The Ultimate Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Paddle boarding is a great way to get out and enjoy the water. Whether you’re on a lake, river, or the ocean, paddle boarding is a lot of fun.

In this guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about paddleboarding, from how to get started to the best ways to improve your skills. We’ll also cover some safety tips to get the most out of your paddling experience.

If you’re new to paddle boarding, don’t worry – it’s easy to get started. All you need is a board, a paddle, and a little bit of instruction.

Are you ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

What Is Paddle Boarding?

Standing up on a paddle boardPin

Paddle boarding, also called stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), is a growing water sport involving standing on a paddle board and using a paddle to move across the water. It’s a great way to get exercise, and it’s a lot of fun.

Paddle boards are great for surfing, fishing, yoga, racing, and leisure paddling. Because SUPs are relatively easy to learn how to use, they’re an excellent option for people of all ages and experience levels.

How To Get Started Paddle Boarding

Now that you know a little bit about paddle boarding, it’s time to learn how to get started.

Here are a few tips:

Find a board that’s the right size for you. When choosing a paddle board, consider your weight and height. Boards come in various sizes, and it’s essential to choose one that’s the right fit for you.

Choose the right paddle. Paddles also come in various sizes, and it’s essential to choose one that’s comfortable for you to use. You’ll also want to consider the type of paddle board you’re using – some boards require a specific paddle.

Get the right gear. In addition to a paddle board and paddle, you’ll also need a life jacket, leash, and fins. The board may come with built-in or removable fins. If you are unsure you have all the right gear, you can always check with a local paddle shop or someone familiar with stand-up paddle boarding to ensure you have everything you need.

Take a lesson. If you’re new to paddle boarding, it’s a good idea to take a lesson from a certified instructor.

Even if you’re familiar with other water sports, taking some paddle boarding lessons is good. This way, you can learn the proper techniques and safety procedures.

If you take a lesson, the instructor can also help guide you to the right equipment.

Rent a SUP. If you don’t want to invest in a board just yet, consider renting one from a local shop. Renting is a great way to try out the sport and see if it’s something you enjoy before jumping in with both feet.

Benefits of Paddle Boarding

Paddleboarding offers more benefits than most people realize. Paddle boarding is a great way to get exercise and have fun.

Paddle boarding takes many forms. With an adrenaline rush from surfing, the calm focus of yoga, or the blissful trance of paddling across the water, it’s easy to see how the sport can quickly become addictive.

Here are a few benefits to consider:

Paddle boarding is a great workout. It’s a full-body workout that can help tone your muscles and improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Paddle boarding is a great way to relax. The rhythmic motions of paddling can help calm your mind and ease stress.

Paddle boarding is a great way to explore. With a paddle board, you can explore waterways that you might not be able to access with a traditional boat.

Paddle boarding is a great way to connect with nature. When you’re out on a paddle board, you’re close to the water and wildlife, which can be a peaceful and calming experience.

Paddle Board Safety Tips

Now that you know some of the benefits of paddle boarding, let’s talk about safety.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Always wear a life jacket

Paddle boarding with a life jacket onPin

It’s essential to wear a life jacket when paddle boarding, even if you’re an experienced swimmer.

Stay aware of your surroundings

Before heading out on your paddle board, pay attention to the weather and water conditions. There are plenty of apps you can use.

Don’t paddle alone

It’s always best to paddle with a friend or group. This way, someone will be there to help if you run into trouble.

Follow the rules

Be sure to follow all the rules and regulations for paddle boarding in your area.

Respect the wildlife

When you’re paddle boarding, you’re likely to encounter wildlife. Be sure to respect the animals and their habitat.

Get the Most Out of Your Paddle Boarding Experience

Now that you know some of the basics of paddle boarding, it’s time to explore.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your paddle board experience:

Invest in Your Own Gear

If you’re serious about paddle boarding, it’s worth investing in your own gear. This way, you can ensure that you have the right equipment for your needs.

Join a Club

Paddle boarding clubs, organizations, and Facebook groups are a great way to meet other paddle boarders and explore new places to paddle.

Clubs can help you find:

  • Paddle boarding lessons
  • Paddle board rentals
  • Guided paddle boarding tours
  • SUP yoga classes
  • Paddle board fitness classes
  • Social paddle nights
  • Kids paddle boarding programs
  • Adaptive paddle boarding programs

Plan Your Trip

When planning a paddle boarding trip, be sure to research the area before you paddle. This way, you can be prepared for the conditions and know what to expect.

Paddle Boarding Lessons and Rentals in Your Area

Local paddle shops and parks and recreation departments are great places to inquire about paddle boarding lessons and rentals. You can also refer to paddling groups for a lot of great information.

