Do you Need Lessons to Paddleboard?

It’s not an easy question to answer, and at first, I just went for it and hired a stand-up paddleboard and went out in the sea on my own. The second time I went out, it was to have a paddleboard lesson. In the below article, I share with you my experience of my first and second time out on a paddleboard. I will also explain the pros and cons of going it alone or having a lesson or 2 first.        

Do you Need Lessons to Paddleboard? Where it is possible to go out on a stand-up paddleboard, without knowing the basics techniques of the sport. It would be more enjoyable and safer if you had at least a quick lesson to learn the basics, like how to stand up and how to safely fall.

Rupert Rivett ©2019

The Pros and Cons to Paddleboarding without lessons

Pros

  • You get out on the water quickly as you don’t have to listen to talk about paddle setup and safety.  
  • It will be cheaper just to hire a board than to have lessons. The paddleboard and life jacket hire when I went out was only £15 (approx. $18)
  • This was a saving of £40 (approx. $48) to the £55 (approx. $66) that I spent on a 2-hour lesson a week later.

Cons

  • I couldn’t stand up on the board, and It was too choppy in the sea, and I didn’t know the proper way to standing up on a paddleboard.
  • I over paddled and so couldn’t keep straight.
  • My knees hurt as I didn’t stand up for so long.
  • I struggled to get back on the paddleboard after I had fallen into the water.

These are the Pros and Cons of Having Paddleboarding Lessons

Pros

  • Has a great teacher for a 2-hour lesson, the Paddleboard, wet suit, aqua shoes and life-jacket were all included in the price. As well as the use of their lagoon, Changing room, with lockers and showers. With the use of the café/ bar and open-air seating area to enjoy a drink afterwards.
  • You know how to set your paddle up, so it measures your body to make your paddle stroke is more effective.
  • You learn how to properly get onto the paddleboard and then stand up while balancing and not losing your paddle.
  • How to fall safely, so you do not damage your board or hurt yourself on the bottom of the water.
  • I had my lesson on a lagoon, so the depth of the water was constant. This made both falling in easier as I knew where my feet would meet the grown and it also made it easier to get back on the board as it was only about 90cm deep.
  • I had my lesson on a lagoon, so the depth of the water was constant. This made both falling in easier as I knew where my feet would meet the grown and it also made it easier to get back on the board as it was only about 90cm deep.

Cons

  • A 2-hour lesson cost £55 (approx. $66)
  • I had to get into a wet water suit that felt undersized. That was a traumatic experience. But I got over it once the lesson started.
Rupert Rivett ©2019

Why don’t I just teach myself how to Paddleboard?

The first time I tried to paddleboard, I hired a board from a water sports company on Brighton beach (UK) and went for it on my own. Excited, confident and beaming with optimistic naivety I stomped along the pebble beach to the sea, and In I went.

Not detoured, the waves nearly turn my paddleboard over before I had even got a chance to get on it for the first time.

On my knees, I went, WOW! It was not as easy as I had anticipated, I was firstly greatly aware of how my calf muscles were working overtime to find my balance, on what felt like terribly choppy waves. Even though the guy who had hired me the paddleboard said “It was calm waters for stand-up paddleboarding” that day.

Was he right? My mind raced to think if this was the case or was, he just trying to make a quick buck as he squeezed a 45-year-old obese man into a tight-fitting life jacket, before tucking a Paddleboard under my arm and ushering me toward the Pebbled no man’s land of the beach, towards the grey seas.

‘I thought I had good balance’, Having being a cyclist all of my life and a skateboarded in my youth. This was a whole new ball game; I needed to try and stand up as I was getting uncomfortable kneeling for so long.

Here goes! I stood up with no problem, sadly, also with absolutely no balance so remained upright for less than a fraction of a second, I slammed back down hitting the side of the paddleboard and the water hard.

Stil, Undeterred I sprung back on the board, happy with how quickly I had managed to bounce my life jacket coated body back onto the paddleboard. My second attempt showed a fraction of improvement, but my third attempt at standing was where I achieved both standing upright, along with balance.

When to say ‘balance’ I use that word in its most generous term, as every micro muscle in the legs was now on high alert, with the awareness of my conscious mind overheating to manage with the barrage of motion variables the waves were sending them.

Back in the water, I went.

Still, all in all, my paddleboarding adventure was a great success. I had tackled choppy waters and stood up to tell the tale. I didn’t have my watch on, and I only had the Paddleboard hired for an hour, so I thought I best head back. Very tired but exhilarated, I speedily scurried my broken body back to return the board before I was late.

“You were only out for 30 minutes,” the guy said, as he went to help me off with my life jacket. ‘Maybe I’ll have a lesson next time’, I thought as I made an excuse that I needed to be somewhere else.

This is what I Learnt at my First Paddle Boarding Lesson?

  1. Firstly, Before we even got near the water, the instructor shared some safety issues with us. The primary safety issue was that as we were in a lagoon and drifted towards the concert edge of the lagoon. We needed to go back down on to our knees from the standing up position.
  2. We were shown how to correctly measure up a paddleboard paddle to your height. You do this by raising your arm straight up, then adjust the height of the paddle to where your wrist is. Now when your hand is rested on the end handle, your arm is comfortably bent at the elbow.
  3. How to hold the paddle correctly; make sure the slope of the blade is sloping away from you and keep your upper arm straight and the paddle straight up.
  4. How to paddle Straight and stoking efficiently. The key is to start your stoke with the blade a little away from the paddleboard side, and then pull the blade towards you
  5. How to turn using both forward and reverse sweep strokes. The
  6. How to fall correctly, fall clear away from the board and to your side. This way you won’t hurt yourself if the water was more shallow than anticipated.
  7. How not to damage your fin when getting into the water – Make sure you are at least knee-deep when putting your paddleboard into the water so not to scrape the fin on the bottom of the water.
  8. You are shown how to property stand-up on your paddleboard. It is best to start on your knees, so you gain your sense of balance on the board on the water. Paddling on your knees for the first time is good fun.
  9. How to stand up on you Stand up paddleboard lay your paddle across the board in front of your knees, then evenly put both hands on the board, over either side of the paddle’s shaft. Tuck in your toes, then look up toward the horizon and quickly but more importantly, evenly hop to your feet.
  10. How to Stand on a paddleboard, keep your feet flat on the board with your legs a little bent.
  11. How to Trim your board, This is where you find the sweet spot on your board, where your paddleboard is flat in the water. It’s generally correct if you have your feet either side of the board’s centre handle.
  12. Finally, we were taught how to How to pivot turn. This is where you place your feet to the back of the board in more of a skateboard footing. Then put your weight to the back end of the paddleboard, so the front nose raises out of the water. You then widely paddle, to achieve a tighter turn. (easier said than done)

Conclusion

In my first 2-hour lesson, I had learnt all of the above and I was confidently paddling when kneeling, getting upright on the board and now staying up more importantly. By the end of my 2-hour lesson, I still hadn’t mastered the pivot turn but I was confident that I could work on it on my own in my own time.

I left feeling happy and positive with my progress. It was at the end of this first lesson at Hove Lagoon that I decided to learn to paddleboard and bring you all on the journey with me by creating this blog and YouTube channel. As I gained more experience, I was even able to write this full guide on getting started with paddle boarding.

So, I would recommend having at least one lesson to get the basic knowledge of the sport. I can guarantee even these basic skills will enhance your enjoyment when out paddleboarding on your own.


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Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

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