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Stand-Up Paddleboarding: Tips for Newbies

You might be familiar with canoes and kayaks, but a whole new paddling adventure can be had with stand-up paddle boarding (SUP for those in the know). See the tips and tricks below from certified SUP instructor Todd Robertson on how to get your own adventure started, and always check water levels before you go.

Try Before You Buy Many local retailers will schedule demo events where the public can try out assorted paddle boarding equipment and get basic instruction before purchasing a board of their own. Since boards come in all shapes and sizes and each handles differently, this is a great opportunity to make sure you get the best equipment for your skills, goals, and body type. Since the end of summer is approaching, look for end-of-season sales on boards and other gear to use next year.

Explore the waters with a stand-up paddleboard with our tips for beginners | Iowa DNR

Ask the Experts Once you have the board you want, you need to learn how to use it safely and efficiently. The best way to do this is to take lessons. Class and individual lessons are taught by multiple agencies and retailers throughout the state, but all professional instruction will help you stay safe and avoid frustration by working smarter, not harder. If you know a group that already has access to a few boards and wants to try SUP, Todd Robertson can be contacted for group lessons at todd.robertson@dnr.iowa.gov.

Essential Equipment It is imperative that a person participating in any sport have the proper gear and safety equipment. For SUP, this obviously includes a board, paddle and life jacket, but a board leash, quick-dry clothing and waterproof shoes are also recommended. The board leash is highly useful on lakes or other relatively still water. This strap tethers your board to your ankle or waist, making it easier to retrieve and get back on your board when you fall off. Board straps are not for use on rivers due to the hazards of current and debris. Robertson says no matter what water you paddle or what board you have, falling off a paddle board is much more likely than tipping a canoe or kayak because of the inherent higher center of gravity and reduced stability of standing up. Because of this, quick-drying clothes and shoes are recommended to keep you comfortable and protect your feet from debris.

Flat is Fun Particularly for novice paddlers, it’s best to start on a relatively small, flat body of water like Gray’s Lake or Lake Ahquabi. This experience will help you gain confidence and get the hang of paddle boarding with minimal difficulty and risk. Some lakes, like Ahquabi, even have paddle boards available for visitors to rent. Check with the appropriate manager for hours and available equipment at different locations. Avoid larger bodies of water like Lake Red Rock or any river until you have significant experience and have been taught how to paddle on rougher water.

Make a Plan When you have enough experience and confidence to take SUP trips alone, make sure you still have a plan and share it someone before you hit the water. They should know where you’re going and how long you plan to be gone so they can check in with you or take appropriate actions if you’re not back on schedule. While everyone should learn to paddle safely, avoid injury, and bring basic emergency gear, the simple prep step of telling someone your float plan could save your life in an emergency situation.

Getting Twisty If you want to spice up your paddle boarding experience, consider taking an SUP yoga class. While this can be a very tricky mix for paddlers who have trouble balancing, many people find it rewarding and enjoy the direct connection with nature while meditating. Different organizations and businesses offer these classes on different schedules and bases, so contact your local SUP source to ask about their available options.

For more adventurous ideas, check out our Iowa Paddling and Take it Outside boards on Pinterest.

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