Photo: Kai Schwoerer (Getty)
Canoes and kayaks are always fun, but the trendiest rental at boat places these days is the stand-up paddleboard, or SUP. They're fun to paddle, and can provide an excellent core workout too.
A paddleboard looks like a large surfboard. You propel yourself along with a single paddle that looks like a very long canoe paddle (a blade at the bottom, a handle at the top). You can take a SUP into the ocean and ride some waves, which I've never done. You can also take a take a paddleboard out onto a calm lake or river and paddle around for fun, which I have.
Here's what you should know before you show up to rent a board.
Expect to get wet.
My personal policy with boats (even paddleboards!) is to prepare as if I and everything I carry are guaranteed to fall in. So I wear a swimsuit or quick-drying clothes, and I put my phone in a secure pocket in a waterproof case, or at least a ziploc bag. That said, you probably won't fall in...but wear your life vest just in case.
Ask about the shoe situation.
My first time on a paddleboard, the rental place said we have to wear sneakers or grippy water shoes. My second time, it was a different rental place, and they require everyone to go barefoot. (If I had the choice, I prefer barefoot.)
You can strap your stuff to the front of the board.
I've seen people with bags in front of them on the board, waterproof speakers blasting tunes, even small dogs. Remember our first rule, though (prepare to get wet) and if you ever do bring a dog - not ideal for your first time, obviously - observe boating safety precautions for your dog.
Once you're there, it's time to paddle! Here are some beginner tips to get you started.
You don't have to stand up.
You can paddle just fine while kneeling or even while sitting cross-legged on the board's surface. Kneeling is the safest way to approach a dock or any time you're worried about falling. You can also sit down if you get tired, or just because you feel like it (I find it very relaxing).
You paddle with your whole body.
You'll need to use muscles from your arms and shoulders, through your core, all the way down to your legs. Think about planting the paddle in the water and using your ab and back muscles to pull yourself toward it.
If you learn correct technique, you can paddle on just one side.
At first, you'll take a few strokes on one side and notice you're veering off course, then switch. Watch a stroke technique video like this one to learn how to stay straight.
Once you get comfortable on the paddleboard, consider trying paddleboard yoga — where, yes, the chance of falling off is a little higher. It can be expensive, because you're paying for a paddleboard rental and a yoga class, but if you get the chance it's an experience worth doing. If you want to try it on your own paddleboard, make sure to get an anchor (about $14 at fishing supply places) so you don't drift around the lake.