By Adam Eyal
Paddleboarding is quickly becoming one of America's favorite pastimes, but time and time again, beginners are falling for the same old traps. Before getting out on the water, save yourself some time (and potential
embarrassment) by reading through these 5 most common beginner mistakes.
Facing the Wrong Way:
Don't be too quick skipping over this one, no matter how obvious it might sound. The truth is, when you don't know what to look for, the generic paddleboard might look like it doesn't really have a front or back; certainly if you're only just getting into water sports. A long, oval-shaped board with rounded edges—it's like trying to find the beginning of a circle. Okay, it isn't really that difficult, but you wouldn't be the first to make this common mistake. And while paddleboards come in many shapes and designs (check out inflatable boards here), there are two simple keys to recognizing the stern (back-end) of your board: Fin on the bottom and ankle leash on top.
Not Knowing Your Paddle:
It isn't only your board that might seem ambiguous, at first glance. Incorrect paddle usage is perhaps the most common mistake of all beginners. I say, 'incorrect paddle usage' with no reference to special technique or form… I'm just talking about the basics, here: Make sure your blade is facing the right way. Paddleboarding paddles are angled slightly from the shaft to ensure a smoother stroke. The only problem is, many beginners are tempted to angle the blade in toward their body—as though they were scooping the water with a spoon. What you want, in fact, is the opposite. The blade should be angled away from you. It should be pointing toward the front of your board. This is the one of the easiest ways to spot a beginner, so make sure you don't stand out with this one!
Forgetting Your Leash:
This goes for all paddleboarders, really, but beginners are especially vulnerable. You might think that only beginners need a leash, and so if you don't wear your leash then people will think you know what you're doing. Wrong. The leash is an essential piece of safety equipment for both you and other people out on the water. By wearing your leash you're actually paying other water-goers a kind respect. How? Well, there are a couple of reasons. For your own safety, it's simple: your paddle board is a large, buoyant lifeboat that you want to keep with you while out on the water (Wikipedia, 2017). Even in the mildest conditions, without a leash your board can slip away from reach within a matter of seconds. Which brings me to my next point. The last thing that a fellow surfer wants to see, just as he's about to catch that perfect wave, is your rogue paddleboard coming straight for his head! So don't be 'that guy', and be sure to wear your leash.
Don't Look Down!
Balance is the key while learning to paddleboard. It's the first and largest obstacle to overcome, and until you feel balanced you'll never feel comfortable out on the water. This is where beginners make another common mistake. The fear of falling (or the determination to stay upright) can often tempt you to look down at your feet—as if by watching the waves and your board closely enough, you might avoid some silly error of balance. The truth is, looking down is the quickest way to lose your balance and orientation. The best thing you can do is look toward the horizon; or to find a stable object in the distance which you can focus on for orientation. By watching the wobbly rhythm of the board beneath your feet, you will only make things more difficult for yourself!
Check the Forecast:
Only, don't simply take note of the temperature. You'll want to find a trusted surf weather website, with accurate readings for local wind speeds and surf conditions. Too many beginners either neglect or ignore these factors and they pay the price. The ocean isn't a consistent beast, and the difference between a good day and a bad one can be miserable. Perhaps the largest factor you'll want to take note of is wind speed and direction. Wind speeds between 29-38km/h are considered a 'fresh breeze' on the Beaufort scale, which doesn't sound so bad, right? Well, with such wind speeds, as a beginner, you might as well cancel your plans. You'll be looking at 'moderate waves' with 'many whitecaps', which is a disaster for paddleboarding (look here for definitions). Learning to paddleboard in windy conditions is more than challenging—it can be downright disheartening. Save yourself a lot of time and frustration by taking the warning, rather than learning the hard way.
Take note of these simple points and people will be amazed to learn it's your first time out on the water!