You finally scored yourself a new paddleboard. That’s great! SUP is what we like to call a “grab and go” sport. With just a little bit of free time and minimal preparation, you can be out on the water at a moment’s notice. But many times, that’s not what happens. I run into people all the time who have just purchased a great board, then let it sit in the garage and mock them every time they walk past. Don’t be that person! Get out and paddle, exercise, and have some fun while doing it. Here are the top three reasons that you might not get more use out of your paddleboard, and how to overcome them.
1. You’re not confident enough to go out alone.
Paddling alone on a calm day can be a great way to unplug and refocus your mind.
This is perhaps the biggest obstacle for new paddlers. If you don’t feel safe, you’re not having fun. It’s that simple. The easiest remedy is to find a buddy. You don’t have to rely on your existing friend network. There are plenty of people in your area just like you that would rather not paddle alone. Reach out to an online SUP community like the Stand Up Zone regional pages or Facebook groups in your area. Introduce yourself and see when others are paddling. You can also contact a local outfitter in your area to see if and when they are hosting group paddles. During the summer season, I host group paddles and demo nights with Peace Love SUP on Cape Cod. Some are free if you have your own board, and some are a nominal cost. In either case, it’s a fun, safe way to paddle for the evening. Someone in your area might do the same.
Eventually, though, you will want to be comfortable paddling solo. It offers you so much more flexibility with when and where you can paddle. Taking a water safety class will go a long way toward building your skills and developing your confidence. Contacting your local harbormaster for a list of local classes is a good start. These courses are designed with boating safety in mind, learning the “rules of the road”, and how to negotiate water traffic. Although a SUP board is not technically a boat, knowing how other boaters think and react to certain situations goes a long way toward feeling comfortable in the water.As a beginning paddler, you also may have a bit of apprehension about falling off of your board. Eventually, it probably will happen if you challenge your abilities. Might as well get used to it. Practice falling into the water under ideal conditions and get to know your gear. Feel how the PFD keeps you afloat and how the leash keeps your board close. Practice hauling yourself back onto your board. It’s not that difficult, but knowing that you’ve done it a few times before takes away some of the anxiety. Another note about PFDs…wear them, especially during the spring and autumn months when the water temperature is cooler. Carrying a PFD on board is usually a requirement, but wearing one is best practice and can take away some of the apprehension of paddling solo. Buy a good product designed for SUP. They are a lower profile, not as hot to wear during the summer and allow for unrestricted paddle strokes. Never a bad idea.
2. You don’t Have the Time
Who says you need a 2-3 hour chunk of time to enjoy your board? Not me. Just keep your gear at the ready, strapped to the roof of your car. Scope out a place close to work, home, or anywhere along your commute and when the mood strikes – pull over and get in the water. A bit of advice, though. At the end of a long day, you may have to occasionally force the mood to happen. But once out on the water, you’ll be glad that you did. Taking even 30 minutes for yourself to recharge your batteries will pay back huge dividends in terms of your overall happiness.
3. It’s hard to transport it
Addressing this obstacle really begins before you even purchase a board. Make sure it’s light enough for you to handle and lift overhead. Tip – Inflatable SUPs are usually lighter. Practice loading and unloading your board in your driveway. Again, keep it loaded on top of your car if the weather looks promising, using locking, anti-theft straps if you feel the need. If you have to store it, then keep it in an accessible location. Do NOT place it in the garage behind the lawnmower and other assorted yard equipment. That’s enough inertia to sap your motivation and kill your session.
The more often you go, the easier it becomes and the more efficient you will be at quickly getting out on the water and logging some board time. In turn, your confidence will build and you’ll meet some great paddle buddies while you’re at it.