Tips for Better Stability

Feeling unstable on your first time on a board? Here's a few tips to increase your comfort level.

- Make sure you start on a board big enough for you. As a beginner, try a board that may be bigger than what you think you need. In time once you've gained your sea legs, you can try a board this is more narrow. Beginner boards should be at least 30" wide. The bigger you are the wider you'll need. I like 31"-33" wide and am 6'-5" tall, about 230lbs.

- Not sure about standing up on the water? Draw an outline of the board in the sand and practice standing up on solid ground. Have flexibility issues? This is a great way to figure out how to stand up from a sitting position. I've had students that couldn't bring their legs forward to stand up, or even get up. There's always a solution, you just have to practice.

- Stand up in the middle of the board. Adjust your 'trim' back and fourth til you feel you're in the middle. Have a friend tell you if you're in the middle.

- Make sure both feet are pointing forward, and are about 12" apart (width of your shoulders). I had a student last week who had one foot that couldn't point forwards, thus the board dipped on that side. Wider is more stable than closer together.

- Paddling makes you more stable. Once you stand up immediately take a few strokes.

- When in doubt - paddle. In rough water if you begin to loose your balance, keep paddling. Beginners tend to stand up and lean back with the paddle above their head to regain balance - usually falling in. Instead train yourself to dig the blade in the water instead of stop paddling.

- Static Brace - If the above doesn't work and you feel you're going in use a brace to prevent yourself from falling in. Slap the flat portion of the blade on the surface of the water as you begin to lose balance.

- Sweeping Brace - In the above situation, another method of a brace is to slide the flat portion of the blade across the surface of the water in one direction to help regain your balance. Apply pressure to your lower arm as you sweep the blace across the water.

- While standing, make sure you knees have a micro bend. Locked knees will send you for a swim.

- If you need to look behind you, or up, place the face of the paddle flat on the water. Push the shaft of the paddle down a touch with your outer arm to apply pressure to the blade.

- Another version of the brace above is an advanced brace called the 'sculling brace'. Place the blade flat on the water by the middle of the board and while rotating your torso, slide it back and fourth on the surface while pulling down on the shaft to apply pressure to the blade. The brace above is a static brace, this one is an active brace.

- After taking a stroke, instead of pulling the blade out of the water, twist your wrists back which exposes the powerface of the blade to your rail. While still in the water, slide the blade face forward parallel to the rail back the catch (nose) - like slicing a knife through melted butter. Essentially you never take the blade out of the water during your forward stroke. Again, having you blade in the water adds stability, so in rough water, current, or surf, keeping your blade in the water throughout your entire stroke will make you more stable.

- Bending your knees lower helps you become more stable. Think of your knees as shock absorbers as the water passes underneath.

- Still can't stand up? It's ok to sit or kneel while paddling. Use these lower positions to practice your forward and turning strokes, or until you reach smoother water before you try to stand again.