Stand Up Paddleboarding: Learn the Basics

Paddleboarding is a water sport in which participants kneel on a paddleboard and move themselves across the water using their hands. Related to it is stand up paddleboarding (SUP) which, as the name implies, is done standing up. SUP also makes use of handheld paddles. It can be done on rivers, lakes, and along the coast. The paddleboard is similar to a surfboard but is wider, allowing for a comfortable stance and greater stability while gliding across the water.

Stand up paddleboarding is one of the fastest-growing sports because it is easy to learn, adaptable for all skill levels and ages, and can be done on different bodies of water, from calm lakes and rivers to the sea with raging waves. You can do SUP whether you want to relax while taking in a scenic view, or want to work up a good sweat while tone your muscles. If you’re itching to take up a new hobby, SUP is definitely the sport to try. Here are some of the basics to get you started!


You will only need three major things: a stand up paddleboard, a paddle, and a personal flotation device, or PFD. The size of the paddleboard will depend on your weight and skill level. As a beginner, it would be better to rent out boards offered by surf schools first, until you get the hang of it and progress to the more challenging (narrower) size. Paddles also vary in length; choose one that is around eight to ten inches taller than you. Stand up paddleboards are classified by the U.S. Coast Guard as vessels, so PFDs are a must.

As for clothing, shorts, a shirt, or bathing suit will do for hot to mild climates, while a wetsuit or drysuit is recommended for cool conditions. You can wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s glare. Last but certainly not the least, apply sunscreen!

Starting out

Beginners can start out in shallow, calm water. Some may find it easy to kneel on the board first to get a feel of how it floats and to test their balance. Position yourself just behind the board’s center point. The tail of the board shouldn’t dig into the water and the nose shouldn’t be pointing up, either. Adjust your position until the board is flat on the water; you can keep your hands on either side to stabilize the paddleboard.

When you have found your balance and feel comfortable on the board, try standing up one foot at a time. Place your feet at the exact part where your knees were. Take your time and keep practicing, and don’t be afraid to get back up if you fall.

Proper form

Maintaining the proper form on the board will help you keep your balance as you move along. Keep your feet apart and parallel to each other, and remember to stay at the center between the edges of the board. Don’t lock your knees—keep them slightly bent, and straighten your back. Use your hips to balance yourself on the board. Avoid slouching and staring at your feet—keep your chin up, your shoulders level, and your gaze on the horizon.

Basic strokes

If you’re paddling on the left side of the board, your left hand should be lower on the paddle shaft, while your right hand is on the top of the grip. Turn the paddle until the elbow or angle of the paddle is facing away from you. Keeping your arms straight, twist your torso as you paddle; use your abdominal muscles to move your upper body into the paddling motion. With your top hand, push down on the grip until the blade goes all the way under the surface of the water. Pull the paddle back towards your ankle and out of the water, and repeat! Start with short strokes and practice switching sides (reverse hand positions).

Now that you’ve got the basics of stand up paddleboarding, there’s nothing else stopping you from trying it out for real. Have fun!

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