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How to Paddle Board - SUP Tips for Beginners

How to paddle board – SUP tips for beginners

Get out on the water with these simple tips on how to stand up paddle board!

The standup paddle board (or SUP) is a great paddling sport for beginners that is easy to get the hang of. But don’t that fool you! Stand up paddling works almost all the muscles groups in your body.

Paddle boarding is also a great way to explore a remote river or local coastline. And with an inflatable paddle board it’s easier than ever to bring your board on every adventure.

If you’re new to stand up paddle boarding, don’t fret! With our simple tips and tricks, you’ll be heading out to the water’s edge in no time.

In this text:

  1. How to choose a stand up paddle board
  2. How to stand up paddle board
  3. What to wear stand up paddle boarding
  4. What to bring
  5. Transporting your SUP
  6. Safety tips
  7. Stand up paddle board vs kayak

How to choose a stand up paddle board

With all the different types of SUPs out there, you might be wondering what paddle board to buy, and what paddle board size fits your needs best. As a beginner, there are some simple things that you should keep in mind when choosing a SUP.

Inflatable paddle board vs a hard board?

Inflatable paddle board:

  • Easy to transport on a bike or public transport with a SUP backpack
  • Easy to store in your home
  • Very durable, good for paddling beginners who might accidentally bump into sharp things

Hard board:

  • Transported by car, truck or SUV
  • Needs space to be stored at home
  • There are lots of types of hard boards since they are the classic style, this means you can easily find a size that fits you
  • Faster than inflatable SUPs and more stable on difficult water

Which paddle board to choose?

An illustration of the different types of stand up paddle boards

From left to right: Paddle board for surfing, touring, an all-around paddle board and a racing board.

  • For beginners: Beginners will want an all-around paddle board, the most common type. You want something stable that can help you balance in the beginning, but also something sturdy that doesn’t mind being bashed around by a newbie.
  • For fishing: Choose a board with a wider deck and maybe even specialized attachments for fishing gear.
  • For touring: Go for a long and narrow board which helps you cover further distances. A SUP with a kayak seat might be ideal if it’s a long day of sightseeing.
  • For surfing: Surfing SUP boards are shorter and narrower at the tips. This makes them easier to control on a wave.
  • Racing boards: Longer which makes them faster but also less stable so they are not recommended for beginners.

How to standup paddle board

Standing on the paddle board:

What do you do on a standup paddle board? Stand, of course! But even this can be tricky since it takes a couple of tries to find your balance.

To launch your paddleboard, carry the board out into the water with the center carry handle. Place your paddle on the board and get on it, kneeling at first on the center of the board. Slowly, one foot at a time, rise into a squat. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, right and left of the carry handle.

Rise further so that your knees are only slightly bent, but make sure your back is straight at all times. Your toes should be facing forward and so should you! Looking ahead helps you keep balance.

An illustration of a woman showing how to stand on a stand-up-paddle-board

How to stand on an SUP board, make sure that you look ahead to keep your balance.

How to hold the paddle:


Though it might seem counterintuitive, hold the paddle with the angle of the blade facing away from you rather than towards you. One hand goes on the grip at the top, the other at the bottom of the paddle. If you put the paddle above your head the bend of your elbows should form 90-degree angles. You will rotate your hand position as your change sides.

An illustration of a woman showing the correct way to hold an SUP paddle

When holding the SUP paddle, make sure the blade’s angle is facing away from you.

How to do a forward stroke:

The traditional forward stroke consists of five phases.

Reach: Bend your hips, lean forward and extend the paddle into the water as far as you can towards the front of the board.

Catch: Submerge the paddle in the water.

Power: With the paddle in the water, move it along the side of your board. Your arms should be straight and together with the paddle form a triangle shape.

Release/Exit: Once the paddle is parallel to your feet, exit the water sideways and remember to turn the blade 90 degrees so that it slices out of the water at its narrowest end. 

Recovery: Bring the paddle back to the front of the board and start again.

To make sure that you are going forward, don’t pull the paddle past your feet, else the board will begin to turn. You can switch sides after a couple of paddles.

An important thing to remember is that you should be exerting power from your core and leg muscles, not your arms. This will make paddling easier, put less pressure on the arms and give you a full body workout!

An illustration of how to do a forward stroke on a stand up paddle board

From left to right we see the paddler first in the reach phase, second making sure to look straight ahead, third in the catch and power phase, and fourth in the release phase.

