Standup's Steep Learning CurveCanoe Kayak June 2015 - Shelby Stanger
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SUP ESSENTIALS: Scale Standup’s Steep Learning Curve


SUP ESSENTIALS: Scale Standup’s Steep Learning Curve

It’s been said that even your Grandma can learn to SUP in calm conditions. First timers going out on flat, calm water need just a handful of skills and a half day of practice to grasp the basic foundations of the sport. We talked to expert paddler Todd Bradley, founder of C4 Waterman, and also got tips from instructors John Denney of East Coast Paddle Surfing in Jupiter, Florida, and Izzy Tihanyi of Surf Diva’s What’SUP Surf School in La Jolla, California, to find out the top skills for starters.

Board to Water

Make sure you have an instructor or shop fit you to the right board based on your height, weight and ability. Pick a spot with flat water and as little wind as possible. Carry the board cradled under your forearm, on your hip, or by the handle with the nose facing forward. “If you carry the board on your head, you can tweak your neck,” says John Denney. Hold the paddle in the opposite hand pointed horizontally towards the ground.


This sport requires tremendous balance so the first thing students need to do is find the “sweet spot” of the board where they are most balanced. “Every board is different, but it’s usually just south of the middle of the board,” says Izzy Tihanyi. If you are too far forward, you will sink the nose. Too far back, you will sink the tail. Start on your knees if you are more comfortable. When you are ready to stand, slowly get to your feet, placing your feet parallel, about shoulder width apart. Keep your knees bent, hips forward, back straight and head up looking at the horizon to engage your core muscles. “In yoga, this is called the neutral power stance,” says Todd Bradley. “The minute you get unstable, bend your knees and straighten your back.” If it gets really choppy or you become exhausted, you can always drop back to your knees to paddle back to shore or out of the chop.

Mastering the Paddle

Most paddles are made with logo facing forward so you know which way to hold it, says Todd Bradley, a world champion paddler and paddle builder himself. One hand should be on top of the T-grip and the other should hold the paddle wider than shoulder distance apart . When taking a stroke, your bottom hand should be on the same side you are paddling on.

Standup Paddling is a relatively safe sport, but falling on your paddle can be disastrous. Always fall away from your paddle and your board. If separated from your equipment, swim to your board first, then paddle prone style like you would a surfboard back to retrieve the paddle.