It is much like surfing in that you stand up on a board, but the addition of a paddle makes it possible to steer yourself, helping to bring a new dimension. Unlike surfing, paddle boarding is also great in calmer waters. Once you’ve nailed the technique, it can be quite a leisurely activity and one that the whole family can enjoy.
There are plenty of places around the island for trying the sport. Many people teach themselves how to SUP, whilst others prefer to take up lessons. Here are just a few tips for SUP that could help your experience to be a success.
Check the conditions
As a beginner, you probably want to start off learning to paddle board in calm conditions. If the wind is picking up and the waves are looking big, give it a miss or find another part of the island where the sea isn’t so rough. It’s worth learning how to ‘paddle prone’ if conditions do pick up – this is basically when you lie on the board with your paddle tucked under you and is a useful to position to adopt if the conditions start getting scary.
Start on your knees
At first, you may struggle to stand up. Starting on your knees is a great way to build up your confidence – this can help you develop your balance and practice the technique. If you take SUP lessons, you’ll likely be taught to start this way too.
Use the right side of the paddle
When learning how to SUP, a lot of newbies make the easy mistake of holding the paddle the wrong way around. Using the right side of the paddle is important – you’ll find it very difficult to steer yourself otherwise. If you look at the paddle, you’ll notice that it’s slanted in one direction. Make sure that you’re paddling with the large flat plane facing behind you (if the paddle was you hand, this flat side would be your palm).
Face the right way
It also helps to know which way to stand on the board. Having the fins behind you will help the board to stay straight as you paddle. Most beach gear rentals will give you a beginner board – these tend to be large round nose and tail boards with a large EVA deck, giving you lots of room to move around. On these boards, the fins (the part that faces backwards) are usually narrower than the nose.
Keep your stance wide
Once you feel ready to stand up on the board, make sure to adopt a wide stance. This will help you to find your balance. Your feet should be about a shoulder width apart. Some beginner boards have markings to show you where to stand, which can be useful when getting started.
Look at the horizon
Want a learn a useful trick for helping you to balance? Staring at a stationary object in the distance helps many people to focus. Of course, in the sea, there aren’t many stationary objects around. The best object to use is the horizon – whether you’re paddling out to sea or paddling towards land, you can always rely on this as something to focus on.
Embrace the fall
It’s also worth learning how to fall (you’ll do this a lot when starting out). This might sound silly, but falling correctly could prevent an injury. The best way to fall is to simply embrace it and let yourself go in the water. It’s a much softer landing that falling on the board (which is what a lot of beginners end up doing). If you feel yourself losing balance and there’s no way to recover yourself, aim yourself away from the board so that you don’t hurt yourself.
A lot of people self-teach themselves, but if you want to develop SUP into a serious hobby, it could be beneficial to take a few SUP lessons so that you can build the right technique. There are opportunities for lessons all across Maui. There are also SUP tours where you can see sights such as Molokini crater and the islands of Kahoolawe and Lana’i.
Look after your kit
Whether you’re hiring or purchasing kit, it’s important to look after it. There are leashes that you can buy to stop you losing your paddle. Meanwhile, when on land, be careful with your board – these boards are light and fragile and can break when thrown on hard ground.
Don’t forget to have fun!
As much as all these tips for SUP are useful, you don’t want to focus too much on the technicality. Stand-up paddle boarding is a fun family activity that can be a great way of exploring the waters around Maui. You can take an SUP safari and get close up to sea turtles or you can check out the natural sights. It could even just be a leisurely way to chill on the water.