We love trying out new kinds of exercise and our editor, Ange, had the opportunity to road test Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) thanks to a group lesson from Eddie Wood who instructs for The NZ Boardstore in Auckland.
Stand Up Paddleboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the world – and it’s easy to see why it’s catching on so quickly. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a great workout and it’s something a bit different. The basic gist of it is you stand on a board that looks a little like a surfboard and use a paddle to steer yourself around. Our group session began at the Oliver Street boat ramp in Pt. Chevalier, Auckland – the wind was a little gusty, the sea a little choppy but apart from that the weather was relatively fine.
I was all set to squeeze into my wetsuit and was a bit dubious when I was advised I wouldn’t need it as I’m a complete wuss when it comes to cold water, but I donned my togs and a light t-shirt and surprisingly, as long as you don’t fall in the water, you stay relatively dry. You’re also so busy concentrating and moving you don’t get particularly cold – though it was only April when I did this Road Test; it could be a different matter in June!
Beginner’s SUP tips
Eddie started us out by getting us to attach the board’s ankle strap to ourselves because you don’t want to go losing your board when you’re out on the water if you do happen to fall in! Then placing the paddle toward the front of the board so that it sits across it widthways and with hands holding the paddle down, step one leg at a time onto the board behind it into a kneeling position.
From here, your centre of gravity is low so it’s easier to adjust to the feeling of being on the board. You can then either stay kneeling with your butt sitting back on your feet, stay kneeling but come upright, or stand, then start paddling. To stand, keep your paddle widthways across the board, place hands on top to hold in place again, tuck your toes under, brace your abs, and slowly stand up taking your paddle with you.
Using your paddle
One hand should be at the top of the paddle – the other, around a third to halfway down so you’ve got a firm grip and your stance on the board can stay solid. Your feet stay about shoulder-width apart and in line with each other and you should drive your paddle with firm but smooth strokes into the water.
Starting out on flat water is best for beginners and we did the majority of the lesson meandering amongst the mangroves, but if you’ve had to launch in an area with a fair few waves as we did, Eddie advised it’s a good idea to start off on your knees – whichever way feels most comfortable – and just give paddling a go. Try to perform some simple manoeuvres, like:
- Going forwards – typically do a few strokes on one side of the board, then switch up hands and do a few strokes on the other side of the board.
- Turning around – to turn around while moving, hold your paddle in the water on the side you wish to turn towards and keep it in there until you’ve turned as far as you want.
The difficult part – going upstream or into the wind
I got a little cocky as I’d been going pretty fast while we were on the flat water, but unfortunately the gloating to my partner was shortlived when he passed me easily (along with everyone else!) as we came back upstream and into the wind. I couldn’t for the life of me get the hang of it as I was paddling harder than ever but when I looked either side of me, the scenery wasn’t changing!
Eddie advised to take shorter, quicker strokes which did help, but I was so tired from my useless paddling efforts beforehand I had to take a rest. If this happens to you, you can just drop back down to your knees (reverse the process at the beginning when you first got on the board) and continue paddling this way. It also helps as your body doesn’t act as a human sail with the wind blowing you backwards. Once you’ve been on your paddleboard for a while it does get easier and you can start enjoying the view a bit more.
Good things to take with you
Definitely a towel just in case, swimming togs, sunscreen, a wetsuit (if it’s cold) and possibly a change of clothes if you want. During paddleboarding lessons any equipment you need will usually be provided.
What you’ll be working out
You will get a great workout for your core and really work your balance and stability. With all the paddling your upper body does, you’ll also be getting in a good training session for your arms, shoulders, chest and back. SUP is already mutating and paddleboard yoga is taking off overseas – can’t wait to give that a go one day when it reaches our shores!
For more information on The NZ Boardstore, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Auckland lessons or to buy gear, visit www.nzboardstore.co.nz.
Images / The NZ Boardstore