Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP): A Beginner’s Guide

Whether you’re drawn to the tranquil atmosphere of local lakes, or prefer the rushing waters of rivers or the buoyant waves of the ocean, Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) can be enjoyed in nearly all types of waters, by all kinds of people.

Where to Start

SUP9If you’re new to SUP, it’s best to have a good understanding of all that’s involved before heading out to purchase a new board. Talking to a pro can help you determine the right type of equipment for your unique needs.

“There are all kinds of board shapes and sizes that can be multi-functional,” said Kayla Boys, SUP enthusiast and Race Director for Mountain High Outfitters. “Some boards are more stable, therefore you won’t fall as easily, and some boards are designed and shaped to help you glide faster through the water.”

Talk to experts and do lots of research, which can include checking out “how to” videos on YouTube for paddle info and methods. Boys recommends videos such as those available from SUP experts Danny Ching and Nikki Gregg. As for conquering any initial fears, she says start with getting over being afraid to get wet. “When you stop worrying about falling…you have more fun.”

Ready to take SUP to the next level? Find out about all the ways you can benefit from SUP Fitness Classes.

SUP feature

SUP Gear: What You Need

Stand Up Paddle board: Body height and weight plays a role in selecting a board. The taller the person, the longer the board recommended. Boys says the average woman tends to use a 10’6 board, while the average man tends to start at a 11’6-12′ board. She encourages people to attend SUP demos, which are often offered locally by Mountain High Outfitters. Trying a variety of boards first is the best way to get the best idea of the correct size and type of board that’s right for someone.

Paddle: Stand up paddles are unique in that they often have a slight angle in the shaft to help a user increase efficiency and speed. Mountain High Outfitters recommends selecting a paddle that is about 6” to 8” taller than you.

PFD (Personal Floatation Device): According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a paddle board is classified as a vessel, and anyone using it beyond a traditional swimming area should always wear a PFD to ensure safety precaution. Wearing a leash attached to your board and a whistle around your neck is a good idea too. Before going out on the water, be sure to check with local lake and river authorities about safety requirements and any related laws.

Water bottle: Avoid dehydration by bring along a water bottle!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Taking the (Financial) Plunge

SUP boards can range in price anywhere from $450-$1700, depending on the users weight, experience and the type of SUP they want to pursue. Yet, when evaluating the large upfront expense of SUP, it’s important to keep in mind that stand up paddle boards serve more than leisurely purposes alone, they also offer loads of fitness value as well. Active involvement in SUP can also mean significant improvements to overall health.

Boys said she and her husband knew they had to get past the initial cost of SUP equipment and focus more on the fact that they were investing in the long-term. She says she likes to help motivate people by helping them to see SUP as an investment in themselves and their family.

“It’s great to buy a board for the activities, but they can also be relaxing,” said Boys, who along with her husband, fell in love with SUP during a vacation years ago. “We decided that this vacation fun should come home with us. We bought two boards and use them for fun and fitness. I want people to see the SUP not just as one season, but potentially 5-10 years.”

With a growing interest in SUP, there is now a great market for buying, selling, or even trading used paddle boards and other related equipment. Renting is also a great option, especially for beginners. Mountain High Outfitters (MHO) offers board rentals for the day or even for an entire weekend. The best part is that any rental fees paid to MHO count towards the purchase of a board. Additional SUP rentals can be found locally at places like Oak Mountain State Park and Lake Martin.

Boys says it’s best to paddle with a friend or family member, but if you don’t, always let someone know your plans and approximate location. Familiarize yourself with the safer, less populated areas of the water and other important factors like water release schedules, etc. “Being prepared will help ensure a safe and fun experience.”

For more information about SUP, check out, or visit the store at one of its four Birmingham locations.


One thought on “Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP): A Beginner’s Guide

  1. Pingback: Mountain High Outfitters is Alabama’s go-to SUP expert –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *