9 tips for the first time paddleboarder
Updated: Jul 14
St Martin’s is the perfect location to try stand-up paddle boarding, especially if it’s your first time. The sheltered waters of Par Beach, crystal-clear sea and interesting marine life all combine to make it a memorable and enjoyable experience.
Stand-up paddle boarding has its roots in surfing. Its popularity as a recreational activity has grown hugely in the UK and across the world. There are many reasons for this. Among them, it’s easy to learn, a low intensity activity and is a fun pursuit to do out on the water.
When you hire from us, you don’t need to worry about deciding whether conditions are suitable. We'll take that off your hands and will assess the wind speeds and sea conditions. We know the tides and the waters and can advise you on the best place to paddle.
We provide the basic safety equipment of a buoyancy aid, safety whistle, Zone map and waterproof phone case.
It can feel a bit daunting if you’ve never been on a paddleboard before. So, here are some tips to get you up on your board, having fun and paddling with ease.
Wear a leash
The stand-up paddleboards (or SUPs) have leashes which you must wear. These will prevent you from being separated from your board if (and when) you fall off.
The leash can either go around your ankle or it can be attached to the belt of your buoyancy aid.
Use the SUP’s carry handle to carry it down to the water’s edge, don’t drag the board around by the leash.
Board orientation and paddle position
The board has a central carrying handle and a mesh made of bungee cord for storage. There are three fins on the underside, these help the board travel in a straight line.
When standing on the board, the fins should be behind you. Although it can seem a bit odd, the blade of the paddle should be angled forward. This will give you maximum power when the paddle is vertical in the water during the stroke.
The paddle height is easily adjusted, and needs to be about six inches longer than you are tall. There is moulding on the handle that makes it more comfortable to hold – there will be a right and wrong way round. Make sure you get it the right way round. Also, the blade and the handle need to be aligned on the same plane.
Our Starboard paddles even have a handy litter picker on them for removing marine debris from the water.
Getting on to the board
It’s best to paddle bare foot, but you can wear beach shoes if you wish. Make sure there is enough depth of water before getting onto the board to prevent the fins from going into the seabed and being damaged.
As a total beginner it’s best to start by kneeling on the board. The most stable place to place your knees is either side of the central carrying handle.
When you’re kneeling, hold the paddle further down the shaft to make it easier to handle. Have a paddle about close to the shore to get a feel for the board and try paddling on either side to see how this turns the board.
To stand up on the board from a kneeling position, you want to place your feet where your knees are. It’s easier to stand up if the board has some forward momentum, just like a bike.
Lay the paddle parallel with the length of the board. Then place your hands on the board and carefully stand up. As you stand, pick up the paddle.
If you’re feeling a little unstable you can quickly place the paddle in the water to act as a ‘third leg’. Keep looking at the horizon while you stand up.
As soon as you’ve stood up, start paddling again to keep up your momentum. Once you’re standing up, don’t move the position of your feet and keep your weight evenly balanced between both feet
Keep your knees bent slightly to absorb any wobbles. Remember to keep looking at the horizon, not down at the board, this will help you maintain your balance.
Have one hand on the handle of the paddle and the other halfway between the handle and the blade. Your hands should be at least shoulder width apart.
The paddle technique for SUPs means the paddle blade wants to go into the water with the shaft of the paddle as vertical as possible. Place the whole of the blade into the water.
Try and keep your arms as straight as possible and use your core muscles as much as you can. Push your top hand down and pull the blade parallel to the edge of the board (called the rail). This should keep you travelling in a straight line.
The blade wants to go just past your body. You can use a steering stroke on the other side of the board to straighten up if required.
You can paddle either side of the board. Keep looking at the horizon when you paddle and watch where you’re going.
When paddling off Par Beach, give boats and mooring buoys plenty of distance and remember to keep well clear of Higher Town Quay.
Don’t worry if you end up getting wet, everybody falls off paddleboards! The boards we have are inflatable but still hurt if you land on them.
When you fall off, and you will, fall into the water and try and avoid landing on the board.
Getting back on the board
Take your time climbing back onto your board, don’t rush it.
To get back on board, firstly make sure you are facing downwind so the board isn’t being blown on top of you. Then place your paddle parallel on the far side of the board.
Use the carry handle to push yourself out of the water, whilst kicking your legs - a bit like getting out of the edge of a swimming pool. Reach over to the far rail to help pull yourself out of the water.
Once you’re up, swing around so you’re facing the front of the board, stand up and start paddling again.
When standing on a paddle board it’s important to remember that your body is acting as a sail. If the wind direction was to change or the wind freshens and you’re struggling to paddle against the wind there are a couple of things you can do.
The first thing is to drop back down to your knees. This will reduce your windage and should make paddling easier.
If you’re still struggling to paddle against the wind, lay the paddle on the board and lie on your stomach. Use your hands to paddle the board to shore. This is called paddling prone.
What to wear
If you’re new to paddleboarding, you are probably going to fall off the board. (As I may have mentioned already, it is inevitable and part of the fun!)
Wear a swimming costume and something that you don’t mind getting wet – board shorts and a t-shirt.
We don’t provide wetsuits as we don’t have the storage space on the beach, but please bring your own if you have one. You can also hire wetsuits from the Sailing Centre on St Mary’s.
We have a variety of styles of single paddleboards. If you’re wanting to share your paddling experience, we have two person boards. But, for the ultimate sharing experience, our four person Zilla is the best fun.
I hope these paddle boarding tips and tricks will give you the confidence to have a go at paddle boarding, especially if you’ve never done it before. Remember, the most important thing is to relax, have fun and enjoy yourself.
Have you been paddle boarding on the Isles of Scilly before? What was your experience like?