Do You Need Lessons To Paddle Board? From a Guy Who Never Took a Lesson

When it comes to paddle boarding, many people are under the impression that you need SUP lessons to get started. However, paddle boarding can be tricky if you are a newbie, and there is a lot to learn.

Paddle boarding can be a beginner-friendly activity; you don’t need prior experience, knowledge, or lessons to enjoy paddle boarding.

That said, there are some things that you should know before hitting the water on a paddle board.

Although it doesn’t hurt to take paddle boarding lessons, once you have the basics down, you can quickly learn how to paddle board on your own.

This blog post will discuss some of the basics of stand-up paddle boarding and help you decide if you need to take SUP lessons.

Are you ready to give SUP a try?

Do You Need Lessons To Paddle Board?

No, you don’t need lessons to learn how to paddle board, but it can be helpful and shorten the learning curve. Stand-up paddle boarding is a great activity, and many people are self-taught. However, taking a lesson or two can help you learn the basics and avoid bad habits that can be difficult to break later on. Paddle boarding is relatively easy to pick up. But if you want a little extra help, sign up for a lesson or two.

Truth Be Told

As the article’s title shows, I have never had a paddle boarding lesson. Should I have taken a lesson? Maybe.

The first time I set foot on a paddle board was on vacation in Hawaii. After a brief explanation from the paddle shop, I was sent on my way.

Oh yeah, I watched a few YouTube videos on paddle boarding. How hard can it be for a pretty athletic guy? But, unfortunately, watching videos and actually doing the thing don’t always line up.

I had no idea what I was doing, and I spent more time in the water than paddling that damn board. To make matters worse, I was passed up by an old lady like Mario Andretti passing a food truck on the freeway.

As the woman passed me, she politely asked if I wanted some pointers. “No thanks, I’m good,” my ego told her. So back I went in the water.

Thankfully she had a big heart and told me I was holding my paddle backward and to stop looking at my feet.

Miracles do happen. Next thing you know, I can now stay upright and paddle.

So, did I need a full-blown lesson? I don’t think so. With a little bit of basic instruction, I was paddling my way through the Pacific Ocean.

How To Get On A Paddle Board

The easiest way to get on a paddle board is from the shore, preferably in calm water without much boat traffic. You want the water to be deep enough (about knee-deep) so the fin doesn’t drag on the bottom when you climb on board.

From there, you basically kneel on the board at the center, where the carry handle is located. Remember to face forward, not backward, toward the fin.

You can use your hands to steady yourself, and sometimes I put the paddle across the board for extra stability as I climb on.

You want to make sure your weight is centered on the board. This will give you the best chance to stay on the board and not fall off.

Standing Up On A Paddle Board

Standing up on a paddle board for the first time can be daunting, but it’s not that difficult once you get the hang of it.

Start off kneeling in the center of the board, with your hands on the deck. Then slowly stand up one leg at a time, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart for balance.

I like to think of it as a lunge motion, one knee up with your foot on the board and the other knee on the board in line with your hip. Then you can slowly bring the other knee up as you stand up.

As you stand, keep your knees bent and your weight centered over the center of the board. The carry handle is always a good reference point for the center of the SUP.

With some practice, you’ll be standing up on your paddle board like a pro in no time.

How To Paddle A SUP

Paddling a SUP is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. The weird part is holding the paddle properly.

Most SUP paddles are angled where the blade meets the shaft of the paddle.

The paddle blade should point forward toward the front of the kayak. It’s kind of like a spoon. The part of the spoon you eat from faces toward the front of the board.

It seems backward, but everything makes sense once you get the hang of it.

To start, put one hand on the knob of the paddle shaft; the other hand should be about halfway down the shaft. 

For a basic forward stroke, reach into the water in front of you and bring the paddle blade straight back; this is how you paddle straight. Note that your top hand will be across your body.

Then alternate sides as you paddle.

How To Turn A Paddle Board

Turning a stand-up paddle board is not terribly complicated. However, there are a couple of ways to get the job done.

The first method is to keep paddling on the same side, and the board will head in the opposite direction. Not the most efficient way to paddle, but it works.

Another way to turn is to use a sweep stroke. First, put the paddle blade in the water in front of you, close to the board. Then make a broad “sweeping” motion, like a half-circle toward the back of the SUP. As a result, you can turn the SUP much quicker.

The same can be done with a reverse stroke to turn the other way.

What Happens When You Fall Off A Paddle Board?

Notice it says “when” you fall off a paddle board? It will happen, so you should be prepared when you fall off your board.

Getting back on a SUP is not difficult. One thing to note is if you know you are going to fall, try to hit the water, not the board. The water is much more forgiving than your SUP.

So, to get back on, swim to the side of your board. You want to be at the center of the board. Remember the handle as a good indicator.

Reach over and grab the opposite rail of the SUP. Then kick your legs and pull yourself back onto the board. Next, you can sit or kneel. Once you are ready to stand up again, follow the same process as before.

Paddle Board Safety

Knowing some basic safety guidelines is essential for those new to paddle boarding. First, a life jacket is essential safety equipment. Always wear a life jacket when paddling.

Even if you’re a strong swimmer, a personal flotation device (PFD) will provide an extra layer of protection.

Rules and regulations vary by region. For example, some places only require you to have a PFD on the board, while other locations require you to wear one.

Second, use a SUP leash to secure your board to your wrist or ankle. If you are paddling on a lake, a leash will prevent the board from floating away if you fall off. A leash is good for calm water, like lakes, but not on a flowing river.

Third, paddle on a calm body of water before moving to more challenging conditions.

Once you’re comfortable with the basics, you can explore different types of water, but always be aware of your skill level and the conditions. Following these SUP safety tips, you can stay safe and enjoy paddle boarding.

Should I Take Paddle Board Lessons?

You don’t need to take paddle boarding lessons to enjoy the sport, but it can be helpful to learn the basics before you head out on the water.

If you’re new to paddle boarding, taking a lesson or two can help you feel more confident on the board. Lessons will also teach you the proper paddling techniques to make the most of your time on the water.

Whether you decide to take lessons or not, do some research before heading out paddle boarding. Familiarize yourself with the safety rules and regulations, and always wear a life jacket when you’re on the water.


Whether or not you need to take paddle board lessons depends on the person. You may not need lessons if you are comfortable in the water and enjoy being on a board.

However, if you are new to paddle boarding and being in the water, taking some lessons may be a good idea. Lessons can help you learn the basics of paddle boarding and give you the confidence you need to enjoy this fun activity.

Photo of author
About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.