This is How To Hold a Paddle Board Paddle: The Essential Paddle Board Moves

Learning all the basic strokes is key to mastering paddle boarding. This is why here I’m teaching you all about how to hold a paddle board paddle and all the strokes so that next time you get on that paddle, you are ready to roll!

Tom-Paddle-Position how to hold a paddle board paddle
Here you can see me paddling through the water

How to hold a paddle board paddle?

Watching someone paddle gracefully in front of you in the water might look magnificent, but you trying to do the same might be something entirely different. I remember my beginnings, oh, it was a real struggle. I was trying to hold my SUP paddle right, trying to stay balanced on the board, trying to see where I’m paddling and, most importantly, trying not to fall in the water for the 100th time.

Ah, happy memories… Luckily that’s all behind me now, and having mastered paddle boarding, I would love to help you do the same.

So, hopefully, by the end of this page, you will learn how to:

  • Pick the right paddle size for you
  • Hold a paddle board paddle
  • Maneuver the key SUP strokes

How to pick the right SUP paddle size

Before you learn all about how to hold a SUP paddle, you need to make sure you have the right paddle size for you.

Check out the best SUP paddles for this year

If you pick a shorter one that you actually need, you will be unnaturally hunching over it to reach the water. On the other hand, if your paddle is too long, then your hands will tire too soon, and you won’t be able to make the right strokes with it.

That said, paddle board paddles can be found in fixed lengths and adjustable lengths. Fixed-length paddles are lighter and stiffer while the adjustable paddle will be a bit heavier.

This is why, when touring on long paddle boarding periods or racing, paddlers tend to choose fixed length paddles. Otherwise, adjustables are excellent because you can experiment with the size that suits you the most, plus you can share it among your friends or family.

To know if your paddle is the right size for you, do the following:

  • Stand the paddle up vertically, so the blade is touching the ground.
  • Reach an arm up above your head and notice where it lands on the paddle.
  • With a properly sized paddle, the T-grip handle will rest in the bend of your wrist.

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Most paddles are height adjustable so they are suitable for anyone

How to hold a paddle board paddle

How well you hold your paddle is how quickly you master the right strokes and become better at paddling. Of course, it’s normal to make mistakes at first, but we are here to correct them.

Firstly, your hand position should be with a light grip where one hand is on the T-grip while the other is on the shaft. Don’t forget: Never keep your hands too close together! This will limit the power you can yield with each stroke.

Then, when it comes to the blade angle when holding it, it needs to be bent forwards and not back. Because when holding it angled forward, it is easier to control it.

Basically, the tear-drop-shaped blade at the bottom of the paddle should be angled forward, facing the nose of the board. 90% of the time, paddlers hold the blade oriented this way, and then if making a specialized stroke, you might hold it otherwise, but that’s for another topic.

With the paddle blade angled forward, the back side of the blade is called the power face. This is because, with it, you push the water and power the board forward.

At this point, you should make a hand position check. To make sure you don’t hold your hands too close together as I mentioned earlier, you can grab the T-grip on the end of the paddle with one hand and the shaft of the paddle with your other hand.

Then, raise the paddle above your head, so it is in line with your shoulders and rest the shaft on your head.

While still holding the T-grip with one hand, position your other hand on the shaft so that both arms form 90-degree angles at the elbows. This is where you want your hands placed on the paddle while paddling.

PRO TIP: Until you get a hold of the right position, you can mark the spot on the shaft with a piece of colorful tape so you can quickly grab the paddle in the right place every time you go paddling. Then, after a while, it’ll become a habit.

And, make sure not to press the paddle so tightly. That will tire your hands too soon.

Before we go on to the essential paddle board strokes, make sure you don’t miss out on the best inflatable boards for 2020. After all, you gotta have the best gear to be the best, right?


The essential paddle board moves

The following strokes are an advanced addition to the How to paddle board Series and will make it easier for you to refine your technique and be able to paddle more efficiently, go straighter and make tighter turns.

The Forward Stroke

As the name suggests, with this stroke, you are able to move forward through the water.

If you are paddling on the right, then you should place your right hand on the paddle shaft and your left hand on the top of the grip. This way, your stroke is more powerful on the right.

If paddling on the left, then place your left hand on the paddle shaft and your right hand on the top of the grip. This way, your stroke is more powerful on the left.

