It doesn't matter how good your balance is, at some point, you're going to lose it; that's where bracing comes in. Bracing is using your paddle to keep yourself upright on your board. The fact that you're paddling a standup paddle board means that you already know one form of a brace. Anytime you put your paddle into the water and have an active paddle, that paddle's acting as a brace. Having said that, it should make sense that if you're in a situation where you're feeling unbalanced, like rougher water than you're used to dealing with, the best thing you can do is lower your center of gravity and keep paddling so that you have an active blade in the water. If you feel really unbalanced, you can always drop down to your knees and then keep an active paddle in the water. That's going to keep you a lot more stable.
Bracing goes beyond the basic support that paddling provides. There are a few more involved bracing techniques that you can use to regain your balance. There are basically 2 types of braces that we can do when we're on our standup paddle board. One is called the low brace, where our wrists are curled down and the power face of the paddle is facing up. The other type of brace is called a high brace. The only difference is I curl my wrists up and I would use the power face of the paddle on the water and the non-power face is facing up.
For the low brace, we're going to use it for the onside of our board which is the side that our paddle is on. What I do here is I bend my knees slightly more, as I start to fall; I push on the surface of the water, and bring my weight back under the board or the board under me.
With a high brace, you're basically doing the same thing, but this might be the right position in certain situations. Something to notice is that even though it's called the high brace, my arms are staying low when I'm doing it. The only real difference is the position of my wrists.
Another type of brace we use is called the riding draw. We use this when we're falling to our offside or the side of the board that our paddle is not on. A riding draw is basically the same technique that you use for the standard draw, but of course in this situation, we're falling to the side and we're grabbing the water to pull ourselves back upright.
The thing about bracing is if you have to think about it before you do it, then it's probably too late. Get out there and practice your bracing, and before long, bracing's going to feel as natural as your forward stroke.