How to paddle board

Learn How to Paddle Board By The End of This Article

If you’ve been looking for someone or something to teach you how to paddle board, this is it! Read on, and I guarantee by the end of this post, you will be a pro in the making. Here I cover all the basics on how to paddle board and what you need to be successful so that you will be completely geared up with the theory, and all you’d need to do is put it in practice. Ready to begin mind-paddling? Let’s get to it then!

How to Paddle Board (SUP) For Beginners

Before we take our virtual paddle boards and paddle away into the sunset, there is some necessary information you need to know on the paddling gear that will make all the paddle boarding tips make sense at the end.

Bluefin-Cruise-Carbon-Girl-Sitting-Paddling How To Paddle Board
My girlfriend practicing paddle boarding on her knees

How to paddle board: Types of paddle boards

While stand up paddle boards are produced in all shapes and sizes, there are two main categories. The solid ones and the inflatable ones. Both are equally good when it comes to specific usage, and both have their place in the paddle boarding world.

The solid paddle boards usually are made or either plain plastic which are the most massive (cheapest options on the market), fiberglass and epoxy are quite lightweight, and carbon fiber paddle boards which are the lightest of them all (considered for best performance, and usually the most expensive ones). You can read more on this in my other extensive post on how to choose the right paddle board for you.

As I won’t go into a great detail about each of these 3, because you can find all that info in the link above, I will briefly say what a beginner would be best off choosing.

For those who have tried paddle boarding zero to three times and you don’t have your own paddle board, I would suggest choosing a wider, longer and thicker board. This will usually be an epoxy one with fiberglass or a carbon fiber one if it won’t break your bank. I recommend using a 30-inch board that is about 11 feet long for all SUP beginners.

The reason is that it will give you the greatest stability to learn the paddle board basics on a flat body of water. Then, as you learn, you can progress to a smaller, more professional paddle board that will be faster and smoother over the water.

Still, if you’re unsure which one is the right one before spending your money, you can head to your nearest rental shop and rent several different kinds of paddle boards one by one. Try each one more than once, as it will take a bit of getting used to it so that you can make the right decision.

Decathlon-Paddle-Board-Tom How to Paddle board
Whenever you need to just relax and slow down for a bit

How to paddle board: Paddle boarding gear and accessories

Being a trendy, popular sport that burns a lot of calories, you will find many types of gear and accessories for paddle boarding. Some of it may not be so essential in the beginning, but some of this additional gear is indeed important for your safety and enjoyable paddling. These include:

  • A paddle: Duuh, you might say, isn’t the whole point of paddle boarding to have a paddle?! Yes, yes, sometimes I have to be captain obvious here because I want all you future pro paddlers to know it all and be well prepared. So, let’s talk paddles.

    Well, they come in many materials, which are a matter of personal preference as long as the paddle isn’t too heavy because of that material. You need something lightweight, or you won’t be able to paddle for a long time. Although you have many sizes, the general rule of thumb is to have 15-25cm above the head of the paddler.

    If you’re planning on using it in flat water, take a longer paddle and if you’re surfing, lean on the shorter side of the range. Make sure the blade is bent at a slight angle to the shaft to allow for more forward reach when taking a stroke.
  • A leash: A what? A SUP leash to tie your leg to the board in case you fall down. These are pretty good when it comes to keeping your paddle board nearby when you fall off. Also, for safety, the board is made to float so that it will keep you above the water level no matter what.
  • Board bags: Remember, the better you take care of your equipment, the longer it lasts. Inflatable paddle boards already come with a board bag, but if you’ve opted for a solid one, then protect it with an overall board bag.
  • Life vest – PFD: If you plan on paddle boarding beyond the limits of a paddling, surfing, or recreational area in the water, you are obliged to wear a personal flotation device by law.
Paddle-Board-Wetsuit-Man How To Paddle Board
If you want to be even more protected you can use a wetsuit

How to paddle board: How to stand up on a SUP board

After you’ve rented or bought your first wide paddle board, you should start out in a calm, flat water. Go into a deeper water, stomach-deep will be fine, so your fins don’t hit the bottom. Get down on your knees first and then, slowly leg by leg, stand up in the middle of the board. Your legs should be shoulder-width apart. Do not extend your knees just yet. Keep them slightly bent and keep your core contracted for full stability. Remember, the wider and the thicker the board is, the more stable and well-balanced you will be.

