Laird asked longtime SUP instructor Jeff Sweet to give us his top 5 commandments for new paddlers to remember before hitting the water. Here’s his list.

1. Take a lesson from a professional. You’ll be happy you did. If you take one lesson from a good instructor, you’re golden and can learn everything in one shot. Finding a good instructor can be tough so locate your local surf shop, not a big box retail outlet, but a real, local surf or paddling shop and ask for a recommendation. Or listen to other paddlers in your community. Word of mouth recommendations are great. If you’re still stumped go to and ask about local instructors in your area.

2. Make sure you have the right equipment. If you’re not going to take a lesson, make sure you have the right equipment. I’ve seen a lot of people struggle when they go out and can’t standup. Again, ask at your local shop or do some research on the Internet.

3. If you’re out on your own, take flotation. Flotation can make all the difference if you become separated from your board. Quicksilver makes a great, low-profile vest and there are lots of good options out there.

4. Know where you’re going. Know the nuances of the place. Is it a beach break, a lake with unpredictable winds, what are the prevailing winds doing? I’ve seen paddlers head down wind and have to get out and walk because the winds are too strong to get back. Know the weather and what the forecast is calling for.

5. Have fun, you’re paddling. Go with a smile, respect the ocean or any water you’re paddling in.