When moving forward, you should place your paddle about 2 feet in front of your board and plant it in the water. Then, push the blade all the way under the surface of the water, and when pushing back, it should come to your feet and then out and back to the initial position.

As you paddle, make sure to keep your arms almost straight and twist from your torso. Then, push down on the paddle grip with your top hand. Don’t pull the paddle back with your lower arm.


  • When doing the forward stroke, your body and paddle forming the shape of an A. You are one side of the A, and the paddle is the other side, while your lower arm is the bar connecting the two sides.
  • While paddling, make sure instead of just pulling the paddle through the water, you think of it as pulling the board past the paddle.
  • To stay on the same track, make sure you alternate which side of the board you paddle on. If I had to put a number on the strokes per side, I would say alternate between three strokes on the left and three on the right.

This way, you are preventing your hands from getting too tired too. Of course, when switching, think of the first rule above about which hand goes on top and which stays below depending on the side you are paddling on.


The Reverse Stroke

When wanting to stop or turn or simply slow down, the reverse stroke is great.

Practically, this move is the opposite of the forward stroke.

When paddling on the right, reach back behind you and plant the paddle in the water near the tail of your board. Keep the blade all the way under the surface of the water.

However, when it comes to arm position, you should follow the same rules as with the forward stroke. Namely, you should keep your arms straight and twist from your torso. You shouldn’t pull the blade forward with your arms.

When you want to turn the board or lean to one side a little while stopping, you can use the reverse stroke on the right side of your board. This will cause the nose of your board to turn to the right, and when you want to lean or turn to the left, you simply use the reverse stroke on the left side of your board.


The Sweep Stroke

When standing still or moving slowly and you need to take a sharp turn, then the sweep stroke comes useful.

To do this stroke, you will need to bend your knees slightly more than you would for the forward stroke and lower your arms a bit, so the T-grip on the paddle is just below shoulder height.

If you’re paddling on the right, rotate your shoulders so that your right shoulder comes forward.

Then, reach forward and plant your paddle in the water, placing the entire blade, so it’s at a 90-degree angle to your board.

Sweep the paddle away from the board in a big arcing motion from the nose of the board to the tail by rotating your torso and using the leverage of your legs and hips.

Doing the sweep stroke on the right side of your board will turn the board to the left. And if you want to turn the board to the right, then just do the sweep stroke on the left side of your board.


  • To turn yourself in the opposite direction of the standard sweep more easily, you can do the sweep stroke in reverse. Simply plant the paddle blade in the water by the tail of your board and bring it forward in an arc toward the nose.
  • As a more advanced technique, you can try turning the board more abruptly by stepping back on your board in a surf stance to unweight the nose of the board and then doing the sweep stroke.
This is How To Hold a Paddle Board Paddle: The Essential Paddle Board Moves 1

The Draw Stroke

The draw stroke is useful when you want to moor yourself with the board parallel to some dock.

 To do so, you need to rotate your shoulders towards left or right (depending on where you’d like to draw your board to) and then reach over the side of your board to plant the paddle in the water.

Plant the paddle with the blade parallel to the board and the power face toward the board.

Pull the blade toward you to move the board in the direction of the paddle.

Slice the blade out of the water by swinging it toward the nose or tail of the board and repeat the stroke.


  • The fins on the tail of your board resist lateral movement, which can cause the tail to move more slowly than the nose. To counter this, you may need to place your paddle in the water closer to the tail than the nose.

The Cross Bow Stroke

If you don’t want to change the stance on your board or you simply want to do a tight, efficient turn to adjust your course while paddling quickly, then the cross bow stroke is an excellent way to do so.

While paddling on the right side and you want to turn left, simply rotate your torso to the left, so your right shoulder is forward. Then, bring the paddle across the nose of your board and place the blade entirely in the water on the left side of your board.

With the power face of the blade facing to the right, rotate your torso to the right to bring the paddle toward the nose of your board.

If you can clear the nose of your board with the paddle blade, then continue to bring the paddle around. If your blade is going to bump into your board, lift it out of the water, then put it back in on the other side and continue bringing the paddle around the board in an arcing motion. To turn to the right, start with your paddle on the left side and reach across to the right.

The theory of how to hold a paddle board paddle may seem a bit complicated when reading about it, but once you put all these strokes into action, you’ll see they’re actually a piece of cake!

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)

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