Staying Balanced on a SUP

Now that you’ve stood up, it’s essential to keep your balance on the board. However, you know what they say:

Fall 100 times, stand up 101 times!

Well, I hope it won’t take you that much to master stand up paddle boarding, but even if it does, do not get discouraged. It’s normal to fall while trying to stand up or even while paddling. The first couple of weeks are the hardest, but then the real enjoyment comes along.

One critical point is maintaining balance while on the board is the stance you are holding.

Position your feet, so they are parallel, about hip-width distance apart, and centered between the edges of the board.

Keep your toes pointed forward, knees slightly bent and your back straight.

Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright, and shift your weight by moving your hips.

Your gaze should be level at the horizon. Avoid staring at your feet as this may cause you to lose the balance.

Tom-Paddle-Position
Here you can see the right paddling position, with a straight back and slightly bent knees

How to paddle board: Paddling techniques

Now, this is where the fun begins. Basically, there are 3 different strokes that revolve around using your paddle as a lever. The hand on top will manage the lever while the bottom hand is the pivot point.

The Forward Stroke

Captain obvious strikes again. As by the name, this stroke moves you forward. Reach about 1.5 to 2 feet forward and push the blade all the way in the water. Then, pull the paddle back through the water to your ankle, then out of the water to repeat the same move again.

With this move you should keep your arms straight, your core contracted slightly while you twist your torso paddling. Focus on pushing down on the paddle grip with your top hand rather than pulling the paddle back with your lower arm.

Also, pretty logically, to go into a straight line with your paddle, you should paddle each time on a different side of the board. You can alternate each stroke or go for about three or four strokes on one side, then switch to the other.

The Reverse Stroke

Continuing with the paddle boarding tips, the reverse stroke is all about slowing down or stopping the board so that you can float on the water or turn to another direction. Basically, the opposite of the forward stroke.

If you’re paddling on the right, reach back behind you and plant the paddle in the water near the tail of your board. Make sure the blade is all the way under the surface of the water.

Like with the forward stroke, keep your arms straight and twist from your torso rather than pulling the blade forward with your arms.

Doing the reverse stroke on the right side of your board will cause the nose of your board to turn to the right and vice versa.

How-To-Paddle-Board-Stretch
If you don’t need to come to a quick stop, just relax and stretch a bit until the board will stop on its own

The Sweep Stroke

You will use this stroke to turn your board while standing still. Doing the sweep stroke on the right side of your board will turn the board to the left and vice versa.

Reach 1.5 to 2 feet forward and plant the blade of the paddle in the water. Then, 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.

Tom-How-To-Paddle-Board-Sweep-Stroke
Reach out forward for a bigger stroke (granted, my feet are not in the best position here)

How to paddle board: Paddle boarding tips to go

These are some quick paddle boarding tips that will keep you in check once you’re up on the board. Remember the following advice to avoid making the common SUP mistakes.

TO DO:

  • Hold the paddle with one hand on the top of the handle and the other on the shaft.
  • Keep your legs shoulder-width apart with your feet parallel while your toes pointed toward the nose of the board.
  • For a powerful stroke, your grip on the paddle should be shoulder-width apart. Otherwise, with a short grip, you will have a powerless stroke that won’t take your paddle as far as it should.
  • Whatever stroke you are doing, the reverse, the forward, or the sweep, make sure to dip the blade entirely into the water each time and take a long stroke. Use your back muscles to pull.

DON’T DO:

  • Holding the paddle with both hands on the shaft is wrong and will make it harder to paddle and may even cause you to lose balance.
  • Don’t stand in a surf position. Doing so will make paddling on flat water much, much harder. Plus, the chances for falling off are also higher. So, keep your good-looking surf stance for the surf.
  • Use your back, core, and chest in addition to the arms when paddling. If you only paddle with your hands, you will get tired faster.
How-To-Paddle-Board-Hymke
Get in touch with the beautiful nature while paddling around

How to paddle board: Tips on transporting your paddle board

Now that I’ve talked about getting up paddling, and all the strokes, let’s go into the technicalities of handling your precious paddle board and all its gear.

