How to get into SUP
Stand-up paddleboarding is actually much easier than it looks. In fact, anyone with a reasonable degree of fitness can probably figure it out for themselves, if they’re given appropriately sized equipment and have the right wind/water conditions. (We’re not talking surfing here; waves should not be tackled until you’ve mastered the basics on flat water, even if you’re already a competent surfer). Once you’ve got yourself standing up, and the paddle in the water, you’re pretty much there – all you need now is more practise to improve your balance and paddling skills. And this is indeed how many people learn the sport; borrowing a mate’s board or hiring one on holiday.
However, as with pretty much any sport, being taught properly by an experienced instructor, on equipment specifically designed to make the early sessions as easy and painless as possible, is a vastly more efficient and effective way of learning. If you don’t have much experience at watersports, are suffering any injuries or disabilities, or maybe just aren’t feeling too fit at the moment, then proper lessons are definitely a good plan. The learning curve will be far steeper, you can leave all the worrying about safety and weather conditions etc to your instructor, and you’ll not be picking up any bad habits (which, once engrained into your technique, are often very hard to shift). Better still, as there isn’t any one ‘right’ way of paddling (just as there isn’t one right way of walking or running, or any other repetitive motion activity), a good instructor will be able to equip you with the right techniques for you – taking into account your bodyweight, shape, height, age and fitness level. And then, having seen what works best for you, give you good advice on what equipment you should be considering for your first purchase.
It’s not just about the very first steps, either. On your subsequent lessons your instructor can introduce you to all the different stances, turning techniques, different types of paddle stroke, and generally improve and refine your all-round technique. They’ll also bring you up to speed on safety aspects of the sport, and how to interpret and make the most of the wind and weather conditions, so that when you get out there on your own, you’ve got all the knowledge you need for enjoyable and safe paddling.
If you’re looking at getting into paddlesurfing, then a good paddleboarding school will offer a series of flat water lessons to build up your turning, accelerating and manoeuvring skills.
Paddleboarding schools in New Zealand
At present, the one quality mark we have in New Zealand is the International Surfing Association/Surfing New Zealand SUP Instructor qualification. If your paddleboard school is Surfing New Zealand approved and has qualified instructors, you can be confident that they know what they’re doing. Check out our list of approved schools . However, as this qualification has only recently become available in New Zealand, there are many excellent paddleboard schools that simply haven’t had the time to complete the qualification/training process yet, so if your local school seems well run and professional in their approach, then they should be a good bet. Ultimately, it comes down to experience. Teaching is a specialism within a sport, just like racing or surfing. Anyone who has devoted time and effort to becoming a good teacher, will probably be a good teacher. Whereas someone who doesn’t take it seriously, or assumes that just because they’re good at paddleboarding that they will be a good instructor, probably won’t be.
As of 1 November 2014, regulations regarding Adventure Tourism Activities came into force, meaning that any businesses offering ‘Adventure Activities’ needs to be audited to a very high standard of safety and professionalism. However, it will still be possible for smaller operations to function ‘below the radar’ of these regulations, so the new legislation will unfortunately not in itself be any guarantee that all SUP schools will be competent and safe. So we’d still strongly advise the use of schools with qualified instructors and safe practises.