by Blake Herzog
You may have spent past summers on your boat or kayak at Prescott’s lakes watching people dart by while standing on these not-quite-surfboards with a commanding posture and wondered: Can I do that? Is it more fun than what I’m doing? The answers are yes and probably! q
Most beginners can stand on a paddleboard and launch their first voyage after just a little bit of instruction, and doing it engages every muscle in your body and gives you a sweeping view of the horizon as well as the underwater world.
This naturally should be done with the proper equipment. To start out you can rent a paddleboard and paddle from one of several local services or borrow them from a friend, and you’ll also need to wear a vest or other personal flotation device.
Getting on board
Take your board out into water that’s about knee-high, making sure the fin is at the back and in the water. Stand on whatever side you’re most comfortable mounting from. Put your paddle across the board horizontally with the grip on your side and the fin touching the water on the other. Hold the board on both sides while gripping the paddle handle on your side and in one motion ease your way into a kneeling position just behind the board’s center.
Let go of the board and kneel upright, maybe trying a few paddle strokes to make sure you’re centered on the board and stable. When you’re ready, hold the sides of the board and your paddle and replace your knees with your feet, one at a time and slowly stand up with the paddle.
Bring the paddle to the side you want to start with, putting the hand from the opposite side on top and the other hand a couple of feet lower. Make sure the tear-shaped blade at the bottom of the paddle is angled away from you before you put it in the water. Place it as far forward in the water as you can while keeping it mostly vertical and pull it back to your feet.
Switch the side you paddle on after three or four strokes to keep moving forward. Use reverse strokes to slow down or stop and sweeping strokes to the side to turn around.
When you do lose balance, and everyone does at some point, do whatever you can to land in the water instead of on your board, which is how you’re least likely to be injured. Keep your body as close to the surface as you can to avoid hitting hidden rocks or objects underneath.
In most cases your board will include a “leash” you can wrap around your ankle to keep it close. To get back on, grab the center handle if there is one, or both sides of the board if not, and kick your legs to propel your torso back on top.