How to do a reverse stroke:

The reverse stroke helps you either stop paddling or slow down. Reach back to the end of the paddle board rather than in front. Put the blade in the water by the tail and bring it forward towards you.

An illustration of how to do a reverse stroke on an SUP

When doing a reverse stroke your paddle goes in the opposite direction of a forward stroke.

How to do a sweep stroke:

A sweep stroke helps you turn while keeping momentum. Reach the paddle, as you do in a forward stroke, far out to the front of the board. Then, make a wide stroke outward in a semi-circle around the board all the way to the tail. Doing this on the right side of the board will help you turn left and vice versa.

An illustration of a woman showing how to do a sweep stroke on a stand up paddle board

To do a sweep stroke with your SUP, sweep the paddle out sideways as much as possible.

How to paddle board in the ocean vs how to paddle board on a river

Paddling on a river or lake will be easier than paddling in the ocean which is susceptible to rougher waves, currents and tides. A touring paddle board is good for ocean paddle boarding since it is long and narrow and can paddle well through rougher conditions.

For a lake or river, most paddle boards will work well. But inflatable boards are good if you are traveling between lakes since they can be deflated and carried easily to the next spot.

What to wear stand up paddle boarding?

What you should wear when standup paddling really depends on the temperature and the likelihood of you falling into the water.

When it’s warm: On a warm summer's day, don’t be afraid to paddle in just your bathing suit with bare feet. You can also wear water sports shoes or deck shoes.

When it’s cold: When the weather is cold you might feel the urge to wear a wetsuit. But a wetsuit only really keeps you warm when you are submerged in the water. If you’re a beginner who knows you’ll be falling off your board a lot in the beginning, this might be perfect. But if you’re out of the water, the wetsuit will just get sweaty and sticky.

Opt for synthetic fabric: If you already have the hang of the SUP and don’t plan on falling off the board any time soon, opt for a dry suit or other waterproof clothing. The trick is to layer your clothing well. Choose a base layer made of a synthetic fabric like polypropylene or polyester. For your insulating layer, choose a fleece made of a thick polyester fabric. Top it off with an extra waterproof jacket to seal it all in.

You’ll want to layer your trousers too! Synthetic leggings underneath and a waterproof pair of trousers on top will keep you toasty. If you feel like splashing out (no pun intended!), invest in a pair of waterproof paddling gloves to keep your fingers warm.

What to wear stand up paddle boarding

What to bring stand up paddle boarding?

  • SUP and paddle
  • Inflatable SUP backpack
  • Inflatable SUP pump
  • Water bottle or hydration pack
  • Dry bag
  • Lifejacket
  • Paddle board car rack to transport a hard SUP

Transporting your paddle board

Transporting an inflatable SUP: Simply use a SUP backpack to carry your paddle, pump and deflated SUP. Just a heads up, the SUP backpack can get heavy if you plan on hiking with it for long distances. But it’s undoubtedly a hassle-free way to transport your board by plane, car, public transport, or bike.

Hard board: The easiest way to transport a hard board SUP is on the roof of your car. There are specific stand up paddle board car racks or truck racks that can easily bring you board wherever you want to go. Some even double up as both paddle board and kayak roof racks, where you can easily switch between the two sports.

Safety tips:

  • Do you have to be able to swim? Yes. It is important to be able to swim in case you fall in deep waters.
  • Always paddle with a lifejacket! In some areas it can even be illegal to paddle without one. Double check with your local authorities, but in general a life jacket is always recommended.
  • Remember sunscreen, the water reflects sunlight!
  • Never paddle after consuming alcohol.
  • Make sure even on a hot day that you are dressed appropriately in case you fall in the water.
  • Never paddle alone in a remote place as a beginner.
  • Only paddle board in water conditions you would confidently swim in.
  • Choose a calm lake or river to practice your paddling.
  • Check the direction of the wind for your paddling! Going against the wind can be rough. And if the wind gets too strong, kneel down and paddle on your knees until it calms down.

Paddle board or kayak – which is best for me?


  • An inflatable SUP is easier to carry on trails between bodies of water. It’s also easier to transport if you don’t have a car, truck or SUV.
  • Easier on hot days to just jump off the paddle board into the water if you want a quick cool-off.
  • SUP is a full body workout, engaging your core, legs, quads and back.


  • Travels faster and covers greater distances.
  • Easier to maneuver in rough water conditions like whitewater.
  • Since you are seated you can manage longer distances without getting as tired.
  • But just because you’re not standing doesn’t mean your abs, back and even your legs don’t also get a workout!

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