How Skateboarding Can Improve Your Standup Paddling
Skateboarding has many benefits for paddlers
No time to make it to the water? Skateboarding, or in my case landpaddling on a 6’6” longboard, is a great alternative. Anthony Vela first introduced me to the idea a few years back. The benefits and cross-over skills were immediately obvious. I was a bit less enthusiastic about the potential for a broken wrist and wasn’t sure how well a 40 something newbie would fit in at the local skatepark. It didn’t take long, however, for those initial feelings of discomfort to dissipate when I discovered the 6’6” Hamboards Classic.
Improve your balance
From its beginnings, skateboarding has always been a terrestrial form of surfing. Just like their aquatic counterparts in the board business, skateboard manufacturers have been on a quest to enhance the feeling of wave riding on land. The balance required to ride a board on land is the same as it is on the water. Land is a bit less forgiving and you will quickly find all the hills in your neighborhood – especially the slight elevation changes you previously ignored. But there is no mistake, riding a skateboard will go a long way to improving your balance. Practice lowering your center of gravity by squatting. You’ll instantly feel more stable and before long you will be able to transfer you new skills to your standup paddleboard.
Dipping the rail to carve a turn while skateboarding is the same as when surfing a wave. Like many newcomers to skateboarding, I initially overcompensated in performing a turn by aggressively pressing my toes down on the rail. Just like on your surf SUP, this will cause your board to violently jerk and most likely knock you on your butt. With a little time, patience and practice it won’t be long before you adapt to applying just the right amount of smooth, controlled pressure to steer the board. As with standup paddling and surfing, the phrase “Look down, fall down” applies. Wait until you are proficient before you look down with pride at the logo on the nose of your board!
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Gaining confidence skateboarding will boost your confidence on the water. Instead of simply making a bottom turn and shooting down the line you’ll have a newfound ability to maneuver up and down the face of the wave. Add the landpaddling component and you’ll be able to incorporate paddle handling skill training on land. And if you go large like I did and pick up a Hamboards Classic you can even practice cross-stepping. Just remember that the pavement is a lot less forgiving than water. I often practice cross-stepping while skating up the slight taper on the street in front of my house. By skating up a slight incline you will reduce the likelihood your board will pick up speed and cause you to lose control.
I directly credit my time landpaddling with increasing my wave riding performance. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. If you are fortunate to live near a bicycle path, try doing a distance skate once you’ve gained confidence performing some basic turns. It’s a great core workout and will help develop your muscles for your next session on the water.
What to wear
Generally speaking, skateboarding attire can be pretty much anything that you can comfortably move in. Based on my experience, I do recommend a pair of shoes with a flat sole. Ideally these would be a skateboarding specific type shoe for maximum grip and no slip on your board. There are a number of skateboard specific shoe brands out there. If you’re like me and don’t exactly fit into the traditional skate shop mold, you’ll be pleased to hear that some outdoor shoe brands also offer designs which work well for skateboarding. I recently picked up a pair of Merrell Freewheel Lace which are a contemporary twist on a classic Oxford style shoe. They have a nice grippy sole that sticks to my Hamboards Classic and embedded air cushion for extra comfort. The shoes are super light, just 1 lb 5 oz, and built with a durable pig suede upper. The Merrell Freewheel Lace are available in three color colors, one of which incorporates some nice orange highlights, which fits my personal style.
Regardless of what you wear, remember to be safe and have fun!