5 Reasons You Should Learn to Paddleboard

by Christy on

Surfing kicked my ass. Sailing seems suicidal. Even kayaking, which I admittedly enjoy, once tried to have me “eliminated” in an unfortunate sea kayaking episode. WATER SPORTS ARE THE DEVIL.

Except paddleboarding, it seems. I was initially skeptical, but paddleboarding is my new religion… and I’m an evangelical. Here are my top five reasons why you should give paddleboarding a shot.

1. It’s really easy to learn!

Like, really ridiculously easy. Here’s what you do:

  1. Put your board in the water.
  2. Put yourself on the board (basically just kneel in the middle).
  3. Grab the paddle and use it to carefully propel yourself in circles until you feel comfortable (try not to fall in).
  4. Raise yourself onto your knees and paddle some more.
  5. When you’re bored with this stage (after about three minutes) and feeling adventurous, stand up. You may feel wobbly for a bit, but keep looking forward (not at your feet!) and keep paddling.
  6. Congratulations, you’re paddleboarding! Now go have fun.

The beauty of paddleboarding is that the worst thing that can happen is you might fall in the water. Sure, this has the potential to really suck (particularly if it’s freezing outside, as it was when when went out), but it’s not dangerous, you’re not falling very far, and it’s usually not that big of a deal. And, for what it’s worth (probably not much), neither Kali or I fell once during the entire two and a half hours we were on the water.

Should I get lessons?

Here’s the thing. If you’re relatively comfortable in the water and have decent balance and athletic ability, you really don’t need a lesson (though our guide did provide some really helpful tips, so who knows). There are a number of locations where you can rent paddleboards and paddles for a pretty small fee and just set off on your own, so that might be a good option.

HOWEVER! I would HIGHLY recommend having a guided tour if there’s one available in your area. Seriously, going with someone who knows the area and the ecosystem and the names and history of all the fantastic sea animals is so freaking rad. Megan, our awesome tour guide from the awesome SUP Key West, took us into the hidden mangrove forest, convinced us the monster sea slug was safe to hold, and pointed out the joys of Pelican Poop Island. If we had gone out on our own, we likely would have missed most of this (okay, except the pelican poop… that shit was pretty obvious).

A “beginner’s lesson” was included in the guided tour, but you really don’t need lessons like you would for, say, surfing or kayaking. We spent about fifteen minutes at the dock playing around, then set off and had fun. So a lengthy lesson? Probably not worth it. A guided tour with a knowledgeable professional? DO IT.

2. You can paddle almost anywhere.

Unlike other water sports, you aren’t reliant on wind or waves or currents. Lakes, rivers, ponds, oceans, bays, salt flats, gulfs, moats, reservoirs, wetlands, canals, lagoons, swamps, or streams… you can paddleboard just about anywhere there’s liquid! It’s best to have at least a foot or so of water (so you can use your paddle and not get stuck), but paddleboards are a superb way to navigate shallow areas.

It would probably be ideal to stick to calmer and warmer water if you’re just starting out, but for the intrepid paddler oceans and choppy lakes are by no means off limits.

3. You can easily explore your surroundings.

Paddleboarding offers a high degree of maneuverability, so it’s a great option if you’re looking for a way to investigate the ocean around you while, um… locomoting nautically. The shallow waters surrounding Key West are teeming with tropical sea creatures and marine life, and our paddleboards allowed us to float gently on the surface and peer down at them in their natural habitat.

The monster sea slug (aka the sea hare) was one of the coolest creatures we saw. They scoot along the bottom of the salt flats and emit a bright inky substance to foil their predators. We picked one up and said hello, but the cheeky little thing didn’t ink at all until we put it back in the water!

Our tour guide showing the sea hare some love!

What a cute sea hare.

Letting the sea hare swim free.

It inked purple!

But it was the mangroves we found most intriguing. There are four main types of mangrove in the Keys, and they each have unique adaptations allowing them to thrive in salty environs that would kill most other plants. Some trap salt through in nodules, others excrete it through their leaves to be washed off when big storms roll through… the whole story is really enthralling, but you’ll have to find a guide of your own for all the details. :)

Their seedlings sprout in shallow water and build up massive root systems, eventually developing into their own islands. Megan took us into one of these watery forests, where we pulled ourselves along through narrow channels until we reached the clearing in the middle. It seriously felt like we were in the Secret Garden, exploring some unknown and hidden mangrove cave that no one else had ever been into! To actually be INSIDE a mangrove forest was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience, and we wouldn’t have been able to manage it without our paddleboards.