How To Paddle Board – The Basics

The first time I went paddle boarding, I spent more time in the water than on the board paddling. It was a pretty embarrassing experience.

But, I quickly realized that the key to paddle boarding is balance. Paddle boarding doesn’t have to be complicated.

If you can find your center of gravity and keep your balance, you’ll be able to paddle with ease.

How To Stand Up on a Paddle Board

Standing up on a SUP for the first time can be daunting, but it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

Here are some stand-up paddle board basics.

1. Start in shallow water. When you’re first starting, it’s best to practice getting on the stand-up paddle board in shallow water to make your way onto the board easier.

Knee-deep water is a great place to start. But, first, make sure the water is deep enough, so the fin doesn’t hit the bottom of the waterway.

Making your way onto the board for the first time is half the battle.

2. Stabilize the board. Start at the board’s center point on the side when you’re ready to get on the stand-up paddle board. The carry handle is a good reference point for the center of the deck.

Hold the paddle in both hands and put the paddle on the forward part of the deck, which will help you stabilize as you climb on the board.

3. Get on your knees first. It’s best to start on your knees when you’re first getting on the board, which will help you get a feel for the board and maintain your balance.

4. Slowly stand up. Standing up on a paddle board doesn’t have to be like popping up on a surfboard. You don’t have to stand up quickly or all at once.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Once you’re on your knees, begin to stand up, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. Think about doing a lunge.

Keep one knee on the board while you lift the opposite foot and step down on the board, just like a lunge. Then bring the other foot up.

Be sure to keep your center of gravity over the center of the board.

Sure it’s cool to stand up and paddle, but if you’re not quite ready to stand up, that’s okay! Many people paddle from the kneeling or seated position, which is a great way to get used to being on the board and work your way to standing up.

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Some paddle boards come with a seat. If not, you might be able to add an aftermarket seat to your board, depending on how it’s configured.

How to Maintain Balance on a Paddle Board

Balance is key to paddle boarding. If you can find your center of gravity, you’ll be able to paddle easier and stay dry.

There are a few things that you can do to help find your balance:

  1. First, once you are fully upright, keep your feet about shoulder-width apart, pointing forward.
  2. Bend your knees, keep your head up, and your back straight.
  3. Shift your weight from side to side until you feel balanced on the board.
  4. Don’t look down! Look forward, don’t stare at your feet. Keep your head up when paddling to maintain balance and see where you are going.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was learning how to paddle board was I kept falling off because I was looking down at my feet the whole time. But, as soon as I figured out to keep my head up, it got much easier.

The best way to find your balance is through practice. The more you paddle board, the easier it will become to find your center of gravity and stay balanced on the board.

Paddling Basics

If you want to go anywhere on a paddle board, you need to know how to paddle. It’s essential to develop strong and efficient strokes.

If you are into other watersports like kayaking, SUP paddles are a different beast.

1) One thing you need to know is that most SUP paddles are not straight. They are bent (offset) right where the shaft meets the blade. Many people are confused by the angle and don’t know how to use the paddle.

Imagine the offset SUP paddle is a spoon. The back of the spoon should be facing you. If you have the blade facing the other way, the blade will tend to “flutter” as you are paddling.

When the blade flutters, your stroke is not as powerful or efficient as it should be. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have much extra energy to waste!

2) Adjustable length. Many SUP paddles are adjustable in length, which is very handy for different-sized paddlers. It’s a good idea to set the paddle about 10 inches taller than you are.

3) SUP paddles have a knob on the top of the paddle. One hand goes on the knob. The other hand goes further down the shaft of the paddle.

If you are paddling on the right side of the board, your left hand will be on top of the paddle, and your right hand should be about halfway down the paddle’s shaft.

An excellent way to understand your hand positions is to hold the paddle above your head and make a 90-degree angle at your elbows, roughly how far apart your hands should be on the paddle.

Holding SUP paddle 90 degrees overheadPin

Alternate your hand positions as you paddle on each side of the board.

Now that you know how to hold the paddle, it’s time to put that paddle to good use.

4) The power in your stroke comes from paddling in front of your body. So first, reach the paddle out as far as you can (about 2 feet or so in front of you). Then pull back with your core and torso until the paddle crosses your body to your ankle.

5) Try different stroke lengths to determine what is most comfortable for you. You don’t want your strokes to be too long or too short.

Once you’ve pulled the paddle back, lift the paddle out of the water and start your next stroke. Again, it’s essential to keep a good rhythm when paddling.

Depending on conditions, like wind, you might not alternate paddling on each side with every stroke. Instead, you might paddle multiple times on one side before switching to the other.

