The ins and outs of paddleboarding: a beginner’s guide

Try before you buy, recommends one Evergreen paddleboarder



One of my favorite parts of paddleboarding is bringing along my furry friend, Luna.

JENAE LAXSON, Evergreen roots editor

While summer may be halfway over, that does not mean it is too late to pick up a new hobby. 

At the beginning of May, I decided to try something that I have wanted to do for a very long time. Growing up, I loved water sports and had always wanted to try paddleboarding for a more leisurely activity. 

It just so happened that my mom’s new best friend is an avid paddleboarder of around 10 years and offered to teach me.

My first time on a paddleboard went much better than expected, and I was standing within five minutes. While it does require good balance and strength, I believe anyone can master the paddleboard.

These simple tips will help you get started!

Ask for help!

Picking out the right kind of board for you is going to make your first experience much more enjoyable. I started out with a solid board but then moved to an inflatable when I decided to purchase my own. There are many brands, shapes and styles to suit everyone’s needs.

I recommend renting at a lake, so you can try out different boards. The employees will also be able to answer any questions you may have about purchasing a paddleboard, including what brand and style is best for you.

Which is best for your lifestyle?

Do you travel a lot, or are you a homebody? This is your next question. If you travel quite a bit and would like to bring your paddleboard, an inflatable is always a great option. While solid boards can be traveled, they are cumbersome, and I would be more concerned about damage.

The beauty of an inflatable paddleboard is they fold up nicely and travel easily as a checked bag. But be aware that they are very heavy. This is really the only downside, and just because it is an inflatable does not mean you have to travel with it to get your money’s worth. 

Solid tops really are for the people who do not plan to travel with their boards, in my opinion. They are great for all levels and vary in price. 

It is an investment

Make sure you invest in a good paddleboard. I recommend Body Glove for an inflatable board and Tahoe SUP for a solid board. These are just a few examples, and there are many other great brands.

Tips for your first paddleboard

There are some essential tips and equipment you will want to utilize before embarking on your paddleboard journey. 

  1. Hydration: this sport may look easy to the novice or onlooker, but be aware it can cause you to work up quite the sweat, especially in the heat. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and supplementing with electrolytes. I like Go Ultima and Redmond Re-Lyte for a good dose of salty hydration. 
  2. Nutrition: Bring food that fuels and makes you feel good. My personal preference is protein-based foods with a fat source and high-quality carbs. A good example of this is steak, avocado and berries, or some cold sweet potatoes. Do not knock them until you try them. While this may seem excessive to the novice, spending hours on end out in the water can cause quite the appetite, and you do not want to bonk!
  3. Equipment: It is a good idea to invest in a good waterproof case for your phone, keys and license. I like this one by Pelican. A life belt is also going to be important because paddleboards are considered vessels. Whistles are also essential. The police will pull you over for not wearing one or having one on board. You can wear a life vest, but they make moving your arms difficult. I also suggest investing in a sturdy stainless steel water bottle, if you have not. Hydroflask and Yeti work really well for this sport. I have used both on the water and find they keep my water clean and cold.
  4. Have a buddy: You can paddleboard by yourself, and it can be relaxing, but it is always recommended to have a buddy, especially if you are paddling in deep water. Most of the lakes and reservoirs around my area are very deep. There are also boats that can create wakes. These are very fun to coast through if you are a more experienced paddler, but a novice can easily be knocked off into the water. My paddleboard buddies were a Boston terrier named Luna and her owner Donna.
  5. Skincare: I am a big fan of getting a tan, but it is always a good idea to wear sunblock after a certain amount of time on the water. And do not forget those lips. I did once, and I will never do it again … ouch! But on a side note, tanning on a paddleboard is one of the most relaxing ways to catch some rays. You can also wear rash guards to cover up more instead of a swimsuit, which is my preferred attire. I like this brand if you are looking for stylish rash guards.
  6. Proper attire continued: Continuing on with attire, it is common to see women paddleboarding in bikinis. If you are uncomfortable with that or concerned about a malfunction, rash guards are a great option. Wearing a hat is also a great idea to protect your face from the sun or hold your hair back. I had an addiction to my white WSU Under Armour hat this summer. As far as bottoms go, shorts are a great option.
  7. Get to know your board: I highly recommend playing around with your board in shallow water because all paddleboards are different. Some are wider or longer than others. My paddleboard is on the wider side because it is designed for yoga. But you will not find me doing a handstand on that thing, mostly because I already tried and fell in. Maybe some downward dog. My point is that if you fall off of your board, it can be difficult to get back on, so having proper technique down is very important for getting back on. 

If you live in Pullman, Wawawai Marina is a beautiful place to go paddleboarding. I spent most of my time out on Lodi Lake and Lake Tulloch in Northern California this summer. If you ever find yourself in Copperopolis, California, I highly suggest making your way onto that reservoir for some fantastic views of wildlife, landscapes and some great times. 

Happy paddleboarding!