SUP the Backcountry

Join the standup paddleboard craze and enjoy an above-water vantage for everything from rising trout to streamside wildlife.
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Join the standup paddleboard craze and enjoy an above-water vantage for everything from rising trout to streamside wildlife.
Load a SUP with overnight gear packed in a waterproof bag. Pictured here: Canada's Yukon River. photo: Trevor Clark

Load a SUP with overnight gear packed in a waterproof bag. Pictured here: Canada's Yukon River.(Photo by Trevor Clark)

Join the standup paddleboard craze and enjoy an above-water vantage for everything from rising trout to streamside wildlife. Start with tips from former pro kayaker Ken Hoeve, who now develops boards for Jackson Kayak and competes on its whitewater and fishing SUP teams.

1) Wear a properly fitted PFD (always) and helmet on technical streams, and don’t forget protective footwear—river bottoms and banks are usually rocky.

2) Never attach a leash to your ankle. Attach it to a PFD with a quick release system so you can free yourself if the leash gets snagged.

3) Use a wide, thick board—around 34 inches wide and 5 to 6 inches thick. The width adds stability while the thickness adds flotation and rigidity.

4) Keep a wide stance—at least as wide as your shoulders—with your feet facing forward and slightly staggered. Bend your knees for balance.

5) Start in calm, still water, practicing strokes and getting back on your board from the water. Then move to slow-moving flat water (class I). Get comfortable here before moving on to class II.

6) Learn to paddle comfortably on both sides; practice stroking on your right and left and making a quick transition between the two in order to keep your paddle in the water, which helps stability.

7) Always carry momentum across an eddy line.

8) In fast-moving water, look downriver and plan moves ahead of time; paddle aggressively.

9) When in doubt, walk around a rapid or hazard.