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Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has become a trendy way to explore nature while getting a little workout in. But like most sports, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Before you head out on your first SUP adventure, read on to find out the five things every paddleboard newbie needs to know.

1. Seek calm waters.

“Choppy water conditions are difficult for experienced and first-time paddlers alike,” says Caroline Sloan, who, along with her husband, John, is a SUP instructor for High Country Outfitters in Buckhead. “Hone your skills on flat water, and once you’re comfortable, try paddling on water that’s a little more challenging, such as the ocean.”

2. Know where to go, and for how long.

Where can you find beginner-friendly water? For the Buckhead set, your best bet is Morgan Falls Overlook Park in Sandy Springs, where High Country offers classes and rents gear at its Paddle Shack. “If you’re looking to get out of town, Lake Blue Ridge is another favorite,” adds John. “It’s a short drive and in the mountains.” Also, map out your trip so you don’t overdo it, and know what to expect. The first time you venture out, aim for just one or two hours.

3. Take a class.

High Country offers SUP demos Thursdays at Morgan Falls for $30 per person. (If you’re interested in buying a board, the fee will be applied toward your purchase.) “Anyone can take the demo class, whether you’re a beginner or advanced,” says John. “In 90 minutes, you’ll learn the differences in types of boards, various paddle techniques and how to handle the boards.”

4. Get the gear.

High Country rents boards for $25 for the first hour and $15 for each additional hour. This will get you a board best suited to your needs, a life jacket, paddle and even a guide to help you get out on the water. Try different boards and paddles, too. “Some boards are more stable than others,” says Caroline. “So don’t let a bad experience change your opinion of SUP.” Beginners should look for a board that is sturdy and accommodates their weight. Finding the right paddle is also key, because it’s your engine. “Look for one that’s lighter and has less flex, such as a carbon fiber or fiberglass paddle,” says John. Last but not least, don’t forget your shades—and Croakies to ensure they don’t float away.

5. Embrace the fall.

It’s inevitable—you’re going to fall off the board. “Go into this with a sense of humor, being OK with the fact that you’re going to fall in the water and do a little swimming,” says Caroline. “Getting back up and trying again is really what SUP is all about.”

3906B Roswell Road
Atlanta 30342

Add a Little “OM” to Your SUP

When you’re ready for more of a challenge on the board, High Country Outfitters offers SUP yoga classes on Sundays at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. at Morgan Falls Overlook Park. The 90-minute, $35 class starts with some brief instruction on paddle technique, then students paddle out to a nearby protected area on the river, where the SUPs are anchored. Following the warm-up paddle, students are guided through breathing techniques and basic sun salutations, and eventually flow into more challenging postures on their boards.

STORY: Amelia Pavlik
Photo: Kevin Garrett
Photo: Caroline Peters Sloan

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