So, you want to start paddle boarding, or SUP’ing as it’s known in the Pacific Northwest. That’s easy to understand, as it is the fastest-growing water sport in the world due to its accessibility and how easy it is to get started.
It is a combination of surfing and kayaking without requiring the athleticism to do either. It’s also a full-body workout that improves core strength, cardio, balance and flexibility, all without too much effort.
Sounds easy enough, but we turned to Corey Salas, Ski and Paddle Shop manager at Yeager’s Sporting Goods in Bellingham for some insight before getting on the board. We asked him for 10 things to know before getting on a paddleboard.
1. Identify your paddling goals
Paddle boarding can be done on lakes, rivers or even Bellingham Bay. Starting on calm bodies of water will help you figure out where you stand insofar as ability and desired experience.
2. Prepare for your goals
Make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared. Train and gain knowledge so your body is ready and you don’t run into any surprises.
3. Find the appropriate gear
There are several types of paddleboards, such as touring or river SUPS. For most people, a recreational style is sufficient. Consult a paddle shop for information on board and paddle styles and sizing.
4. Dress the part
Aerobic activity requires clothing that is breathable. Using traditional cottons can leave you feeling sticky, wet and, once you stop moving, cold. Consider synthetic options or wool – merino is best.
5. Stay safe
Make sure you have a proper personal flotation device, paddleboard leash, whistle and always paddle with a partner. Also, consider skin protection even on cloudy days. Those rays are strong.
6. Understand paddling techniques
Knowing how to stand, dismount and even fall and remount your board is crucial. Additionally, knowing the basic paddle strokes can make maneuvering a breeze, while lacking technique makes paddling a lot of work.
7. Understand risk management
Even lakes can induce hypothermia, and due to water’s high heat-capacity, it doesn’t warm up very quickly during the year. Since you’re paddling in a non-tropical region, consider some degree of insulation, a wetsuit or even a dry suit on chilly days.
8. Know the weather conditions
Be aware of any possible changes in weather. Storms can move in quickly, and if paddling on the ocean, currents and winds can be a concern. A safety clinic or instruction course can help prepare new paddlers. Calm water is best for new paddle boarders, so Lake Padden is a good place to start. Laramie State Park and Lake Whatcom also are prime paddle boarding locations, because they are protected from the wind.
9. Always exercise good decision-making
Know when to turn back. If one member of your group is feeling fatigued, that’s more than enough reason to head-in. Always preserve the group’s safety.
10. Have fun and go at your own pace
The great thing about a sport like this is that you only have yourself to compete with.