Also, if you decide to head in a different direction, you can paddle hard on one side to get where you need to.

Paddle boarding is an excellent workout for your whole body, especially your core. As you are paddling, engage your core muscles to help you paddle with more power and less fatigue.

It’s essential to keep your strokes smooth and even when paddling. If your strokes are too big or too small, you will start to zigzag across the water.

Practice makes perfect! The more you paddle board, the better you will become at finding your balance and maintaining a good stroke.

Turning

Now that you are comfortable with balance and paddling, what happens if you want to change direction, dare I say, turn?

That’s right. You need to learn how to turn your paddle board.

Depending on the size of the board and conditions, turning can be pretty easy or difficult. But with a bit of practice, you will get the hang of it in no time.

There is an obvious way to turn your paddle board, which is to keep paddling on one side. However, this will cause the board to follow a slow, rounded turning radius, which is how most beginners learn to turn their stand-up paddle boards.

It works, but it’s not the most efficient way to turn.

A better way to turn your paddle board is by using a sweep stroke.

A sweep stroke is when you paddle in an arcing (sweeping) motion from the front of the SUP and draw the paddle toward the rear of the board,

The sweep stroke on your paddle board will turn the opposite way.

Listen up if you are ready for a more advanced technique to turn your paddle board.

Another way to turn a paddle board is by stepping on foot back and digging the back end of the board into the water. It is more complicated than the sweep stroke, but it can be advantageous when you need to make a quick turn or navigate in tight quarters.

The key to making a good pivot turn is to keep your weight over the back of the board.

As you step back and paddle, the nose of the board will swing around.

When you complete the turn, walk back up to the center of the board and start paddling again.

Get Back On After You Fall

Notice the title of this section doesn’t say “if you fall,” but rather “after you fall.” Like my dad used to say, “if you’re not falling, you’re not trying.” He referred to me learning how to waterski, but you get the point.

When you stand up and paddle, you are going to fall off your board at some point. Okay, if you stay seated, you might not fall off, but still, you need to know how to get back on the board after you fall off.

If you know you will fall, try to fall to the side, into the water, rather than falling on the board itself.

Try to hold onto your paddle if you fall. If you get separated from your paddle, you can swim after it once you get back on the board.

Getting back on your paddle board is not as difficult as it might seem. Here are some simple steps:

Find the center of the board (remember the handle) and grab the handle. Next thing, kick your legs and pull yourself back up onto the board.

It’s a good idea to practice getting on your board so you know how to do it for real when you fall off. You can practice in shallow water that is deep enough, but not so you are pushing off the bottom to propel yourself.

Types of Paddle Boards

There are plenty of options when you are in the mood for paddle boarding. You can paddle a river, lake, canal, or the open ocean. There are all sorts of boards to choose from, and each type has its benefits.

Inflatable vs. Hard Paddle Board

Inflatable paddle boards: Inflatable paddle boards (also known as iSUPs) are great for traveling because they are easy to transport and store. An inflatable paddle board is a great way to go if you have limited space.

Inflatable paddle boardPin

Most inflatable SUPs come with a backpack, pump, and paddle so that you can take them anywhere. They are also great for beginners because they can take a beating, and hard boards are easy to damage.

iSUPs sit up higher in the water, which is excellent for activities like paddle board yoga.

Hard paddle boards: Hard paddle boards are a bit faster than inflatable paddle boards and better for paddle surfing activities. Hard paddle boards have a foam center wrapped with different materials like fiberglass or plastic.

Hard paddle boards on a beachPin

They are not as easy to transport or store, and watch out if you are carrying a hard paddle board on a windy day. Get ready for a ride!

Touring

Touring paddle boards are designed for longer distances and have a displacement hull that cuts through the water vs. a rocker hull that simply goes over the water.

Touring paddle boards have different nose shapes. Some are more pointed than others.

You can find touring stand-up paddle boards in either inflatable or hard form.

A touring paddle board is a good option if you are paddling a long way or carrying extra gear.

Touring SUPs are longer than other paddle boards, which helps them track better, but they can be challenging to turn. The great thing about them is that you can paddle with less effort and quickly get where you are going.

Racing

As you might imagine, racing SUPs are built for speed. They are long and narrow, designed to cut through the water. The downside is that they are pretty unstable to the average paddler.

Racing paddle boards are not for beginners, but if you are looking for a challenge and want to paddle fast, this is the board for you.

Yoga

Paddle board yoga has become increasingly popular in recent years. A wide, stable board (at least 10 feet long) is ideal for yoga and fitness activities.

