It’s been a tough year of circuit breakers and time cooped up at home. But with restrictions beginning to ease, Hong Konger Niall Westley shares his tips for enjoying the great outdoors on a paddle board.
Stand Up Paddle-boarding is a great way to enjoy Asia's stunning waters.
While most of us are unable to travel internationally any time soon, we’re lucky in Hong Kong to have so much beautiful scenery, a stunning coastline and warm water nearly all year round right on our doorstep.
But wherever you may be in Asia, if you’re comfortable in the water, Stand Up Paddle-boarding (SUP) and SUP yoga is a great way to experience a greener, calmer and healthier side of life.
Pick your days
Don’t be under any pressure to head out in conditions that make you feel uncomfortable or nervous. The best time to learn how to stand up on a paddleboard is on a nice calm day with very little wind and minimal waves.
If you’ve never been on a SUP before, you may be surprised how difficult it can be to balance, let alone carry out standing yoga poses. Flat water will make your life a lot easier.
There are plenty of apps and websites to check water conditions. In Hong Kong for example, try Hong Kong Observatory and Windy. But don’t hesitate to reach out to local water sports coaches like us if you need a little extra information.
Find a buddy or two
Of course it’s much more fun to practice with friends, plus it’s helpful to have someone around in case your first outing doesn’t go exactly as planned. Maybe you fall off and lose your paddle, or perhaps you just need an extra pair of hands to help you get the board in and out of the water. Having somebody else nearby can not only make your life a lot easier, it’s also safer.
Use a ‘beginner-friendly’ board
There is a huge variety of SUP boards available. Some are long and skinny which enable them to cut through the water with ease, some are wider and fatter which means they are nice and stable.
When starting out, you should always choose one of the wider and more stable models. We tend to recommend a board at least 34 inches wide.
Both inflatable and hard boards are great for beginners; just make sure your inflatable is pumped up to the recommended pressure.
And always use a leash. This will keep you tethered to your board in case you fall in the water and it will make it much easier to hop back on board.
Learn to steer
We always teach our students a few basic strokes before going out on the water. First is the forward stroke, where you draw the paddle alongside the board to push you through the water. Second is the sweep stroke, where you carve your paddle in a big arcing rainbow through the water, from the nose of your board to the tail to turn you. Last is the back paddle, where you push your paddle through the water away from you to stop and reverse.
Learning how to control your board is an essential skill to help you avoid sticky situations like bumping into rocks and other watercraft.
Maintain good posture
When standing, think of your legs like the suspension in a car. Keeping a light bend in your knees helps your legs to act like springs to ride out any bumps or waves. Looking far out towards the horizon will help your balance, too.
Relax and take things easy
Don’t expect to paddle a marathon or to jump into advanced poses and inversions on your first go. Give yourself plenty of space to learn and just enjoy getting out on the water and having fun.
Niall Westley is an ASI certified SUP and SUP yoga instructor and co-founder of Island Paddle Hong Kong.