How To Improve Your Balance For Paddleboarding Using a Balance Board
Over the last decade or so, paddleboarding has really exploded as a popular, family-friendly mainstream activity.
The actual advantages of owning a stand up paddle board (SUP) are plentiful. They’re easy to use (more on that below), inflatable paddleboards can be packed in the car for family outings and they won’t break the bank (a quality SUP costs considerably less than the nearest surf board equivalent).
But above all, paddleboarding offer that sense of serenity and perspective which being on the water can bring, whether you’re slowly gliding down a river or leisurely making your way around a lake.
Putting some practice in by allowing yourself time to get acquainted with the art of balancing on dry land with a balance board will pay dividends when it comes time to take to the water for your paddleboarding.
If you’re planning on getting hold of a stand up paddleboard for yourself, or even purchasing one for each family member, what better way of giving yourself a head start on the water than mastering the art of balancing from the comfort of your own home or garden first with a balance board?
Is paddleboarding difficult?
You’ll be pleased to know that everyday recreational SUP is relatively easy to pick up. With the correct instructions, you can be confidently up and out, holding your own on a board, in a matter of hours.
Paddleboarding is achievable for all ages and across all levels of agility, but there are exercise devices which will undoubtedly assist you with getting to grips on the water, the balance board being one such piece of kit.
Strengthening your core and mastering your balance
Like surfing, balancing is key in maintaining that upright position. Even with a paddle as support, it’s still easy to push yourself off-balance, so you need to possess the necessary stability. This is where the fitness benefits come into play. Stand up paddleboarding helps develop your core strength, while at the same time developing on your arms, legs, back, and shoulders.
This is where the Swifty Balance Boards are the ideal bedfellow for those wanting to practice their paddleboarding skills on dry land. The balance boards mirror the instability of the stand up paddle board, meaning that at any one time, a whole range of muscles are working together in unison, rather than one or two being targeted.
By working on your core strength and improving your balance, this also allows you to get the necessary power to your stroke. When you paddle through the water, you’re using a variety of muscles and parts of your body like your shoulders, arms and knees, which are all working in tandem to propel you forward.
Gaining that initial confidence with your balance not only means that have the aforementioned means of covering decent ground on the stand up paddle board, but it makes for a more pleasant and satisfying outing on the water.
Finding your balance on the paddleboard
Unsurprisingly given the surface you’re traversing, it can be initially tricky to find your balance point on the SUP. The board will tip from side to side as opposed to front and back.
This is why you need to position your feet so they are parallel, and around shoulder width apart, ensuing that you are situated in the middle of the board.
The challenges you will run into are entirely natural. We’ve usually born with a side that we favour, and due to this, we tend to use that side more, which will actually develop and strengthen more than the weak side, thus meaning the imbalance you experience with activities such as this has more to do with your neurological system than anything muscular.
A good SUP technique is largely down to being relaxed and confident, but good core strength sitting alongside that.
Why is stand up paddleboarding so popular?Stand up paddleboarding (or SUP, as it’s known) is hardly a new pastime, having been around in various incarnations for centuries before finding it’s modern roots within Hawaiian surf culture.
Paddleboarding is currently one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and according to a report last year, the global stand up paddle board market was estimated at $1.5B.
This surge in popularity is easy to understand. It’s a fun and affordable activity, suitable for the whole family and offers the opportunity to get out for the day (weather-permitting, of course). It also taps into that enviable and carefree lifestyle often associated with surfing, without having to actually learn how to surf, or possessing the skills to do so!
What are balance boards used for?
Firstly, the balance board is designed to help develop your balance and coordination, motor skills and reaction time. The strength and steadiness you can gain from practice can ultimately contribute to injury prevention, and balance boards are common in rehabilitation settings and conditioning programs for athletes.
In short, the benefits of balance boards are plentiful. The instability of the activity means that at any one time a whole range of muscles are working together rather than just one, also targeting upper body stability and core strength, as well as those muscles around the ankles.
How to get started on a balance board
Just like stepping foot on a stand up paddleboard for the first time, the thought of hopping on a new balance board may seem daunting at first. The best thing you can do your first time is take it slow as you get to grips with the weight and feel of the board.
A comprehensive guide to finding your initial balance through some easy to master basic balance board exercises can be found in this previous blog.
Other benefits to using a balance board
But it’s not just being comfortable with basic balance on the board which will help improve your skills and balance on the stand up paddle board – there’s a whole set of tricks and exercises which will inadvertently be advantageous to your time on the water.
When you’ve grasped the simple starting position of both feet hip-distance apart to steady yourself and maintain proper posture, you’ll soon be able to move on to the kinds of exercise which are beneficial to you moving freely and comfortably on the water.
More complicated routines, such as sit throughs (an example of a great way to get your core working your obliques, lower abs and transverse abs) will really go some way to helping stabilise your core on the stand up paddle board. A detailed guide to getting to grips with this particular skill, alongside many others, can be found in this previous blog.
Types of balance board
There are various types of balancing boards that you can find in the market. The plywood-made Swifty Balance Boards are comprised of two styles – the Classic and the Fishtail. The latter is designed for a more experienced balance boarder as it doesn’t have the Classic’s four fins design on the underside, meaning there isn’t anything to help stop you from rolling off the roller when you’re on the board.
Safety tips when using a balance board
It’s best to ensure when you start practicing with your balance board that you’ve given yourself enough space to move around, and that no objects are nearby which you could either fall on or may obstruct with your rolling. If you’re even experiencing a little difficulty when initially stepping up onto the board, it might be an idea to have a friend or family member support you. You could even find a fixed object nearby that you can use to hold onto until you’re happy with being balancing alone.