Young woman doing yoga on a paddle boardPin

Paddle board yoga is a great workout and a lot of fun. So if you are looking to get fit or just want to try something new, yoga on a paddle board is a great option.

Get fit, enjoy the zen and get some great Instagram photos. What’s not to love about SUP yoga?

Surf

Surf paddle boards are designed for, you guessed it, surfing! These boards are shorter to maneuver through waves and make tight turns easily.

Man surfing on a paddle boardPin

A longer board (about 10-12 feet) is a good option if you are just getting started. A long paddle board is easier to balance. A shorter board (8-9 feet) is more agile as you get more proficient.

If you want to catch some waves, a surf SUP is the way to go.

Fishing

Fishing from a paddle board is becoming increasingly popular. You can move quietly through the water and get to those hard-to-reach spots.

Man paddle board fishing in a tropical paradisePin

When choosing a fishing SUP, stability is vital. A wider board is ideal for fishing when you cast and reel in fish. You may also consider a stand-up paddle board with fishing gear like rod holders and storage for your tackle.

Although you can buy a fishing SUP, any old paddle board can work. In addition, you can throw a cooler on the board, which you can use as a seat and a spot for your bait and fish.

All-Around

All-around paddle boards are the most popular type of SUP. They are versatile and can be used in a variety of conditions. All-around paddle boards are an excellent choice for beginners and experienced paddlers alike.

When choosing an all-around paddle board, consider the activities you will be doing. If you want to do a bit of everything, an all-around board is a good choice.

SUPs in the 10-12 foot range are great all-around boards. However, if you are heavier, a longer board has more volume, so you might want to go with a longer board. Also, if you are paddling with your pup or need to carry extra gear, a longer board will serve you well.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding Accessories

You can buy a ton of gear to outfit your paddle board, but you don’t need to go crazy, especially when you are just getting started. Here is a list of essential SUP accessories:

SUP

You can’t get started without a paddle board! When choosing a SUP, consider the type of paddling you will be doing and your skill level. For example, an all-around or touring board is good if you are just getting started. On the other hand, a surf-specific board is a better option if you want to surf.

SUP Paddle

The next item on the list is a paddle. Most iSUPs come with a paddle, but if you have your own SUP or need to replace a paddle, there are a few things to consider.

When choosing a paddle, the first thing to consider is the size. Paddle boards come in different sizes, and so do paddles. However, a general rule of thumb is to get a paddle about 6-8 inches taller than you.

The other thing to consider when choosing a paddle is the blade. Some blades are teardrop-shaped, some are rectangular, some are offset (meaning the blade is angled away from the shaft), and some have a straight blade.

The shape of the blade will affect how easy it is to paddle and how much power you can generate.

SUP Leash

A leash is an essential SUP accessory. The leash attaches to your ankle and the SUP. A leash keeps you connected to your board, so your board doesn’t float away if you fall off.

There are different leashes for lakes, surf, etc., so make sure you have the right one for your situation.

Life Jacket

A life jacket (Personal Flotation Device or PFD) is essential, especially if you are new to paddle boarding. A life jacket will help keep you afloat if you fall in the water and can’t swim to the shore or your board.

There are different types of life jackets, so make sure you choose one that is comfortable and won’t impede your paddling.

Inflatable life jackets are a good option for paddle boarding because they are comfortable and won’t get in the way of paddling.

Another popular option for paddle boarding is a life vest belt, which is a vest that has a belt that goes around your waist and doesn’t impede your paddling stroke.

You can also use a standard PFD as you would on a boat, but sometimes these are bulky and cumbersome for paddling.

Be sure to check the life jacket rules for your area before heading out.

Waterproof Gear

If you are paddling in the ocean, a river, or any body of water where there is a chance you could fall in, you need to have some waterproof gear, like a waterproof backpack or dry bag, to keep your belongings dry.

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Backpacks are great if you pack lots of gear, and it’s easy to carry while you paddle. Dry bags are also a great option.

Dry bags come in different sizes, so you can choose one that fits your needs. They have a variety of uses, from keeping your phone dry to storing extra clothes.

Many waterproof backpacks float, so it’s easy to retrieve if it is in the water.

A waterproof case for your phone, camera, or other electronics you might want to take with you is also a good idea.

Whistle

A whistle is an essential safety item. If you get in trouble while paddling, you can blow your whistle to signal for help. Your lifejacket might come with a built-in whistle, but if not, you can pick one up online or at a big box store for a couple of bucks.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is always a good idea, especially if you will be paddling in remote areas. Also, be sure to pack supplies for any allergies or medical conditions you might have.

