Another year has gone by (almost as fast as Kai Lenny on a downwinding SUP foil!) and for many of us we wonder what we’ve done with the year! Often it feels like there are just not enough hours in the day to play, with the fast pace of life, work pressures, and family commitments. And finding the time to get on the water, let alone improve your paddling can be hard. But the New Year is a good opportunity to focus on the year ahead, set some goals and have fun doing it!
So before another year goes by and you wonder what you did with it, check out SUPboarders top 10 things to try in 2017…
Try some different kit
There’s nothing wrong with your trusty 10’6’’ iSUP… but what if you’re missing out on something? If you haven’t tried any new equipment over the last 2 years things have changed quite a lot, especially in the surf and race world. SUP equipment is lighter, stronger and faster than ever before, and the biggest development is that there is now performance pieces of equipment suitable for every paddler. For example, the smaller and larger paddlers of all abilities now have an amazing choice of boards. Whatever your SUP passion there is a good chance that the perfect piece of equipment is out there for you. So next time you see that new super fast race board on the river or super wide stubby board at the beach, see if you can give it a go. You may be amazed what it paddles like and surprised what you’re able to paddle. If you’re not, at least you’ll know that the board you have is still the one for you!
Play around with your fins
We can’t go on about this enough! Playing around with your fins is not only the fastest and cheapest way to get the feeling like you have a new board under your feet, it’s also a good way to start thinking more about your board, how it’s performing and how you can change it to make it better. If you are planning to paddle further this year a wider based, more swept back fin will make a massive difference when you are racking up the miles. The same goes for putting in a set of smaller fins in your surf SUP. You might have never thought you and your board could turn like that! Find out more about your fins and what they do here.
Try SUP foiling
Having a go on a SUP foil has to be up there on the 2017 list, especially if you’re into surf or downwinding. It won’t be for everyone, but in the right conditions the foil is going to change the world of SUP for sure. It’s an exciting time in the SUP world. Who knows… in the future you might have more foils in your quiver than boards! The board is almost irrelevant (not that the board brands will let you think that!). Foil placement is more important than the board itself – when you’re a foot out of the water technically even a door can foil! Remember – if you do get the chance to give a SUP foil a go in the surf, make sure it’s a quiet break. See more foil action here
Look at your paddle height
As fashion trends move on, so do paddling styles. If you’ve been paddling for a few years you may remember the guide to paddle lengths, which was pretty much a full arms reach above your head. Now the average paddle length is more around 6’’ above your head. And for many of us it’s much shorter. A shorter paddle will make you lower your body and put more power into the stoke, and in the surf it makes your pivot turns tighter. So if you haven’t had a go using a shorter paddle, give it a try in 2017 – you’ll be amazed what difference it makes. Find out more about paddle hight here and cutting down you paddle here.
Go further and find new places
Sticking to your local spot is always easy because you know it well and it’s convenient. But exploring new places is not only great fun, but also a great way to push your paddle boundaries. Paddling further, padding new surf breaks and paddling in different conditions can all help to improve your paddling skills and fitness. So get exploring in 2017 – you’ll be glad you did.
Paddle a board way too small for you
And not just a little bit smaller but WAY smaller! There’s a good reason for this, not just for your friends on the beach to have a good laugh at you as you try to wobble your way to your feet under a foot of water! Paddling small boards is an amazing way to tune and hone your balance, and pushing your comfort zone. When you go back to your board you will feel lighter on your feet, be able to react much faster, and be generally more confident. But before you give it a try give yourself as much help as possible. Pick a nice flat day (and remember if you’re heading to a lake, freshwater is less buoyant than saltwater!), start off on your knees and find the balance point of the board, get paddling and moving forward, and then try standing up keeping that paddle moving in and across the water at all times. The brace technique is very useful when trying to maintain your balance.
Try a new SUP discipline
With more SUP disciplines and more specialist equipment than ever before, there is more than enough to choose from. White Water SUP has increased in popularity and safety awareness. SUP fishing is growing rapidly with specialist fishing competitions and gear growing fast too. Things you can do on a paddleboard are endless, so you might even want to invent a new discipline!
Treat yourself to some decent water wear
What you wear on the water can make a huge difference to your paddling experience. Whether it’s a decent 5:3 winter wetsuit or a light, cool sun protective layer, having the right clothing can make or break your paddle. There’s nothing worse than being too hot or too cold. Getting it right especially when racing takes trial and error. But with the ever increasing specialist SUP gear on the market today, there is so much choice, you’ve just got to try it!
Find some new paddle buddies
Not because your old friends are boring and you’re fed up with the small talk! Paddling with new paddlers is a really good way to find out about different equipment, learn new skills and progress your paddling. If you’re into surfing or racing especially, paddling with higher level paddlers will help you hone your technique rand push you comfort zone. Like World Champion racer Connor Baxter said,
‘You learn from paddling behind people not from being in front!.’
A good place to start would be by joining a SUP club or group. Check out the SUPboarder SUP club/school directory here.
Get yourself on camera
Not because you need to update your selfie shot on Facebook! Having a friend film you with a basic camera is an amazing way of improving, by understanding what you REALLY look like on the water, and not just what you think you look like! You can then work on your technique or alter your kit e.g paddle height to improve your paddling. Having an adjustable paddle is ideal for this.
Having video footage of SUP surfing is a fantastic way of checking out your body and foot positioning, and overall positioning on a wave. When analysing your waveride one of the key points is making sure you’re bending your knees and keeping your body low and compact. 9 out of 10 times doing this will help you make most manoeuvres. And it’s usually not until you see yourself on camera you realise you’re not low enough!
Hopefully the above top tips will help you progress and enjoy SUP that little bit more in 2017. Learning and increasing your skill level doesn’t have to be boring or hard work. It can be fun and may be even easier than you think.
Happy paddling and Happy New Year from the SUPboarder Team.