On hot Alabama summer days there’s nothing better being out on the water. And did you know Huntsville is home to several incredible waterways with free and easy access for everyone to enjoy!? One of my family’s favorite summer activities to enjoy around town is stand up (SUP) paddle boarding. This water sport is easy to learn and can be fun for all ages and fitness levels.
Paddle boarding is a fantastic way to:
- Spend time in nature
- Improve your balance
- Have fun with friends
- Get your muscles moving
- Enjoy our wonderful Alabama waterways
If any of those things sound appealing to you, here’s a brief Paddle Boarding 101 to help you feel more comfortable and prepared before you get out on the water:
- Calm Water: If you’re just learning how to paddle board, it’s best to venture out in an area with calm water (like Aldridge Creek) or early in the morning (on the Tennessee River) before the summer boaters begin to create their wakes as they enjoy cruising across the water. Flat water destinations will be easiest to learn on, but you can certainly enjoy riding the waves once you’re comfortable and find your balance.
- Staying Centered: On your paddle board you’ll notice a handle near the center of the board. This is where you’ll want to sit or stand when using your board on the water. It will help with balance and weight distribution. You do not want to sit or stand too far to the front or back of the board.
- Paddling Basics: Most SUP paddles have adjustable handles, so make sure your handle is at a comfortable height for you. You’ll want to hold your paddle with the curved side pointed behind you. (This may be an obvious tip, but it’s a question I had when just starting out!) To propel your SUP board you can alternate paddling on either side of your board, as you figure out what works best for you.
- Start Seated: Before you learn to stand up on your board, it’s best to start by kneeling. In fact, you can enjoy this position 100% of your time on the water if you like, and still get a great arm workout and not worry about standing or keeping your balance.
- Stand Up: Once you feel comfortable seated on your board, it’s time to try standing! Place your paddle in front of you, perpendicular on your board. Make sure you’re positioned in the center above your handle, and then place your feet (one at a time) shoulder width apart in the middle of your board. Again, look for the handle to be your guide. You can place your hands on the board as you stand up slowly for stability, and don’t forget to grab your paddle on your way up.
- Balancing Act: An easy tip to help you keep your balance while standing is to always keep your eyes forward. If you start looking down at the water, you may get distracted and can fall off your board. (It’s not hard to get back up on your board if you do fall, so don’t let that scare you away!) Focus on land or something ahead of you in the distance as you paddle. Another key tip is to be aware of your posture! Stand up straight, and don’t lock your knees.
- Keep Practicing: If you have trouble standing or your body feels uncomfortable on the SUP board at first, don’t give up! I was so nervous my first time out, and I felt more comfortable kneeling than standing… Meanwhile, my husband, who is naturally great at everything, stood up immediately and was doing laps around my board. But because we had so much fun and enjoyed our beautiful waterways, we were eager to go again. And like every skill, practice makes things feel much easier and with each experience your confidence is sure to grow!
Paddle boarding is one of my favorite things to share with family and friends when they come to visit the Rocket City. (My parents live in North Carolina, and my mom asks to go paddle boarding every time she visits, and she loves to show off her yoga moves on the SUP board!)
Don’t forget to bring:
Waterproof box for cell phone/car keys
Katie Ellis grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Journalism and Communications from The University of Alabama. She and her husband have lived in Huntsville since January of 2019, and together they enjoy spending their free time outside—hiking, biking, paddle boarding, camping, and exploring the natural beauty of North Alabama and beyond! They are also National Parks enthusiasts who are constantly planning their next adventure.
Katie is the editor for The Cottage Journal magazine, a national home decor publication owned by Hoffman Media, based in Birmingham. When she’s not traveling across the country leading photoshoots for beautiful cottage-style homes, she and her husband are tackling DIY home and garden projects at their own home in South Huntsville.