How to Help a Reluctant Paddleboarder Fall in Love With the Sport

Do you know someone who you would love to paddleboard with, except that they are hesitant to get out there with you? Unless someone is pretty comfortable in the water, heading out on a paddleboard can be a scary prospect. Many people feel afraid or too intimidated to even try. Here’s how to help someone get comfortable on a board so they can enjoy the water and you can get a paddleboarding buddy.

Start With a Wide Board

The wider the paddleboard, the more stable it will be in the water. Some of the widest ones seem like they are almost rafts, rather than boards! If your guest is afraid of falling in, they will feel more at ease on a wide board that doesn’t move as much.

You may have to do some searching to find a wide board for rent. Many rental places only rent one or two types of boards, and these are usually ones that will appeal to the greatest percentage of people. You may even want to call local board shops to see if they know where you can rent a board that will make someone more comfortable.

Find Still, Shallow Water

A new paddleboarder may not feel confident getting on and off a board, especially if they have to swim while they’re doing it. Find water that isn’t moving, whether it’s in a cove, a wide place in the river, or a sheltered spot on the lake. Make sure it’s not deeper than your friend’s waist. Then hold the board still while your guest gets on. Continue holding it until they become accustomed to the board and want to try it on their own.

Practice Getting Off and On

Many people worry about what will happen if they fall off their paddleboard in the middle of the lake. They want to know that they will be ok, no matter what. In addition to ensuring that everyone has a properly fitted life vest, make sure your guest feels confident getting off and on their board, even if they have to swim.

Show them how to swim flat towards the board if they fall off, rather than clutching it and flipping it over as they try to pull themselves up. Sometimes it helps people to think about beaching themselves on their board like a whale. Once your friend is confident that they can get back on their board, they’ll be much happier out on the water.

Let Them Sit or Kneel

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

Technically, it’s called “stand up paddleboarding”, but you don’t actually have to stand to enjoy it. In fact, standing on some boards takes quite a bit of balance and confidence. Remind your guest that it’s perfectly acceptable to paddle while sitting or kneeling on their board and that they don’t have to stand up until they are good and ready.

You may want to adjust the paddle height if your friend isn’t planning to stand up anytime soon. Most paddles adjust easily, so this shouldn’t take too long. If you’re renting a paddle that doesn’t adjust, see if you can get a smaller one to start with and trade it in for a longer one if your guest decides to stand up later.

Teach Basic Paddling

If your guest doesn’t know how to handle a paddle, then being on a board will get intimidating fast. Teach them the proper direction to hold their paddle, because many people find this counterintuitive. You can teach basic strokes, back strokes, turning strokes, and more. Practice these in your still water until your friend feels confident that they can control their board a little further out.

Make the Experience Comfortable

There are all sorts of things you can do to help your guest feel more comfortable, including:

  • Choose a nice day. Make sure that both the air and water are warm enough, since most beginners fall in at least once.
  • Check the wind. A little wind goes a long way when you’re on a paddleboard, so make sure there aren’t any guests or storms coming.
  • Bring some snacks. Being nervous burns a lot of calories. Bring granola bars, dried fruit, jerky, and more so that your guest doesn’t end up hangry.
  • Lower your expectations. You may want a paddleboard buddy who will stay out all day, but don’t put that pressure on your guest during their first time out.
  • Buy them food afterward. Reward your friend for their efforts with a great meal. It might seem like overkill, but it could go a long way towards getting them to go paddleboarding with you again.

Making your friend’s first experience on a paddleboard positive makes them more likely to want to have a second, and a third, and to eventually become as enthusiastic as you are about the sport. Give them a good time and they will come back to you wanting even more!

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