How’s your watersports experience: Do you even need any to SUP?

family paddle

SUP Experience; “One’s self-proclaimed paddling ability in multiple scenarios over ‘some’ time.”

Sean White – WeSUP Paddleboard Centre


A great question that I am asked often and one that taps right into the fabric of the sports popularity, broad appeal and rapid success. But worryingly it could also stem the foundation of the sports bad press.

Take a look at yourself… Are you a fair weather paddler? I expect so, and rightly so! It takes a rare bread of human to find that certain allure to the water when the wind is howling and the waves are up. But what happens if you find yourself in such a situation when you were not expecting it and quite frankly it’s the last place on earth that you’d wish to be?

It happens and unfortunately it’s happening more and more often in the world of SUP. Lot’s of you will have found your own way to develop your SUP skills which is what’s so awesome about SUP. On a flat lake or calm ocean when the wind is light visibility is good, you can take all you’ve learned from YouTube or what Dave told you and become a happy leisure paddler who’s looking like an absolute boss in his girlfriend’s eyes. But those of you without any professional training trying to paddle in more challenging environments are often easily recognisable as you paddle past with the grace of a drunk man leaving Whetherspoons, stood bolt up-right with a unsteady wobble, whilst using the wrong ratio of 80% arm power and just 20% core power. As well as giving the beach spectators something to giggle at, paddling in this way massively prohibits your ability to paddle efficiently over distance and against the wind. You’ll be burning your arms out and leaving yourself vulnerable to unnecessary fatigue and consequent injury. Most importantly you leave yourself at the mercy of the elements as you lack the technical ability to power through the wind and more challenging elements that often descend on you without warning.

Whilst that all sounds a little blunt, we really, really care about your personal safety and the reputation of our beloved sport. Many people getting into SUP are finding that this is the first watersport they have ever been able to achieve, enjoy and access regularly but the simplicity of the sport at base level is leading people into a false sense of security that the sport is always simple and always safe. The lack of watersports experience presents a natural lack of understanding of the dangers that open water a rapidly changing weather can present.

There are lots of great instructors right across the country that can offer you a fantastic beginners lesson which will at least arm you with the principle understanding of good paddle skill and the effects of paddling into the wind. Advanced lessons such as WeSUP’s Safe Paddler Award is designed to teach you about the things you perhaps have never considered whilst being prepared for the weather and giving you the skills to cope if it all goes wrong.

My advice is to always undertake training from a professional before you venture off into the unknown but in case you think it will never happen to you, please consider the following points,

  • Assess the weather and wind direction for the entire period of time that you intend on paddling. Also, check the weather at your destination as there is a good chance it will be different from where you set off.
  • Always wear your leash and ensure it is in perfect condition.
  • Do your best to not paddle further from the shore line than you can absolutely swim back.
  • If you do paddle far from the shore, ensure you wear a personal floatation device (PFD) that suits you. The Restube is a great option that you wear like a belt and wont hinder your paddling comfort.
  • If you paddle out of ear and eyes shot from help, take a form of communication with you in a waterproof pack so you can call for help or support if required. Calling home for a collection after you got stuck downwind could be a lifesaver.
  • Always let someone know where you are going, when you intend on coming back and most importantly how to get hold of you in case of concern.
  • If you are going on a journey for fitness or adventure, plan for the worst. Pack a waterproof pack with a first aid kit, an extra layer for warmth, some water, and something to eat for energy