Do you love those “never summer” bumper stickers? Do you wish away the snowless months in want of more winter, snow, skiing? I share your sentiments. I try to find my adrenaline fix when alpine skiing is on summer hiatus. Biking and hiking don’t come close to the thrill of schussing downhill. Water skiing does but you need a boat, ski, towline, driver, spotter, fuel and flat water!

Paddleboarding on the beach.

Photo by Greg Burke

I discovered Stand Up Paddleboarding on the Maine Coast, and found “SUP” to be fun, and pretty simple as a skier. It’s refreshing too if you fall in the freezing salt waters of the Atlantic.

The hidden gem of paddle boarding is the core workout for your ski physique. Your abs are engaged as you paddle and your leg muscles are firing as you balance on the wide board. And much like skiing and snowboarding, you are distracted from the “exercise” because you’re focused on the scenery, the water and riding the surf. You can ride the board in the waves or just paddle yourself around a bay, lake or pond.

Paddleboarding on the beach.

Photo by Greg Burke

Here are some SUP tips for skiers and riders:

Learn from an experienced paddle boarder, or take a brief lesson. The sport is not that complicated if you have good balance (as most skiers do) but a few pointers get you paddling like a pro in no time. My strokes were far more efficient once my friend told me to flip my paddle over – rookie movie.

Wear your safety leash so you don’t lose your board if (when) you fall off. Much like your ski gear, it is your responsibility to carry and control your board – on land and in water. You must also have a PFD, life jacket, with you.

paddleboarding with a dog.

Photo by Greg Burke

Start small and work your way up on your SUP. Begin on gentle calm water out of the way from any busy boating channels and strong currents. Once you have strong balance and paddling skills to maneuver and turn your board, you can try riding the waves in open water or beach surf.

Know Navigational Laws, “right of way,” tides and currents, and stay out of the way of other vessels. Consult local Coast Guard or Marine Patrol if you are not familiar with the rules of the waterways. I have seen some close calls and near collisions between clueless paddle boarders and commercial Maine fishing boats. Boats doesn’t have brakes.

paddleboarder and a whale boat.

Photo by Greg Burke

Don’t forget the sunscreen, the sun’s refraction is intense on the water.

Enjoy your summer SUP! Snow will be here soon enough; your abs, quads and gluteus will be prime from paddling.

Just like the Skiers’ Responsibility Code, the US Coast Guard has 10 tips for Stand Up Paddleboard safety.

US Coast Guard 10 SUP Safety tips:

1. Wear a lifejacket and carry a whistle

2. Be a competent swimmer

3. Know how to self rescue

4. Know how to tow another board

5. Know the local regulations and navigation rules

6. Understand the elements and hazards – winds, tidal ranges, current, terrain

7. Know when to wear a leash

8. Be defensive – don’t go where you aren’t supposed to,  avoid swimmers and boaters

9. Use proper blade angle to be the most efficient paddle boarder

10. Take a safety course


Heather Burke paddleboarding

Photo by Greg Burke

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Sub-Categories Lifestyle / Paddle / Summer

2 responses to “SUP-ing 101: How To Get Started”

  1. Cadwumpusrumpus says:

    Check out for the most technically advanced portable SUP board… I take mine everywhere. So sick.

  2. walden says:

    I’m sure the “PDF” will come in handy. But serioulsy, why is there no PFD in any of your photos?

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