Those who aren’t familiar with prone paddleboarding will think that it’s the same as stand-up paddleboarding. Unfortunately, they are totally different from each other. Prone paddling is the traditional way of paddleboarding before SUP even became a thing.
Want to know more about prone paddleboarding? Read all about it here plus tips on how you can get started.
What is Prone Paddle Boarding?
Prone paddleboarding is the traditional way of paddleboarding. It’s when you lie face down on the paddleboard or when you go on your knees and paddle with your hands. You won’t be using any paddle here because your arms will be responsible for propelling you forward.
Prone paddleboarding is called a lot of things. It’s used interchangeably with traditional paddleboarding or simply paddleboarding. But it’s best to call it prone paddleboarding to differentiate it from the many styles of paddleboarding.
So isn’t prone paddleboarding like bodyboarding? They’re almost the same, but they use different gears and they have different body positions on the board.
Prone Paddle Boarding vs. Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
If you’re coming from a SUP background, it’s understandable to think that prone paddleboarding is just like a harder version of SUP. However, the two can’t be more different. Here are some of their major differences.
The first and most obvious difference between prone paddleboarding and SUP is the position. On one hand, the former is done with either a lying or a kneeling position. Depending on your preference, you might up to lie face down on the board since it brings you closer to the water.
On the other hand, the latter is done by standing up, hence, the name. Instead of using your arms to paddle, you have your own paddle made from fiberglass or aluminum.
When you try prone paddleboarding, you’ll notice that the most important aspect of the sport is how well you can paddle with your arms. It’s a lot like swimming where your arms determine how you move forward. Thus, it makes sense that your arms should be free from any obstructions.
The gear that you need for prone paddleboarding is sleeveless waterproof tops and straps. Straps aren’t recommended, but they’re very useful for beginners.
For SUP, the clothes are more flexible. You can paddleboard with your trunks, bikinis, or go in full waterproof attire. What’s good about SUP is that it doesn’t require a lot of gear aside from your paddle.
Can you use your stand-up paddleboard for prone paddleboarding? No, you can’t for the simple reason that it’s too wide.
Think about it, if you’re going to paddle with your arms, you want your arms to be able to dig into the water fully so that there’s more force pushing it forward. If you do this on a SUP, then you probably won’t be able to submerge even your whole lower arm in the water.
What Kind of Paddle Board Do You Need?
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to reuse your SUP as a prone paddleboard. As you can see, a prone paddleboard is a lot narrower than your SUP. There are four standard types of paddleboard prone.
The 10’6” Board
The 10’6” prone board is the smallest and shortest prone board of all. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not made for kids. The small size is meant to make it easier to get through the water. Since the prone board is smaller, there’s less resistance to the water.
The 10’6” board is not just for your leisure paddleboarding. It’s also the board used for coastal rescue since it’s faster than other boards. This can also be used for short-distance races. Short-distance races often span 500m.
The 12’ Board
Opposite the 10’6” prone board is the 12’ board. This board is best for long-distance paddling sessions. If you plan on going far from the shore, then this is the right paddleboard for you.
The 12’ prone board is the ideal board for waters with a lot of waves. Because of its size and length, it has a better surface tension over the water. However, you can’t use this prone board for surfing. It’s still too narrow for you to comfortably stand on it.
The 14’ Board
Another prone board is the 14’. The 14’ board can also be used for long distances, but it’s not as common as the 12’ board. Finding a 14’ prone board is a little more challenging because there are only a few stores that still supply this kind of prone board.
Unlimited (UL) Prone Board
If you think that the 14’ board is already good for long distances, you haven’t seen the UL prone board yet. This board is the best when it comes to long distances. It’s also designed for speed and suspension. Some people like to call the UL board the F1 prone board.
The UL prone board has a length of at least 15 feet. It can go as long as 21 feet depending on your preference. Since these prone boards are too long, most of them come with a rudder system.
How to Get Started with Prone Paddle Boarding
Are you interested in prone paddleboarding now? You’re not the only one. Apparently, a lot of surfers and stand-up paddlers are getting into prone boarding because it gives a better connection to the water. So how do you get started? Here are some tips.
Try it out first.
Unlike SUP, prone paddleboarding can be polarizing. In other words, not everyone is going to like it. Just because you like surfing doesn’t mean that you’ll like prone paddleboarding, too.
Since this is the case, it’s best to try the sport first before you commit to it. Before you even consider buying the paddleboard and the gear, try it first using a board from a rental company. This way, you’ll be able to gauge if you’re up to using your arms as paddles.
Take it slow.
