As a paddle board instructor who works with a lot of beginners, I've over the years developed a few successful techniques for helping students stand with the confidence on their first lesson.  Some students come to me after a previous failed lesson, or have low self esteem or feel that they have bad balance thus are nervous about the lesson.  In all of the above situations, I've learned how to boost their confidence by helping them stand with confidence in their first lesson with me.

2 Key Tips for Conquering Low Self-Esteem and Uncertainty about SUP

  • When students tell me they have bad balance, I reply " You're walking and standing fine so SUP is no different. I'll put you on a super stable board perfect for your height and weight (or flexibility level), and on calm water using a paddle in the water at your side, you'll stand up no problem!"  In this case in sensing this person's anxiety about balance, I may put them on a large board their size. Once they get comfortable standing, I'll transfer them to the right board for their size.  (ie: If they should be on a 32" wide, I'll put them on a 34" wide board to start.)
  • If students show anxiety about their balance and whether they'll be able to stand, on shore, I'll place a board on the beach (flat surface) and have them stand up with the paddle in their hand.  If they have flexibility issues this is a time to figure the best way for them to stand up, and get back to their knees and/or rear.

2 Tips for Standing Successfully

#1 Option:

  • Start students up on flat calm water. Wake for boat wakes to pass. If there's wind or current, make sure they don't float into a dock, wall or shallow beach when preparing to stand. If you can't find a calm spot, use a marina or a protected cove nearby for these introductory steps.
  • When students are ready to stand, I'll start them out by getting up on all fours with their belly over the board handle (middle of board).  I teach everyone to use a downward dog to walk both feet forward towards the handle. Then in a squat position, make sure their feet are parallel to the handle, even to each other and shoulder width apart. If one foot is placed behind or twisted out, slide it so both feet are parallel, and the handle (or middle).
  • Place the paddle across the board so that the handle is over, let's say the left rail and the paddle blade is flat in the water at their side (90 degree or right angle to board).  Hold the handle with the left hand, and place the lower hand shoulder weight apart (ish) in the middle of the paddle.  Then stand.
  • Standing - With the blade already in the water, once they stand, the blade will act as a tripod 3rd leg or outrigger to help with balance. I say 'Now just stand'.  Some will be nervous, others will shake, some will pop right up.  Urge them to stand 'just like standing up on the beach'.  Once they stand, make sure that paddle is still flat in the water, their knees are lightly bent, then immediately give them something to do - "Let me how you how to do a reverse sweep turn"  I teach turning right off so they don't paddle into a dock.  We do 360's with the reverse and forward sweep turn, then the forward stroke (or side draw, backwards etc..).  Alternatively, if running into something nearby isn't an issue, have them stand then take a couple strokes on both sides - moving is stability.

#2 Option:

  • If a student struggles to stand, is super nervous or feels locked - can't move or stand up at all.  Then I have them get on all fours (feet off board then roll body forward onto hands and knees) and slide their board nose up onto my deck.  I reach over their board applying my weight to their deck (boards are crossed).  Then I ask them to stand. At this point, they're as stable as they are on land. Talk them through it, help make them feel comfortable.  Once they stand (using technique in Option #1), I ask them to place the paddle in the water and show them how to do a reverse sweep turn. I'll ask them to do a few 360's turning our criss-crossed raft in a circles. After a minute or so, I say that they're good to go, and that I'll release them into the water. But.. I ask them to keep paddling us in circles, even after I release us. To release, I ask them to bend their knees more as the separating can be a shaky feeling - so get ready. As they separate (and are still turning in circles - 99% of the time they are good to go and will stay standing with confidence!

Cross board rafting technique for helping beginners build confidence for standing.