What'S.U.P MoFo - Stand.Up. Paddleboard Like A Pro
Time to read: 4 mins
For something that looks graceful, getting upright on a Paddleboard takes some tekkers! Here are some need-to-know tips for beginners.
Having never tried it before I decided to plunge in at the deep end and try an amazing SUP Basics 2 hour introductory lesson with the super friendly Miquel from Molokai SUP Center, Barcelona. He runs a highly-rated and super value-for-money Paddleboard center, nestled so close to the Barceloneta beach you can do your best baywatch impression with a board down to the waves.
Barcelona is one of the best spots to SUP, with almost year-round perfect sea conditions. Miquel is a total pro with so many qualifications and competitions under his belt. Plus he speaks amazing English! He had a good range of full and half wetsuits, quality ‘Redwood’ Inflatable Paddleboards and paddles, all of which was included in price of lesson/rent.
To learn how to paddle safely, you’ll need this equipment:
Decent Swimwear - In winter a full wetsuit is a must but between May-Nov in Barcelona the sea is warm enough to wear just your cossie
Sunglasses - Even if it's a dull day, the sun bounces off the water and sparkles. If your sunnies don’t float or you’re sporting expensive Ray Bans, get a cheap glasses strap elastic from the nearest Decathlon in the centre of town
A waterproof watch - To keep track on how long you're out on the water for
Contact lenses if needed - No one wants to be THAT one the lifeguards have to make a tannoy announcement to
A strong factor, waterproof suncream - and lots of it. Remember all the bits that may get missed (behind your ears, neck, underboob etc)!
You won’t need flipflops - just grin and bear it on the hot sand
A Redwood Paddle Board - 10.6 with a 34/35inch width is good for first timers prone to wobbling or if you want a cheeky lie down on the board for a while!
A Paddle - Miquel showed me how to adjust the paddle length for my height (standing upright with the paddle next to me, my wrist should be able to only just flop over the paddle’s handle)
Conditions & getting out into the water:
Sea conditions are something you can only check a day or two before your SUP. I used the ‘Magicseaweed’ & ‘Surf Forecast.com’ websites, but Miquel also knew his stuff and guided me to try when sea conditions were flat (with a wind speed under 15km/h & a wave height below 0.4m are good for beginners as any higher, you’re practically surfing!!
At the sea edge, Miquel spent 10 mins telling me all the safety aspects needed to have fun whilst still being in control. His top tips are to look at the sea, work out the wind direction and head out against the wind direction first to make coming back onto shore easy. At Barceloneta beach, there are two stone alcoves where the waves are flatter, making it great for standing up for the first time. With my leg strap fastened, I pushed the board out into waist-height water and climbed gracefully (a.k.a flopped onto) our board, sitting up on my knees.
Now for the Standing Up Bit
This bit is why having a lesson with Miquel was a great idea. He taught me loads of tips such as:
Look up & towards where you are going, rather than at the waves & imagine your body being pulled forward towards your paddle strokes
Breathe - have a relaxed head, neck, shoulders, waist, hips, legs, ankles, toes & try not to grip for dear life with your toes
Tightening the core muscles to have more controlled movement
Do a few downward dogs to get those ankles limber
Aim for your feet to be either side of the board handle, right in the center
Spread your fingers slightly in front of the handle
Then place your dominate foot flat on board followed by your other foot
Once your fingers are off, squat with your back straight
Lift your head & body slowly to stand but don't straighten your legs entirely. Have a small bend in your knees.
As simple as this sounds, it took me a fair few tries and a fair few baptisms into the sea to get this technique down. So Miquel took me through some exercises to feel comfortable when up on the board:
Try nodding your head yes & no
Roll your shoulders round
Turn your waist to look either side of the board
Wobble the board with your feet (pretend you're Shakira and your hips don’t lie!)
Do a few squats
Lift your paddle up in the air with both hands & bend forward
Lift your heels one by one
Now, with the board nose facing any oncoming waves, paddle, and have fun (don't imagine what's below surface. This isn't the time to be thinking of jaws or jellyfish!)
Now that you’ve got the hang of SUP, try meditating, people watching or just have a good lie down and get the best sunbathing experience ever without those annoying 'cervasa, agua, massage' peddlers trying to barter with you on the beach.
For details on NEW Sunrise & Sunset classes, SUP rentals, Paddlefit classes or private lessons with Molokai SUP, check out their deets:
Facebook: Molokai Sup
Address: Calle Meer, 39, 08003 Barcelona (La Barceloneta)