Words and pics: Tony Bain
Most of us just pick up our board head to the shore and wade right in. It’s as simple as that, or is it? Of course it is: we drive down to a car park, park up and it’s a short walk to the water’s edge; we don’t give a second thought to how we prepare ourselves and board. Pick it up, carry it and enter the water. We have done it the same way ever since we started paddling and will probably do so for the rest of our days.
An idea for you to consider when you next arrive at a paddle location: leave the board on the roof of the car until you’re ready to go. Get all your personal paddle kit sorted first. Then grab your leash, paddle and board when you are ready to paddle. This helps to keep the ground free from kit clutter while you all get prepared. Boards stored on the ground fitted with fins can seem safe, but if they are sitting fin down they are vulnerable to wind lift. To counteract this some people store their boards upside down with their fins pointing up; either method has issues for you to think about as you move around with equipment on the ground.
Think about other people that use the area: people out for a leisure walk, dog walkers and cyclists for instance. Yes, sure, you have a right to use the shoreline, footpaths and towpaths close to water, but they do too. Make sure you keep your equipment clear of these access ways. Not just for the sake of others but also keeping your kit safe and undamaged before you get out for your paddle.
Picking your board up may seem like one of the easiest things to do. Whilst watching this group of people preparing, I saw a selection of different board pick up methods. The Tower Crane seemed very popular or the straight waist bend (not so hot for your back). Some people just preferred to drag their boards by the leash across the grass (not so good for the board). You could see those that had attended manual handling courses as they used a bent knee and straight back pick up. The boards aren’t that heavy, however, the waist and spine aren’t the correct parts of our bodies to be bending to lift these items from the ground.
Going down with a bent knee, the closest knee to the board lowers your upper body and with a slight bend at the waist your arms can reach across the board to take the central carry handle. Grasping the board’s handle and paddle with the closest hand, the other hand reaches across your body to lift the nearest board edge and tuck it up inside your arm. Finally, using that hand placed on top of the board to push down provides extra stability to raise your body, straightening your legs and standing up with a straight, vertical upper body. Once you get this method built into your paddle routine it will very quickly becomes second nature and your back will love you forever.
On calm days you don’t need to worry too much about your spare hand holding the top of the board, however, if it’s windy this is a really good idea. Lots of people don’t have a spare hand when they are carrying their board as their other hand carries the paddle. I guess it’s good to give it something to do and all, but personally I carry my paddle in the hand that carries my board. This leaves my other hand free to carry a dry-bag, stabilise the board in the wind if required, open a gate or for support as I’m getting to some uneven SUP departure point.
By keeping the board under your arm on the downwind side of the body with your spare hand on the top of the board gives you much greater control over the board in wind. This also allows the board to lift on the wind, simply raising your arm as the air passes by. If you are carrying your board on the outside of your arm, downwind of your body, and the wind catches it then the wind will pull at your arm and could tear the board from your backhand grip. To have your board on the windward side of your body with either grip you risk being blown over as the wind pushes the board onto you trying to bulldozer you down the beach.
The simple truth is that there are many ways of doing the same thing. Some are easier and better for your body than others. Which ones work for you is up to you to decide. Hopefully the instructors that you are using will be giving you plenty of different methods of doing the same thing, so you can develop your own paddle style that suits. Just make sure that your method is safe, both for you and others around you.
It’s well worth getting out and meeting other paddle groups and instructors to see how they do things. Don’t just stick to your group; you may become a clone of the others in your group and you might be missing out on some seriously great top tips.
Look us up in North Wales or Scotland if you are looking for a day’s adventure paddle and learning a few top tips along the way.
Tony Bain is owner and operator of Green Dragon Activities. A qualified SUP instructor Tony is also the Fastest Local Bog snorkeller (20 secs off the world record) and the holder of the World Bathtubbing record for 100 metres in a time of 1 min 26.41 secs. Find out more at www.greendragonactivities.co.uk
Green Dragon SUP School in North Wales offers SUP beginner and improver sessions for individuals and groups. Fun water Activity sessions, SUP Polo arena, SUP Jousting and Jumbo board racing. www.facebook.com/greendragonactivities/