A Beginner’s Easy Guide on How to Paddle Board
Learning how to paddle board is easy, fun, and an ideal leisure activity for people of all ages who enjoy being on the water. The good news about a SUP paddle board experience is that anyone can learn how to get up on a standup paddle board after a brief practice session, even beginners or newcomers to water sports.
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If you don’t already have a Paddle Board, then check out this article – What Size Paddle Board Do I Need.
Paddle boards are simple to handle, light, buoyant, and easy to steer. As you gain more experience as a Paddle Boarders you will be able to race, surf waves, or run river rapids.
Once up and cruising, it’s possible to immediately start enjoying leisurely long-distance touring, picnicking, fishing, sunset views, voyaging with your kids or favourite pet, and even practising yoga and other strength-building exercises on your SUP.
In this article, we’ll explain in simple terms how to paddle board, starting with six tips for learners, followed by a brief introduction to the parts of a SUP paddle board. And finally, how to stand up, balance and use the paddle correctly. Continue reading to discover how to cruise smoothly along a lovely quiet waterway or across a gorgeous bay like an expert – let’s take the paddle board plunge together!
6 Tips for SUP Paddle Board Beginners:
1. Head for Tranquil Waters
The best bet for SUP paddle board newbies is to start on calm water, for example, a quiet lake, restful farm dam, meandering river, or maybe even a sparkling turquoise lagoon in a tropical holiday setting. Avoid beaches with surf, waves, or currents. Restful water is essential for a beginner learning to get their balance.
2. Select a Quiet Area
Choose a protected environment to start learning, preferably a quiet and remote place with no wind. It’s best to have plenty of space to practise, especially on the first attempt, so be sure there’s a large area on the water where it’s possible to manoeuvre and turn wide circles, making the accidental mistake. Learning how to stand up on a paddle board on a busy lake or off beaches packed with tourists, surfers, kiteboarders, and swimmers may prove hazardous. And it’s easier to relax and concentrate when no one is watching.
3. Find a Suitable Starting Depth
The next step is to find a good entry point where the water is at least 20 – 30 inches deep and suitable for floating on a paddle board before attempting to kneel and then standing up on it. Choose a spot where it’s easy to launch a SUP, bearing in mind that they are bulky, although very lightweight. Ensure the water has easy access with low banks or a beach, so there’s no trouble getting in or out.
4. Check for Obstacles in the Water
Scan the area for obstructions, like boats, floating pontoons, rocks, sandbanks, logs, piers, fishing nets, or other water revellers – before entering with the paddleboard. Make a note of areas to avoid and decide where you will travel once upon the board – planning keeps you safe.
5. Pack a Mobile Phone and Sun Protection
It’s a good idea to take a mobile phone in case you get stuck on a far bank or the other side of a sweeping bay and need to call for a ride back to base. Just pop it in a waterproof case and have it on a lanyard around your neck or in your dry bag that you can attach securely to the SUP paddle board.
Let a friend know where you are and what you’re planning – so if anything happens, like getting stuck miles down a river, they know where to find you. Ensure you have adequate sunblock, a hat, a T-shirt, a towel, and maybe even a dry carry bag with water and snacks. There’s plenty of space on SUPs, enough for a couple, a picnic basket, a small backpack – and even the family dog. Check out this article on how to Avoid Sunburn While Paddle Boarding.
Getting to Know Your SUP
Paddle boards are usually between 10 to 12 feet long (3-3.5 meters) and weigh 15 to 30 pounds (7-14kgs). Check out our guide to getting the right paddle board for your needs. Inflatable or epoxy fibreglass models are medium-weight, commonly found, and moderately priced, both excellent choices for beginners learning how to stand up, paddle, and balance for the first time. Carbon boards are the lightest but more costly and thus recommended for more advanced boarders.
SUP Deck and Handle Well
The surface of a SUP paddle board is called the deck and should have a non-slip material covering the rear seating, kneeling, or standing area. Choose a light-coloured matting if possible because it will reflect the sun’s heat better – and feel cooler to the touch. The front part of the deck is the nose, and the back end is called the tail. Right in the middle of the deck is the handle well (or carry handle), used to attach a carry strap for transport.