Sun Protection

Sun protection is essential when paddle boarding. The sun can be intense, even on cloudy days, so pack sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and long-sleeve clothing.

What Size Paddle Board Do You Need?

Paddle boards come in a wide variety of sizes. However, most beginners (and advance paddlers, for that matter) will do fine with an all-around board that is 10′ to 11’6″ and about 31″-35″ wide.

SUPs in this target range will give you the best stability, maneuverability, and portability blend. If you are taller or a bigger person, a longer board will be the best option.

If you decide to take on other paddle boarding activities like surfing, or racing, you can reassess your needs at that time.

Paddle Boarding Tips

Paddle boarding can be overwhelming at first, but with a bit of practice, you’ll be gliding across the water like a pro in no time. Here are a few paddle boarding tips for beginners to get you started:

1. Start in calm water: If you are just learning how to paddle board, it’s best to start in calm water. A lake or slow-moving river is a great place to start. Once you get comfortable with the basics, you can try paddling in rougher water.

2. Paddle with a buddy: It’s always a good idea to paddle with a friend, especially if you are new to the sport.

3. Stay close to shore: When you start, it’s best to stay close to shore. Then, if you fall off your board, you can easily swim to shore.

4. Check the weather forecast: Windy conditions can make paddle boarding more difficult and dangerous. Be sure to check the weather forecast before heading out.

5. Have fun and enjoy the experience! Paddle boarding is a great way to get outside, enjoy the water, and get some exercise. With a bit of practice, you’ll be paddle boarding like a pro in no time!

Transporting and Storing Your SUP

Transporting and storing a SUP can be tricky, but it’s not too difficult with a bit of planning.

First of all, if you invest in a hard paddle board, you need space to store it at home. If you have a garage or shed, that’s a great spot to store your SUP.

Paddle boards are long and bulky (not as much as a fishing kayak), so you need an excellent spot to store them.

If you have limited space, an inflatable stand-up paddle board is a great way to go. The paddle board can fit in your closet, tucked neatly out of the way.

Transporting a SUP can be a bit tricky. If you don’t have a roof rack, you can use a SUP carrier that attaches to your car. These are essentially long straps that go around your paddle board and tie down to your car.

You can also transport your paddle board in the back of a truck or SUV. Tie the board down snugly, so it doesn’t slide around or fly out when you are speeding down the freeway.

If your car has crossbars, you can buy a rooftop carrier for a stand-up paddle board. These carriers attach to your roof rack and hold your paddle board.

On the other hand, if you buy an inflatable SUP, it will come with a storage bag and a pump. The SUP can be stored in the storage bag and easily transported in the trunk of your car.

When you get to your destination, inflate the paddle board using the included pump, and you’re ready to go!

What Is the Best Stand-Up Paddle Board for You?

Inflatable paddle boards are an excellent option for beginners because you get everything you need to hit the water. In addition, the SUP comes with a storage bag, paddle, and a pump, so it’s easy to transport and store.

The iSUP can be inflated in minutes using the included pump, making it an excellent option for last-minute paddling adventures.

When you’re ready to hit the water, inflate the SUP using the included pump, and you’re ready to go!

Is Paddle Boarding Hard?

Paddle boarding is a relatively easy sport to pick up, but it does take some practice.

If you are just starting, we recommend taking a paddle boarding lesson. The instructor can teach you the basics and help you get comfortable on your board.

Once you have the basics down, paddle boarding is relatively easy. But, like any sport, it takes practice.

Paddle boarding can be more difficult if paddling in windy conditions on rough water. But, with a bit of practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.

Is Paddle Boarding Harder Than Kayaking?

Paddle boarding is a bit more challenging than kayaking because you are standing on a board, which can be unstable. Kayaking, on the other hand, you are sitting in a mostly stable boat.

However, paddle boarding and kayaking require upper body strength and endurance to paddle for long periods.

So, if you are looking for a water sport that is a bit more challenging, paddle boarding is the way to go. But, if you want something a bit more stable, kayaking might be a better option.

Is Paddle Boarding a Good Workout?

Paddle boarding is an excellent workout because it uses all of the muscles in your body.

When you paddle, you use your legs to stabilize and balance yourself on the board, your core, and your upper body.

Plus, paddle boarding is a great cardio workout because you are constantly moving. You can paddle as hard as you want to increase the intensity.

Wrapping Up

Paddle boarding is a great way to get out on the water and enjoy the outdoors. It’s also a great workout because it incorporates all of the muscles in your body.

If you are just getting started, we recommend taking a lesson to learn the basics. Once you have the hang of it, paddle boarding is relatively easy.

But, like any sport, it takes practice. So, get out there and start paddling!

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out 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.