It's the fastest-growing watersport segment in North America, yet stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) still intimidates a lot of would-be watermen and waterwomen. Here are some quick tips to get up and paddling this summer:
• Start out on a high-volume (large) board. Err on the side of larger than you need. They may not be as manoeuvrable, but once the “balance” aspect has been lessened, one is freer to focus on paddle technique.
• When holding the paddle, stack your shoulders and hold it as vertically as possible. When paddling on your left side, place your right hand atop the grip and hold the shaft with your left. Right-side paddling is the opposite.
• Keep the paddle close to the board during the stroke. Don’t bend your arms too much — concentrate on rotating your core to stroke the paddle.
• The stroke’s power comes from the “catch;” the moment you plant the paddle into the water ahead of you until the paddle reaches your feet. At this point, lift the paddle and stroke again; following through too far drives the nose of the board down into the water.
• With every stroke, visualize pulling the board to the paddle — not the paddle past the board.
• Many beginners “sweep” the paddle to the side — this makes it nearly impossible to track straight. Remember to stroke as vertically as possible.
• Surf Tips: learn etiquette before heading into the waves. There has been friction between surfers and SUP’ers of late. Don’t paddle out through the line-up; don’t sit deep and hog all the waves; and remember, a 12’6” paddleboard, with a six-foot-plus paddle, can cause serious injury if you lose control of them in the waves.
Based in Vancouver, with a retail store and rental/lesson location on Granville Island and a rental/lesson centre at English Bay Beach, EcoMarine Kayak rents stand-up paddleboards year-round and offers two-hour “ABC’s of SUP” courses from June through August. Course costs $59; rentals are $19 for the first hour, $10 each subsequent hour.
Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre, in Toronto, offers private SUP lessons ($185), group SUP lessons ($75) and social paddles for those with experience ($30).