A Guide to Paddleboarding for Beginners

I am not an athlete. In fact, I am pretty accident-prone, clumsy and overall slow as hell. I’ve accepted my lot though in life and soldier on, giving every new opportunity a go at least once. So when faced with the idea of paddle boarding in Aruba, I thought this will be a disaster, especially alongside my six-pack comrades. I’d sadly float along, gripping helplessly to the side of the board, hoping the ocean will just take me below and get it over with. There was no way I’d be able to flop myself up onto that glorified surf board, then stand and maneuver my way along the shore. Nope.

Amazingly though, on my first try I did rise triumphantly and was rewarded with beautiful Caribbean sea, sand and sky views in all directions. I was totally on board (get it) with paddle boarding and have loved doing it all over the world ever since. Here’s some tips to get you started on Stand Up Paddle Boarding, or SUP.

girl on paddleboard with mountains and trees

Pick Your Destination

Most destinations will now have operators that offer paddle boarding to everyone. You most likely can find the opportunity through your hotel if staying near any large body of water. As a first-timer, do realize though no two places are the same. Conquering paddle boarding in a choppy ocean is much different than on a smooth-as-glass glacier lake. If you’re not keen on getting wet because of cold temperatures, then trying this spot for the first time somewhere far from the equator is not a good idea. He’re a couple recommendations:

  • Lake Charles, Louisiana has super smooth waters and pretty surrounding to try paddle boarding. Have a look at the Paddle Up Boarding Co. with a travel-savvy owner who’s enjoyed his sport all over the world.
  • City dwellers who want to get their SUP on can even do so in London, UK. There’s several launch points around the River Thames through the Active360 school, which can be reached easily by public transport.
  • I found Aruba in the Caribbean to be a wonderful place to learn – the Aruba Marriott Resort was wonderful in terms of providing modern equipment and instruction. If you want to be fully prepared before your trip, take a lesson in a local pool where conditions are predictable.

pexels-photo-42498

Have the Right Gear

Depending on how long to plan to paddle board, you’ll want a few key items to take with you. Before you buy anything though, make sure you have a great dry pack. If you do pitch into the water, this will be a lifeline. It’s especially important if you want to take any photography gear or your smartphone.

If it’s a legit trip for a whole day, have fresh water, sunblock and a pair of backup water shoes in case you need to go ashore. With rough waters you might want a lifejacket as well if you aren’t fully confident in your swimming abilities.

You can bring your own paddle and board too! There’s even inflatable models that are portable on flights that come in various styles, lengths and costs.

Enjoy the Ride

Like I said, I’m no graceful swan when it comes to active pursuits. But I found paddle boarding to be very manageable and something I really could enjoy. Hang out on the board belly down for a minute if you need to get your bearings. There’s no rush. Then slowly move to your needs and paddle around a bit form that position until you feel comfortable. Once you master your initial balance on foot, it’s often smooth sailing from there. If you do fall, just go with it then hop right back on.

girl on bikini kneeling on padddleboard

If you fall in love with paddle boarding, there’s plenty of off-shoot activities to try a well. For instance, some people love doing yoga on boards, as it adds an extra element of balance challenges. I might need a few more attempts at simply not trying to fall into the ocean before I get on board with yoga.

Author: EileenCotterWright

Eileen Cotter Wright is a Boston, MA expat living in London, UK. She is a freelance writer and owner of group travel site PureWander.com. Despite losing her passport the first day she left her home country, she's continued to roam the earth with gusto for about a decade. You can keep up with her hot mess adventures on Twitter @Crooked_Flight.

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1 Comment

  1. If you get separated from your paddle and your board, get your board first, then paddle it to retrieve the paddle.

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