Prone Paddle Boarding: What It Is and How to Get Started

At some point when having fun in the water, you may have seen someone on a board paddling with their hands. It looked hard and tiring. You probably thought they had lost their paddle.

There are many different kinds of board watersports practiced all around the world. Some, like SUP and surf, are popular while others like prone boarding, not so much.

If you have been looking to get into a new watersport, prone paddleboarding is an awesome option. This article discusses everything there is to learn about it. By the time you are done, you will be dying to try it out.

So, first things first…

What is Prone Paddle Boarding?

Prone paddleboarding is simply known as paddle boarding. Others may call it traditional paddleboarding.

You lie down or kneel on a prone board and paddle using your hands. It is like swimming while lying or kneeling on a paddleboard.

Prone paddleboarding is different from bodyboarding. The latter refers to riding waves/surfing while in a prone position. The boards used for the two activities are different as well.

History of Prone Paddle Boarding

Knowing how an activity came about makes it a little more exciting, don’t you think?

The story of paddleboarding is not quite clear. There are several versions, but here is the one that is widely told.

In the 18th century, there was a British explorer named Captain Thomas Cook. Towards the end of the century, he decided to visit the Hawaiian Islands with a friend, John Webber. There they saw the natives using boards (more like wood planks, at the time) to move around in the water.

Over time, people started using these planks for more than just transport. They became surfing boards. This resulted in most of the board watersports you see today.

As for the paddleboard design, all the credit goes to a guy named Thomas Edward Blake. He brought a forgotten surfboard design to life in the 1920s. While the board designs have now changed for some activities like surfing, Thomas Blake’s idea is still being used in prone paddleboards today.

Prone Paddleboarding Vs Standup Paddleboarding

When you say paddleboarding, many people will automatically think of SUP. Standup paddleboarding was derived from prone paddleboarding. But the two have some major differences.

The first obvious difference is how you propel the board. With traditional paddleboarding, you use your arms in a swimming movement. SUPers use a single blade paddle.

The boards for these two sports are not the same. Prone paddleboards are super long—with some being about 21 feet long. The shortest one is around 10 feet. They are also very narrow with a sharp-pointed tail. Modern ones come with a rounded hull. The top may be slightly sunken for additional comfort or just flat. SUP paddleboards, on the other hand, are shorter and wider (compared to prone boards). 

Another difference is the fact that you stand while SUPing but kneel or lie while prone paddling.

How to Get Started Prone Paddle Boarding

It is only fair to let you know that paddleboarding is not easy. There will be sweating, soreness and pain at first. The board will also feel unstable. However, once your body gets used to it, you will realize that it was all worth it.

a. What You Need

The best thing about prone paddleboarding is that you don’t require much.

The following are the basics:

  • A prone paddleboard
  • A swimsuit
  • A leash

b. How to Prone Paddle Board

Take your prone board out into the water and find a shallow spot.

Hold your board on either side where the soft pad ends near the front.

Get on the board and find a balanced position. The whole board should be level; no part should be sticking out above the water.

Lie on the belly and once you are comfortable, start paddling (freestyle strokes). Try to reach as far ahead as you can.

Make sure you paddle close to the board. Don’t make a wide stroke.

c. How to Kneel Paddleboard

The good thing about prone paddleboarding is that you are not limited to one position. The kneeling paddleboard position, however, can be challenging for beginners.

Hold your board as you did with the other position and find a balance.

Lie down and paddle twice or thrice to get going.

Hold the board on either side at your armpit level. Using your arms for support, rise up quickly and bring your knees into the knee wells.

Start paddling immediately. In this case, you paddle with both arms simultaneously. Reach far ahead but don’t overdo it. You may fall.

Push the water back to slightly past your knees.

To get back into the prone position, hold the board on either side at your armpit level. Use your arms for support and quickly get to the lying position.

d. Looking Ahead

How do you see where you are going in that position? You are probably imagining the awkward situation that your neck will have to be in.

Initially, this will be hard. But there is a position that feels perfect such that you don’t strain your neck. You have to try out different positions to get the one that feels right. Some people opt for a chin rest until they become pros.

Honestly, prone paddleboarding sounds stressful and it looks painful. Why should you bother?

Benefits of Prone Paddle Boarding

1. It Is Awesome

The activity is more fun when lying on your board instead of standing. You will be able to feel the prone paddleboard glide smoothly the entire time. It allows for a deeper connection with the water hence a purer and more natural experience.

2. Less Resistance from the Wind

If you have tried SUP before, you have to agree that the wind can be a nuisance. When it is strong, you will need to work a little harder to stay on course. Other times, you may have to give up and come back when it gets calm.

This is a problem you may never face with prone paddling. When you are lying down or kneeling, you will be too low for the wind to bother you.

The same goes for waves. Generally, prone paddling is not dictated by weather conditions as much as standup paddleboarding.

3. Comfortable

Prone paddleboarding looks tiresome and difficult—and it is. The learning process will not be easy. But if you keep at it, you will be glad you never gave up.

Don’t underestimate your body. The position won’t feel natural at first. But as you practice repeatedly, your muscles will learn and get used to it.

Add to this the fact that you can always switch between two positions. When you are tired of lying down, kneel.

This allows you to paddle for long hours before getting bored or worn out.

4. Great Workout

Prone paddleboarding is an efficient physical exercise—as you can imagine. Beginners may not work all muscles while starting out. However, as you learn more techniques and what works for you, it gets easier to engage more muscles. Even your core will be working just as hard—if not more—as it does during SUP.

5. Simple

You don’t need much. As long as you have your board, a swimsuit and a leash, you are ready to go. The idea of carrying too many things into the water can be discouraging. You have to carry them from storage to the car and again from the car into the water. Less gear means spending less money as well.

What You May Not Like

1. Slow

Prone paddleboarding feels fast but it is not, compared to standup paddleboarding. If you are going to race with your SUP friends, you will lose.

2. Difficult to Start

This has been mentioned severally. You will have a hard time learning to kneel, find balance and even lie down. In the first few days, you won’t be able to go far without getting too tired. But find comfort in the fact that you will get used to it soon enough.

3. You Cannot Stay Dry

Getting wet is not something you can avoid with prone paddleboarding. By the time you get out, you will probably be soaked. Expect the water to hit you in the face every once in a while, too.

Prone Paddle Boarding Tips

a. Get a Good Swimsuit

Make sure that your swimsuit keeps you covered. Find one that won’t embarrass you, especially when kneeling. The last thing you want is to give people a show they didn’t ask for—not to mention that there may kids around.

b. Don’t Move Too Much

You may be so occupied with your arms, that you forget the rest of your body. Even as a newbie, try to think about what the other body parts are doing. You may notice unnecessary movement in your legs which is a waste of energy. Learn to keep the legs relaxed and only kick when you need the extra momentum.

c. Avoid Sticking to One Position

This guide highlights the lying down and kneeling positions. It is good to master the two of them. That way, you can maximize comfort by switching. It makes it easier to paddle farther and for longer.

Prone paddleboarding will seem difficult at first. But once you get the hang of it, you may never want to go back to SUP. The connection you will feel with the water is special and out of this world. You also get a good workout. Find a prone paddleboard and try this amazing activity. You will be happy you did.

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