If you are an adventure junkie like myself, surely once you master stand up paddle boarding, you will want to explore different lakes, beaches, rivers, and other waters. This requires transporting your sturdy paddle board across various terrain. Now, if your board is inflatable, then it’ll be a breeze. Just carry it in your board bag and inflate it on the spot before paddling.

If you have a solid board, on the other hand, that cannot be deflated, it’s another story. In that case, I have a few tips for you, my fellow paddler, that will make the transport easy-peasy no matter where you go.

  • Shoulder carry – Keep the nose on the ground while lifting the board from the tail. Take the board from its center and shift the board’s weight back to balance on your head. Then, you can shift the board’s weight onto your shoulder and carry it away.
  • Handle carry – Most boards have a small handle installed at the center point. This allows for an easy carry.
  • Car racksWhen traveling somewhere far with your car (all rhymes intended), it’s best to install racks on top of the car to carry your paddle boards. Still, I recommend using the board bag for it in order to protect it during transport. Strap it with bungee straps and off you go to your paddling adventures.
  • Air travel – Well, if you’ve come to the point where you take your paddle board on the plane, then my job here is complete. I’ve made you love paddle boarding so much that you have to take it with you no matter where you go. Woohoo! Jokes aside, when traveling on a plane, use a padded paddle board travel bag and keep in mind any extra charges of your airline before you book your ticket.
MOAI 12'6" Paddle Board Carrying
Inflatable boards are really easy to carry to the water with just one arm

How to paddle board: Falling from your paddle board

As I said, with paddle boarding fall 100 times, get up 101, and move on. It’s really the only way to learn anything new. However, even if falling doesn’t break your spirit, it still may cause an injury if not taken all needed measures.

Since falling happens to the best of us, it’s best to know these useful techniques to come back up with no injury. Aim to fall into the water each time, and avoid aiming yourself onto the board. If you fall onto the board, you are more likely to end up with an injury.

When falling, try to hold on to the paddle. It will float just like the board so you won’t lose it even if you let it go. In that case, just climb back up onto the board and paddle with your hands to get the paddle.

How to paddle board 1
This is how I fall off of a paddle board, extra clumsy

How to paddle board: Getting back up on the paddle board

I’ve covered the falling down, but what about the getting up? Well, you should know it’s similar to getting onto the paddle board the first time as if you never fell off the only difference might be that your ego is hurt, but you can paddle that away, I’m sure.

Get near the center of the board and grab the handle of the board with one hand.

Let your legs float in the water and then slide yourself onto the board entirely. Then, just like with the standing up, you take one leg at a time and stand up without extending your knees fully.

mistral-lidl-sup-board-climbing
Girl climbing back onto the Lidl SUP after a fall

How to paddle board: Additional tips

A few more tips to set you on your first SUPing adventure. I wish I knew these when I was first learning paddle boarding. It would have saved me much of trouble, but oh well, at least I can teach you plenty now.

  • At the start, don’t just choose any type of water. Go to a small, calm body of water like a lake or pond that doesn’t have obstacles like tall plants, boats, or many people swimming nearby.
  • Choose a non-windy day to practice your paddle boarding in the beginning. If your paddling routine requires wind on the other hand, then just go in the opposite direction so that the wind blows you in the back when you are returning, so it can push and help you at the end when you get tired.
  • Don’t go alone and don’t paddle more than 1.5 hours on your first SUP outing.

Now that you know all about how to paddle board, I will let you go and paddle away freely. There’s no greater satisfaction than this once you manage it fully, I must admit!

And please do share all your experiences and adventures with me in the comments below. I’d love to hear all your stories. I’m sure they are hilarious!

For more useful info on paddle boarding and paddle boarding tips in general, don’t forget to visit my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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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 :)