As a beginner, you’ll struggle with prone paddling in your first few sessions. Aside from maintaining your balance, you’ll also be using your arms non-stop. So if you easily get tired during your first round, that’s okay. It takes time to get used to prone paddleboarding.
Take it slow at first. Paddle for a few minutes and then take a break. Nobody’s forcing you to be able to go far from the shore. Besides, paddling continuously is not sustainable. You’ll eventually tire yourself out.
Paddleboard in calm waters.
There’s no shame in prone paddleboarding in calm waters. Don’t mind other people when they tell you that it’s best to paddleboard in a waterway that has more waves.
As a newbie, it’s only reasonable to paddleboard in calm waters. Not only is it ideal as you learn the right moves, but it’s also less stressful when you’re only starting to get the hang of things.
Practice the right posture.
There are two postures when you are prone paddleboarding – lying down and kneeling. Kneeling is more difficult than lying down because you have less balance when you’re upright. While it’s important to master the kneeling position on a paddleboard, you have to start in a lying position first.
The lying position offers an easier way to maneuver the board. This is mainly because your weight is on the board and not on your knees. Besides, when you’re lying down, you get to feel the water better since you are “lower on the ground”.
Relax your neck.
One of the mistakes that newbies and intermediate prone paddlers make is putting too much stress on the neck. Yes, even intermediate players can forget that they should relax their necks.
So how should your neck be angled? The right way is to not over-extend your neck. You might be inclined to do so when you want to see further in front but this isn’t necessary. Just lift your head a little so that you can see enough in front.
There’s no exact angle but it depends on your preference. Find the sweet spot that allows you to see enough while maintaining a relaxed neck.
Wear the right clothes.
As mentioned earlier, the clothes you wear while prone paddling are different from the ones you wear when you go stand-up paddleboarding. For one thing, you should wear sleeveless clothes to give maximum mobility to your arms.
Other than that, you should also make sure that your back is covered. You don’t want it getting sunburned. If you’re planning on kneeling as you paddleboard, it’s best that you wear shorts that are high enough. This prevents the shorts from interfering with your balance.
Attach a leash to your board and your body.
While it doesn’t sound pretty, a leash attached to your body will help you stay with your board no matter what. You don’t want to go catching your board when you topple over.
The good thing about prone paddleboarding is that you can wear your leash on your ankle or on your waist. Try both to see which one you’re more comfortable with.
Carry a water bottle.
Dehydration is the worst when you’re out at sea. Don’t think for a second that you don’t need to carry a water bottle. Remember, the sun plus your arm movements are a tiring combination. They will leave your body wanting water.
But where do you put the water bottle? This is always a question because a lot of paddlers are curious to know where you’ll fit a water bottle on a very narrow board. Well, the answer is a water cage strapped to your back. A water cage is literally a cage that will hold your water bottle. It will have straps so that you can put it around your back.
It’s not recommended that you just strap the water bottle on your back. It can be painful when you already have a sunburn, plus it might affect your strokes.
Take advantage of your momentum.
Just like in swimming, you take advantage of the momentum your arms create when you start paddling. This means that you have to keep paddling while there’s momentum in your arms. Otherwise, you’ll be stopping all the time and this is even more tiring.
Get in touch with your surroundings.
Last but definitely one of the most important things to remember is to get in touch with your surroundings. Know the movement of the water and have an idea of how deep the water is. Pay attention to the other paddlers around you. You should also be on the lookout for boats that come your way.
Paying attention to your surroundings saves your life. If you don’t notice the things that might harm you, then you’ll be in big trouble.
Is Prone Paddle Boarding Hard?
Just by reading through the tips on how to get started, you already have an idea of the difficulty level of prone paddleboarding. Some say it’s a lot easier than SUP because then you have more balance lying down. Other people will say differently, claiming that prone paddleboarding is harder.
Regardless of what others say, know that it all depends on you. If you’re used to doing SUP, then you’ll probably find prone paddleboarding relatively easier when it comes to balance. However, you’ll find that it’s harder to do the paddling yourself.
At most, you’ll be disoriented with how different it feels to paddle yourself rather than having a paddle do it for you. It can also be a struggle to see in front while not straining your neck. Don’t worry, if you practice enough, you’ll find prone paddleboarding to be fun and exciting.
Overall, prone paddling is a fun water sport. It may not be popular yet but more and more people are starting to make the shift from SUP to prone paddleboarding.
The best way to get into prone paddleboarding, though, is through preparation and right posture. It’s important to get your strokes right so you don’t strain any part of your body especially your neck. Keep in mind that it’s okay to start slow and enjoy the learning process.