SUP Rails, D-Rings, and Leash
The sides of the board are the rails – they are slightly raised and curved for a better grip. SUPs have D-rings attached to the inside of the rails to connect portable seats – and one at the tail for the leash. The leash attaches via velcro straps to your ankle and should stay attached to avoid the board drifting away and getting lost – in the unlikely case of capsizing. The straps of a portable seat attach just behind the carry handle for a solo and in front of it for a passenger, pet or camera, scuba diving, or fishing equipment.
Fins are blade-like plastic objects which clip onto the base of the paddleboard and protrude into the water. There may be one, or two fins beneath the board, lending it stability in the water and aiding your balance. Remember to clip them on before you set out.
How to hold a SUP Paddle
Check out our quick YouTube guide on how to hold your paddle boarding paddle…
Hold the paddle in one hand upright with the end planted on the ground – and the blade pointed straight in the air. Reach up with the other hand and adjust the paddle blade so that the tip fits into your cupped fingers – this is the optimal length for your body height.
How to Get Up on a Stand Up Paddle Board
Now that you’re familiar with SUPs, it’s time to get out on the water. Here’s how to do it.
Step One: Kneel on Deck
Stand to one side of the board, which should be gently stable on a calm surface, and place one foot on the board. Attach the leash, then kneel on the SUP with a knee on either side of the carry handle, resulting in your body weight bearing slightly to the rear of the middle, just forward of the tail. Always kneel for launch and entry because it’s easier to control the board in this position.
Step Two: Move to a Safe Zone
Hold the paddle with one hand on the middle of the shaft and the other near the blade and move out to a safe zone in deeper water before trying to stand.
Step Three: Stand Up Slowly
Once in a safe area, a bit out from shore, you’re ready to stand on the sup paddleboard. Grip the paddle horizontally with both hands about a foot from its centre, then lower it, placing your knuckles on the deck. Bring your leading foot, then the second, to a knees-half-bent position and straighten up slowly, keeping eyes forward, the paddle blade in the water, and a slight bend in the knees. You’re up, and it’s time to start moving forward in a straight direction.
How to Paddle a Stand Up Paddle Board
Hold the paddle with the hand nearest the fin in the middle and the other firmly gripping the top of the shaft. Lift the paddle and dip it into the water near the nose. Keeping it underwater, sweep the blade firmly along the rail towards the tail in one smooth movement, only lifting it once it has completed the length of the deck. Raise the paddle once again and repeat this movement three to four times.
How to Balance on a Stand Up Paddle Board
The SUP paddleboard will move directly forward for a while after a few strokes … and it’s okay to raise the paddle and let it drift while finding your balance. Keep your knees slightly bent and your eyes focused on where you want to go. Make sure you’re standing just behind the carry well with feet equidistant from the centre of the board.
Keep a straight back and evenly weighted feet on slightly bent knees. Balance comes quickly with practice. If you feel uncomfortable or the wind blows too strongly, return to a kneeling position to regain control.
After a few strokes on one side, the board will veer in that direction, so it’s time to change sides. Slide the hand that grips the handle down to meet the one in the middle. Then, once you’ve got a firm grip, swing the paddle over to the other side, and move the second hand to the top of the shaft. Take three to four more firm forward strokes and let the board drift.
Turning Around on a SUP
To turn slowly, dip the paddle into the water at the nose. Instead of bringing it back in a straight line along the side of the rail, move it outwards and back to the tail in a wide semi-circle. Here’s a video to demonstrate:
To turn more rapidly, called a Step Back Turn, plunge the paddle in at the tail – and swing an arc towards the nose, keeping the blade below the surface. Here’s a video to demonstrate:
Congratulations! You’ve got the basics of learning how to paddle board, and now practical experience is all you need. We hope you have a fabulous time out on the water, getting your balance and trying out various manoeuvres on