How to Standup Paddleboard: Beginner’s Guide

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Standup Paddleboarding (SUP) is one of the fastest-growing water sports in the world. One reason why is that you can SUP just about any place that there’s a lake, river, or beach. Many people find it peaceful to glide across the water. It is also a great full-body workout, helping to build core strength and endurance. There are so many activities you can do on a paddleboard, from big-wave surfing to racing to more relaxing yoga. SUP is versatile and a great sport for people of all ages.

Have you been thinking about giving SUP a try, but aren’t sure where to begin? Well you are in the right place! In this guide on how to standup paddleboard, we’ll discuss some of the basics you need to know before heading out on the water for the first time.

How to Choose a Standup Paddleboard

Renting a board is a great option to try SUP, because it lets you figure out if you enjoy it. Once you’ve decided that you and SUP are meant to be, how do you decide which board to purchase? A rule of thumb is that bigger boards are better for beginners. A longer, thicker, and wider space provides more stability when you are learning.

Hard standup paddleboards are a popular option for beginners. These boards work well for different conditions and activities. The most popular paddle boards are 10-11 feet in length and 30-32 inches in width. Most board brands will have a chart that helps you determine the correct size for your personal weight and height.

Inflatable boards are another great option for new paddleboarders. They are easier to carry and take up less space, without sacrificing durability or stability. They also provide a softer surface if you fall and accidentally hit the board.

Look for boards that are at least 10 feet long and 30 inches wide if you’re a beginner — no mater if you’re choosing a rigid board or inflatable one. Take note of the board’s weight capacity to make sure it has enough volume to stay afloat.

How to Choose a SUP Paddle

SUP Paddles are long, one-sided paddles with a curved blade. Choosing the right paddle for you makes a huge difference in your experience on the water.

Paddle Length: It is important to choose a paddle that is the right length, so that you don’t use extra energy or bad posture to propel yourself forward. A good length for a beginner’s SUP paddle is about 9-10 inches more than their height. If you raise your arm above your head, it will reach the bend in your wrist. There are adjustable and fixed height paddles.

Material: A good paddle is light but strong. Common materials for paddles are plastic, aluminum, carbon fiber, and fiberglass. SUP paddles made with lighter materials like carbon fiber are more expensive, so it is worth considering how much you plan to paddle and what you are willing to spend. If you are an infrequent paddle boarder, an aluminum paddle will work just fine. But if you plan to go often or SUP in rougher waters, a carbon fiber paddle may be worth the investment.  

How to stand up on a SUP

Good news! It takes most people less than an hour to feel comfortable standing on a SUP. Start in calm, flat water. Begin by kneeling on the board and making sure you are in the center. If you are off-center, the ends of the board will tip upwards. Lay your paddle across the board in front of you.  

Once you feel comfortable on your knees, stand slowly. Make sure your feet are parallel to the stringer (the line running down the board) and about shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly. Avoid looking down at the water or your feet, and look out at the horizon to remain more stable.   

How to paddle a SUP: Technique

Make sure that the curve in the blade faces forward (if you think of the paddle like a spoon, the back of the scoop should face you). When paddling, you will switch sides every few strokes. When your paddle is on the right, your left hand will be on the handle, and your right hand will be a couple feet down the shaft. Switch hand positions when you switch sides.

Hold the paddle as straight up as possible. Holding it diagonally will send you sideways and use more energy. To paddle forward, move the blade a couple feet ahead and away from you. Then bring the bring the blade completely into the water and pull it back towards you, gliding through the water. Use your core strength instead of your arms to move the paddle.

Falling and getting back on the SUP

You will inevitably fall off the board, and that is okay. Try to fall away and to the side of the board. If you lose your paddle, go for your board first. To get back on the board, position yourself in the center on the side where your dominant hand can reach the handle or the rail on the other side. You can swing yourself over the board into a sitting position, and stand from there.

Safety tips for standup paddling

Check the weather, wind, and tide conditions. The best conditions for beginners are flat, calm waters. If possible, try SUP for the first time in the morning and in a still body of water like a bay. Days with low wind are also best for learning, because it is easiest to control the direction you go.

Wear a leash. A leash tethers you to your board, which keeps the board from getting away when you fall. Make sure that the leash you choose is strong but also easily detachable, so you can remove it quickly if the board goes under and gets caught on a rock or a reef.

Have a flotation device. Paddleboards are classified as a vessel by the US Coast Guard, so it is required to have a personal flotation device (PFD) for every person. Adults must have one on the board, and children must wear theirs at all times.

Wear sun protection. Wearing sunscreen and protective clothing is so important! You will be in direct sunlight for hours on a day that you paddle board. Bring SPF 30+ sunscreen with you, and make sure to reapply every couple hours.

Read: 6 SUP Safety Tips You Need to Know

Have fun!

All of these tips on how to standup paddleboard serve to make you a better paddleboarder and to feel more confident on the water. After some time, you will be paddle boarding with ease. Make sure that you are always enjoying yourself when you practice this unique water sport. It’s so easy to fall in love with!