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SUP | A Beginner’s Guide to Paddleboarding

By Slickrock Adventures on November 6, 2013

In the past few years, stand up paddle-boarding, or SUP for short, has exploded on the water sports scene. And at Adventure Island on Long Caye in Glover’s Reef, Belize, we’ve taken up SUP in a serious way and written about it a number of times on this blog. Our guests love it. Unlike conventional surf board surfing, SUP is extremely easy to learn. If you’re a first timer, you’ll be out on the water in no time.


How To Stand on a SUP

Stand with your legs together, not side by side like in surfing. Bend your knees slightly to leverage your weight when paddling and keep your back as straight as possible – you want to look ahead of you, not down. Much like being on any other watercraft, try to focus on the horizon to avoid any form of sea sickness.

Where To Go SUP

Flat water is your friend. If you’re a first timer, don’t stress yourself and others out by going anywhere near breaking waves. SUP surfing and paddling are two totally different animals, and learning to ride waves on a 10 – 12 foot board takes much, much longer than getting the hang of paddling. Find a nice lake, dam, river or reservoir – somewhere with calm water and no dangerous currents or obstructions.

SUP in the Long Caye lagoonOn Long Caye, our island is perfectly situated for learning to SUP. Our inner lagoon is protected from ocean surf and sheltered from the strongest breezes.

SUP Boards

As a beginner, you need a larger board with plenty of volume for extra buoyancy (typically something in the 10-12 foot range), which will help you develop a sense of balance. Having a board with maximum stability allows you to get comfortable without worrying about falling or rocking. Ideally, you’ll want something stable enough to balance a deck chair and read the Sunday papers on. Not that falling off is a big deal (because it will happen sooner or later), but in the beginning it’s important to build your confidence. Once you’ve mastered the basics and know how to paddle, you’ll have a better idea about what kind of board suits you for the long haul – that’s the one you should buy.

Carrying and handling a board can be a two-person job. If your arms don’t fit all the way around and it seems like you’re going to drop the board, ask for help – you and a buddy can employ the good ‘ol fashion ‘one at the nose, one at the tail’ method. Most rental agencies have a strict ‘You Break It You Buy It’ policy when it comes to their equipment, so rather be safe than sorry. For more helpful tips, take a look at our article on Handling A Sup Board.

Paddles: Your paddle should be a few feet taller than you, somewhere between 8 and 12 inches, so that you can stand upright on the board and not have to stretch down to take a full stroke. This not only improves the distance you’ll cover with each stroke, it will help with improving your posture and making the act of paddling a more useful, strengthening exercise.

Renting SUP Equipment

Buying a stand up paddle board is a hearty investment by any standards. Before you go out and purchase yourself a brand new rig, rent a board and speak to the people at your nearest rental agency. Find out what works for you.

SUP Lessons

If you don’t have a watersports or action sports background and you feel intimidated by getting onto a board, take a lesson during your first time. It’s not worth hurting your confidence by going out and getting lost for an hour – especially because learning the basics is a lot easier than it looks. Don’t be shy, either – instructors are there for a reason. At Adventure Island on Long Caye, our guides are not only awesome on, in or under the water, they’re also highly skilled teachers and are available daily to teach you whatever water sport you want to pursue, including SUP. And the best part, is that the lessons, like everything else, are free. Because our Glover’s Reef trips are always all-inclusive.

For additional online resources about all things SUP: SUP (the) Magazine, A SUP instructional video, another SUP “how to” videoFanatic SUP, a nice article summing up the history of the sport.