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How to Stand Up Paddle Board: Expert Tips

Woman learning how to stand up paddle board

My name is Sarah or many call me Sacky. I’ll be your guide today. I’m going to be taking a look at the do’s and don’ts of paddle boarding with some basic starting tips on how to stand up paddleboard.

Who am I tell you these things? Well, I review all things SUP on a weekly basis over at I’ve ridden many types of boards and have taught countless friends!

Stand up paddle boarding safety tips

Before you get out on your SUP, there a few things you should think about. Don’t worry, they aren’t serious and there’s a good chance you’ve already thought about most of them! But just to be sure, make sure you consider the following before learning how to stand up paddleboard:

Can you swim?

If you aren’t a strong swimmer you should consider wearing a lifejacket or PDF (personal flotation device). And even if you feel pretty confident in the water it’s not a bad idea to wear one anyway.

Where are you paddling?

Think of currents and potential rapids. If you are near the ocean, don’t get caught out fighting the tide coming back. Make sure you know the tide times and use them to your advantage.

Equally, you should know the river you plan to paddle on. You don’t want to be suddenly be thrown into rocks around a river bend when it turns to rapids. Choose slow flowing rivers until you are more experienced.

How long do you plan to go out?

Slip, slop, slap! Make sure you are applying sunscreen and wearing a hat. Being on the water means that you will get the reflection of the sun off the water, which is significantly more damaging than just being on land.

Equally, if you are paddling in cooler conditions, make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing. See the Cool of the Wild guide on what to wear kayaking for more info.

Take a waterproof backpack or dry bag with you to store water, sun cream, extra layers and food. If you’re out for a little while then you’ll be all set for the day!

If paddle boarding is totally new to you, then be sure to read read our guide to stand up paddle boarding for beginners.

Paddleboarding at sunset

How to stand up paddleboard

Nothing beats getting out there with an instructor to truly learn how to stand up paddleboard. But this quick step-by-step guide on how to paddle will certainly get you moving in the right direction.

01Measure the length of your SUP paddle

If you have an adjustable paddle, you should measure it to fit you. You can do this easily by standing the paddle next to you and raising your arm straight up next to your head. Your fingers should just clasp over the handle with a fully extended arm. It’s important to adjust your paddle as it affects your stoke entirely. If it’s too short you’ll have to bend a lot more to paddle efficiently and too big, you’ll have a hard time keeping a rhythm.

02Put on your leash

If you happen to take a fall, you are prone to losing your board. Having a leash on saves you from having to swim after your board, or even worse, losing it completely!

So to put your leash on, you want it on your “dominant” foot. There are two stances in board riding sports – goofy and natural. They are determined by which foot goes at the back of the board, which controls your turns and movement.

To figure out which stance you are, there is a simple test. You can get someone to push you and try your hardest to not anticipate the push. Whichever foot you put out first is most likely your dominant foot.

I use my right foot to kick a ball, to step up stairs but for some reason, my left foot is my dominant foot when on a board, so I’m a “goofy”! So don’t be worried if you are dominant with one foot in other areas but opposite on your board.
Leash of paddleboard

03Launching your SUP

If you are by yourself, try to find a launching zone that you can easily wade into the water from. If you are with a friend, hold each other’s boards steady, if you can!

Once you’ve steadied yourself, you want to aim to be standing in the middle of the board, normally either side of the SUP handle. Many people starting out will kneel for the first little while before testing out standing up. So if you are feeling a little unsteady, or the water is on the choppy side, then start kneeling.

04How to go straight on a SUP

  • Keep your head lifted and focus on where you want to go, not on the nose of the SUP or your feet.
  • Keep your knees a little bent and your back straight.
  • Place the paddle in the water towards the front of the board pull it back towards your feet.
  • Make sure your paddle blade is entirely entering the water as you pull through and that your paddle is the right way round! If there is an obvious scoop, you want to have the scoop facing backwards. Normally there is the paddles company logo on the front to keep you in check.
  • Keep the paddle as close to the board as possible.
  • Try twisting a little with your stokes for more power and to use your whole body. If you are just relying on your arms or back, you’ll get tired pretty quick!
  • Swap sides every few strokes so that you don’t go round in circles.

05Things to try

Now you are going places, try to gain a rhythm with your paddle stroke. You can have a play with your strokes, too! Try paddling backwards, it’ll turn you in the opposite direction. Doing backwards stokes is much quicker than continuously paddling forwards on one side to try a turn.

06What to do if you fall

You get back up again! You ain’t ever going to be kept down! You might find it a little wobbly after the first fall, so pick a stable point to focus on as you get back to your feet. Most importantly though, remember to have a laugh and smile with it! We all have moments where we fall down, metaphorically or realistically… it’s all about being humble and not letting it ruin the fun of the life!

SUP Yoga

Ideas For SUP Adventures

Sometimes in the summer I join a few paddles boards together and have an afternoon float, complete with a cooler full of beers and a waterproof speaker for tunes! Inflatable SUP’s also make for great overnight expeditions as they double as a very comfortable bed.

Other SUP adventure ideas:

Okay, okay enough chatting, get out there! It’s time for you to go and have some fun!!

Now I hope you are feeling a bit more confident and excited to get out there? The first few moments will be wobbly but I promise it doesn’t take too long to find your feet! Then you will be set to only improve.

Especially with inflatables, you can explore so far. There’s nothing more peaceful than setting off down a river, leaving worries behind to be floated off in the wind.

Inflatable paddle board gear guide

About Sarah

Sarah profile

Heya, I’m Sarah or as I’m more commonly called, Sacky! I hail from the beautiful land down under, Australia. I’m a part-time outdoor enthusiast, part-time online content manager and part-time SUP reviewer @ My love of adventure and the unknown takes me around the world and my work feeds this obsessive need for constant change. I’m one lucky girl!

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