Have you ever looked at those people paddling around a lake and thought, “Wow, that looks like a fun time! But I just don’t know if I could ever do that.” Well, think again! Stand-up paddleboarding (also known as SUP) is a sport that people of all athletic abilities, ages and skill levels can enjoy. But like many other sports, getting started can be a bit daunting.
I started out paddling at Useless Bay on Whidbey Island, near where I grew up. When my husband, Andy, brought me over to Naches from the west side, I had never SUP’d on a river before. But it quickly became one of my favorite things to do on a hot summer day.
He took me to the Yakima River in the Yakima Canyon so that we could paddle downriver and hop out before the dam. It was so different than SUPing on the ocean or a lake – and I absolutely LOVED it. The next step up for me from the Yakima River was the Naches River – and yes, that is a big step up. The rapids are larger, the river moves faster and your skills and balance on the board need to be on point in order to make it safely through the tricky sections. Is it fun? Yes, but it’s the kind of fun where you have to be focused and on your toes every minute of the ride.
One of the great things about SUPing is that you get to choose whether it’s going to be a mellow day on the lake or a little more fast-paced on a river. And as your balance and skills improve, you will naturally have the ability and perhaps the motivation to try paddling on different types of water while pushing your comfort zones, getting a great workout and exploring new areas all at the same time.
So how do you get started? Here’s a list of the SUP basics for you to go over before you head out for your first time.
Basic SUP Techniques
Getting on your Board
Start in knee-deep water, standing next to your board (just make sure that the water is deep enough that your fin is not scraping the bottom of the lake).
At the center point of your board, grab the rails (edges) of the board and slowly work your way on, to a kneeling position.
With your paddle lying across the board in front of you (so that you can use it for stability and balance), slowly work one foot up and then the other to where your knees were sitting, until you are in a crouched standing position. Keeping your weight equally balanced on both feet (which should be shoulder width apart at the mid-point of the board), slowly push off of your hands and come to a standing position.
Keeping your Balance
Keep your toes forward, your knees slightly bent and your feet hip-width. Bring your shoulders back, and chest up, and avoid staring at your feet. Look instead to where you want to go.
How to Hold your Paddle
To figure out the correct way that your paddle should go, just look at which direction the tear-drop shaped blade is facing. This blade should always be facing away from you, towards the front (or nose) of the board. Which hand holds the T-grip on the top of the paddle? The arm opposite the side that you are paddling on. So if you are paddling on the left side of the board, your right hand should be on top.
Getting Back onto your Board in Deep Water
First of all, if you are losing your balance, try to fall straight into the water instead of falling onto your board first. If you lose hold of your paddle, don’t worry – they float.
To get back onto your board, place your paddle lengthwise in the center of your board. Grab the opposite side of the board with one hand and the paddleboard handle (located in the middle of your board) with your other hand. While kicking, pull yourself back onto the board.
The first few times out, try for non-windy days so you aren’t dealing with choppy water. Until you gain confidence and the proper skills, you should remain on calm lakes or other calm bodies of water. Take a buddy with you so that you can watch out for each other in case of an emergency. Know that you are going to get tired quickly your first few times out, so make sure that you don’t go too far from the shore. You want to be able to safely get back to the beach!
Where to SUP Locally
- Rimrock Lake
- Clear Lake
- Yakima River
- Dog Lake – White Pass
- Leech Lake – White Pass
- Bumping Lake – Highway 410
- A Little Farther Away
- Puget Sound – San Juan Islands, Whidbey Island
- Lake Sammamish
- Riffe Lake – Highway 12 west of White Pass
- Mineral Lake – Highway 12 west of White Pass
What to Bring
- Personal Flotation Device (PFD) You need to wear one by law when you are on the water on your board.
- Bug Spray
- Sunglasses w/croakies (floating eyewear leashes)
- Helmet (when paddling rapids)
- Leash (attaches your ankle to the board)
- Water Shoes (especially if the beach or lake does not have a sand bottom)
- Safety Whistle You need to have one with you by law when you are on the water on your board.
- Light (if you plan on being out during or after sunset)
- Dry Bag (to put snacks, water, car keys and phone in while you are paddling)
Interested in Getting A Lesson or taking a Clinic Locally?
I teach SUP lessons and clinics through my company, Girls with Grit, and so does Sara Washburn. Sara also offers SUP yoga and SUP fitness classes.
Learn more at https://www.mahremade.com/sup
or follow us on Instagram for clinic and adventure updates:
@shannonmahre or @s.washburnyoga