A mangrove forest in Key West.

Megan leading us into the "secret garden."

Easily distracted by all the neat things in the water!

Kali navigating the small tunnels by hand.

4. You get a full-body workout.

Paddling works your core muscles like nobody’s business. Admittedly, we spent much of our time kneeling on our boards to peer into the water or navigate through the mangroves, but when we actually got down to business and did some serious paddling we could definitely feel the burn. And if you get too hot from all that strenuous activity, you can always “accidentally” fall into the water to cool off. ;)

5. It’s fun!

We had a blast; even though it was chilly and we were terrified of toppling into the icy (welll.. sixty degree) water, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. If you have the opportunity to try paddleboarding, give it a shot — there’s a good chance you’ll love it!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

inkatwitter: lilygogo February 7, 2011 at

Paddling in the mangroves. That’s what I will try next time I’m back home in Miami.Thanks for your visit and comment on the drunken butterflies.
inka recently posted: Where butterflies get drunk!

Reply

Christy February 7, 2011 at

South Florida seems like one of the best places to give it a try because the water is usually so warm! And your butterfly post brought back old memories. :)

Reply

Pedro February 7, 2011 at

Cool post, Looks like you guys had a blast. Where did you do this?

I am totally wanting to try this out! There is a whole bunch of people who offer it on the beach where we are at. As far as I know, I think they offer yoga paddle-boarding as well. I’m all over that as well. Cheers!
Pedro recently posted: I Am Teacher

Reply

Christy February 7, 2011 at

Yoga paddleboarding? That would be pretty rad to try if you were any good at yoga, lol. Our guide actually made the comparison between paddling and yoga – when finding your balance, focusing on something in the distance helps (which apparently is a technique in yoga).

Anyhoo, we went out in Key West, FL. You should definitely give it a shot if there’s people who offer it in your area!

Reply

jill - Jack and Jill Travel The Worldtwitter: jacknjilltravel February 7, 2011 at

OMG, the sea hare looks like a gigantic slug. Don’t show that to Jack – he abhors slugs (or any slug looking thing). Paddleboarding looks fun and do-able even for a non-swimmer like me.
jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted: The Parts About Planning A RTW Trip That Suck

Reply

Christy February 7, 2011 at

The sea hare was so neat! It had these huge feelers on its head and was quite squishy. :)

I don’t really swim, either — I took lessons a few years ago so I could pass the swim test for a sea kayaking class. The lessons were a fail, but I still managed to get into the class because the instructor apparently didn’t care much, lol. I can swim enough to avoid drowning, but I really don’t like being in the water!

Reply

Jadetwitter: vagabond3live February 7, 2011 at

Totally agree with you! We love SUP and the work-out you get is unreal!!

Reply

Christy February 7, 2011 at

Definitely – I wish we lived next to water so we could do it more often!

Reply

Kierontwitter: amzkiz February 7, 2011 at

We were already gonna try paddleboarding in the US on our upcoming RTW but this makes us even more excited to do it! Just need to make sure we find somewhere warm to do it because we’re expecting to have a few falls. :)
Kieron recently posted: Frugal February Challenge 1

Reply

Christy February 7, 2011 at

Your trip starts in Hawaii, right? That would be a great place to try SUP! I think that’s actually where it originated… and the water is usually warm. :)

Reply

Mariatwitter: acceleratedstal February 7, 2011 at

This is a synchronicity. I only learned of this sport this week, AND THEN I saw the link to this site on TravelTuesday link exchange!

So TravelTuesday link exchange brought me here and I’m reading your steps and checking out the photos and I’m thinking, (yeah it hurts a little when I do that, but WTH) I’ve rowed scull, zip lined, whitewater rafted and ski (alpine and XC) so this would be another adventure – all that’s left is to ‘Just do it!’

Thnx for the motivation I’m off to Stumble this!

-Maria (acceleratedstall)
Maria recently posted: Red Threads

Reply

Christy February 8, 2011 at

Haha, sometimes the stars just align perfectly! Sounds like you’ve done all kinds of cool things (I love whitewater rafting and ziplining!), so you should totally add SUP to that list. :) Thanks for stopping by!

