want to be freezing out on the water, or fighting strong winds. If you stick with the sport you might encounter such conditions, but for your first time out it will likely ruin your day… unless of course you’re a masochist.
- Dress Appropriately – This goes partly along with the previous point. Dress for the weather. If it’s sunny, bring a long sleeve shirt, or put on some sunblock. Bring sunglasses. The reflection of the sun off of the water can be brutal, and although you may not mind it at first, a bad burn that you notice hours later will ruin the experience.
- Paddle According to your comfort level – this probably means sticking pretty close to the shore or coast line, unless of course you’re well acquainted with water sports. Then you might be willing to take on a few more challenges. But, be aware of your comfort level. If you’re going with friends who are more experienced with you, it’s okay to speak up. Safety’s always important on the water, so just be sure to listen to your gut and know your comfort level.
- Know Your Limit – When you get out on the water, and start having a good time, it’s easy to get gung-ho. You get into the rhythm of paddling, and the next thing you know you’ve paddled 6 miles and you’re starting to get hungry. Unfortunately, you need to paddle back to where you started still. This happens on occasion so you just want to be aware of what time it is, how far you’ve gone, and how much energy you’ve got left in you. Essentially, keep tabs on yourself, and know your limit.
How to Make Paddle Boarding Hard
While entry into paddle boarding involves a fairly shallow learning curve, once you learn the ropes, there’s plenty of ways to up the challenge level if you want. Simply learning to stand and paddle on flat water is the best for learning because it’s easy. But once you got that down, you can incrementally learn new techniques and take on new activities to increase the challenge. Here are a few things you can graduate into once you’re feeling comfortable on the water:
- Paddle on a windy day – extra points for paddling into the wind
- Try SUP Yoga – Yeah… that means doing handstands on a paddle board. Good luck.
- Try SUP surfing – Looking for a rush? Head to the surf break.
- Practice Pivot Turns – Impress the beach bums with your pivot turn prowess.
- Paddle Board Football – Find a football in the water… toss it around with a paddle board buddy.
- Pretend to be Laird Hamilton
So, How Hard is Paddle Boarding?
For most beginners, learning the ropes isn’t hard. If you’re looking to try paddle boarding for the first time, do yourself a favor and follow the instructions above on how to make it a good experience. Bad conditions can ruin your day, and spoil future paddling ambitions as well. Like most things, your first experience matters. So, set yourself up for success, and before you know it you’ll be cruising with the ease of a paddle board pirate.
Ready to Get Paddling?
If you’re ready to hit the water, and get a SUP of your own, check out the following articles to help you find the best deals before you buy.