Reply

SUP Key West February 8, 2011 at

thanks you guys for generating interest in the sport!! What a fun article! hope we get to see you again

all the best
Megan

Reply

Christy February 8, 2011 at

No, thank YOU, Megan! It was such an awesome experience… after we left we started talking about finding some used paddleboards to strap to our RV’s roof. You definitely helped us fall in love with the sport. Take care!

Reply

Akilatwitter: theroadforks February 8, 2011 at

It kind of looks like kayaking but for one person except for two. We are TERRIBLE at kayaking (can’t get the synchronization down right) but maybe we could actually try this.

Reply

Christy February 8, 2011 at

It is SO much easier than kayaking. It might take more synchronization if you’re trying to go really fast in open water (and w/ wind), but it’s a lot easier to paddle these. :)

Reply

SUP Key West February 8, 2011 at

ok one more thing to add, after watching people today that were out there without a proper lesson, I think a lesson is huge! Especially if you have never paddled before and there is any kind of current or wind. Not knowing proper strokes or stance you could really have a bad time. The idea is to teach people so that they can really enjoy the sport. Just my dime.

Reply

Christy February 8, 2011 at

Ah, good point about the conditions! :)

Reply

Migrationologytwitter: migrationology February 9, 2011 at

My Uncle recently got a paddleboard in Hawaii, and I’m sure he is loving it when he has time. I’ve seen them for a while now and though I’ve never tried, it looks like a great watersport. Awesome article, thanks for sharing!
Migrationology recently posted: Photo Story- The Real Nairobi

Reply

Christy February 9, 2011 at

Hawaii would be such a cool place to own a paddleboard… so many places to explore!

Reply

Ruth February 9, 2011 at

Yes, we will have to see if we can do this in Hawaii. And it does make me want to buy one just to have around. (I guess that I should try it out first :-} ).

Reply

Christy February 9, 2011 at

Yeah, you should definitely try it in Hawaii! And if you like it, we can get some community paddleboards to share. :)

Reply

Amanda February 14, 2011 at

All great reasons! I tried paddleboard surfing in Florida a couple of years ago, and it was great! The paddleboarding itself was fun (but a workout, like you said), and then we hit some tiny waves, which the large boards are able to catch nicely.

I was really wobbly standing on my paddleboard, though (I fell off twice), but kneeling worked just fine!
Amanda recently posted: Under the Sea- Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay- Hawaii

Reply

Christy February 14, 2011 at

I’m a little wary of surfing, but I imagine with the large paddleboards it would be a lot of fun to catch some small waves. I’m hoping you’re less likely to fall off if the board is bigger. ;)

Reply

Laureltwitter: ExpatGermany July 5, 2011 at

This looks like so much fun! I’ve always wanted to try paddle boarding and in a mangrove forest? Even better. I’ve never seen anything like that sea hare, that’s huge!
Laurel recently posted: My Favorite Castle Ruins in Germany

Reply

Christy July 5, 2011 at

The mangrove forest was awesome – I can’t imagine a better place to paddleboard for the first time! :)

Reply

Ayngelina April 20, 2012 at

I see everyone paddleboarding in Maui, I may have to try it while I’m here.
Ayngelina recently posted: Food Friday: How to make burrata

Reply

Micki June 19, 2012 at

Oh, wow, I have to admit that paddle boarding kicked my a@* when I tried it for the first time in Oahu last year. You make it look so effortless. May have been the surf… Going to try it on a nice calm lake this summer and see how it goes.

Reply

Christy June 19, 2012 at

Hahah, yeah – we were lucky that we had such calm conditions. We haven’t tried it in the open ocean with waves, though; I’m sure that would be totally different!

Reply

Chris July 25, 2012 at

I love your post! That’s awesome how you tell us how to actually stand up on the paddle board. I’ve had tons of people ask me about that actually. Like how to get back on the paddle board after falling off in deep water. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to shoot out your link to a couple people. Awesome post. Where’d you buy your board?

Thanks!
Chris recently posted: Bic Sport Jungle Lightweight Carbon Fiber Composite Adjustable Sup Paddle For Standup Paddleboarding (Yellow)

Reply

31 Comments. Join the conversation!

Enable CommentLuv (add link to your most recent blog post after your comment)

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: