While it looks easy enough, it’s important that you know how to properly stand on, paddle and turn your stand up paddle board. Dialing in your SUP paddle technique will ensure the best experience possible on the water. The right skills will allow you to be efficient, safe and to soak up all that paddle boarding has to offer. Remember that it takes time to create new habits with the body, so whether you’re a complete newbie or a seasoned paddler, keep practicing proper technique until it becomes second nature. You don’t want to slip into bad habits that could lead to danger or cause you to tire quicker.
It’s important to maintain proper balance while on the board to maximize your movements and efficiency. You must maintain balance and remain upright on the board. So always remember to:
- Keep your head and shoulders steady, relaxed and upright. Shift weight to turn by moving hips.
- Balance with your hips rather than your upper body
- Keep your knees bent
- Don’t look down. Look at the horizon or where you paddling to.
- Balance becomes easier when the board gains some momentum. It’s like riding a bike. Balancing on a bike that is still or barely moving is extremely challenging.
Types of Stances
Parallel Stance – Great for beginner paddle boarders and long hauls in flat water
- Feet should be parallel to one another, about hip width distance apart.
- Center your feet between the rails (AKA edges). Distribute your body weight evenly between both feet, try not to put too much on the toes or heels.
- Always keep toes pointing forward and knees slightly bent.
- Easy to Paddle on both sides of the board
- Lacks forward and back control
Surf Stance – Great for surfing and quick pivot turns.
- Stagger your feet like you are shredding on a surfboard, skateboard, or snowboard.
- Great forward and back control which is ideal for staying on a wave.
- Lacks side to side control
Kung Fu Stance – Great for Whitewater paddle boarding and choppy conditions.
The Kung Fu or Aikido stance offers you the best of both worlds by providing 360 degrees of stability and control.
- Like the parallel stance you keep you feet parallel to the board.
- One foot is positioned in front and the other is positioned behind the center point of the board.
- Ideal for choppy water, whitewater, and entering a surf zone or any time you need additional balance.
- It is harder to paddle on both sides of the board.
Now that you have the whole balance thing down, it’s time to put your paddle to good use. Stand up paddling is loads more fun when you know how to paddle properly and efficiently. Let’s get started.
- When paddling on the left, the left hand will be on the shaft (lower), while the right hand will be gripping the T-bar.
- Push down on the paddle to grip with your top hand.
- Twist from your torso while keeping your arms straight. Work on using your core (or entire torso) rather than your arms. Abs are much stronger than arms!
- Reach for the nose of your board, plant the paddle in the water, and completely push the blade below the surface. Pull it back to your ankle then out of the water.
- To start, keep your strokes fairly short and close alongside the board. Overpowering when you first start out will more than likely lead to poor technique. Start small to become a stronger paddler.
- Don’t forget to reverse hand positions when you switch sides!
There are three basic SUP turns…
- Sidestroke or forward stroke– Simply paddle on one side until the nose turns in the direction you want to go. To make a right turn, paddle on the left. Want to turn left? Paddle on the right.
- Backpaddle – To reverse direction or to make a quick turn, drag the paddle or paddle backwards on either side of the board. You’ll feel some resistance and notice that the board will slow down. Form here, you can paddle to which ever direction is desired.
- Sea (“c”) stroke or sweep stroke– Plant your paddle towards the front of the board and take a long sweeping stroke towards the tail. This is sometimes called a sweep stroke.
Stand up paddleboarding (check out our selection of SUP here) has become the fastest growing water sport in the world. It’s accessible to most, relatively safe, a good upper body workout, and of course, loads of fun. You can SUP on lakes of all sizes, oceans, rivers and reservoirs. With the rise in popularity, many paddleboarders often forget that being on a paddleboard requires the same safety precautions and vigilance as any other activity in the water. There is never a better time to brush up on some paddleboarding tips and most importantly, water safety practices. First off, every paddle boarder should know that any SUP over 10 feet in length is considered a vessel when used “beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area.” That means that a paddle board must follow the same rules as any other size boat, from cruise ship to sail boat, in open waters. Paddle boarders must be prepared, alert and follow the same precautions as all other vessels. The first rule is that all stand up paddle boarders must wear a have a life jacket on board. Check out these other important safety guidelines to practice while paddle boarding. Click here for more information about Stand Up Paddleboard regulations.
- Wear a life jacket.
- Carry a whistle that will work when wet so that you can be heard if you get in trouble.
- Be a competent swimmer. If you’re not comfortable with your swimming skills, paddle board in swimming areas where the water is shallow.
- Never paddle further away from the shore than you can swim.
- Know how to self rescue. If you fall off, simply grab the board with both hands and pull your chest over the board. Then swing your legs around and get back up. Almost any person of any size can perform this maneuver, but practice self rescue before heading out too far.
- Know how to tow another board.
- Familiarize yourself with local water rules and regulations.
- Understand the elements and hazards of the water and nearby coast – winds, tidal ranges, current and terrain.
- Practice defensive paddle boarding. Do not paddle where you aren’t supposed to be and avoid other swimmers, boaters, paddle boards.
- Use proper blade angle to be the most efficient paddle boarder.
Paddle boarding is a fast-growing sport that is a fun, easy way to enjoy a day on the water. It requires minimal equipment and waves are optional. Paddle boards are very functional and can be versatile for sailing or surfing with the right equipment and setup. It may be a bit daunting for a first time buyer to get into this sport. This is because there are many aspects that play a role in making the best buy. And let’s face it, Paddle boards are not cheap, so buying the wrong one could be a disaster. In order to help take away a little stress, below is a list of some helpful information on tech and specs, board types, and techniques for first time riders.
Tech and Specs:
The bottom of the board is going to be a very important aspect when looking for a SUP board. Flat-bottom boards are very stable and easy to balance on. However, if you are planning on racing or touring, board bottoms also come with different angles, concaves and contours to suit your needs.
Deck Pad: This refers to the soft surface that can be made of foam, rubber, etc. and is meant for traction, foot control and general comfort while riding.
Fins: These are used for control and maintaining a straight line on the water. Many boards will come with a single fin of a specified length but some may come with double, triple or integrated molded fins.
Handles: A useful tool for most paddle boards is the built in handle, which makes transport much easier. Depending on the board type, these can be located in the nose, tail, or along the rails of the board.
Rails: This refers to the sides or edges of the board. The general rule for rails is the fuller and boxier the rails are, the harder it will be to turn but the more stability you will have.
Rocker: When you think of rocker, think of a rocking chair. This will make more of a difference in surfing rather than flat-water paddling.
Tail: The tail is the rear of the SUP. This will be important when considering how you plan on turning. With a more angular tail, turns will be more square and angular, whereas rounder tails make for more smooth turns.
Paddle: Paddles for SUPs are made with an angle or “elbow” in the shaft for efficiency and performance. A paddle should be roughly 6” to 10” taller than you (this is broad because it will depend on your preference).
Deck Box: Some boards are equipped with a deck box which makes them compatible with sailing. This can be a great option for those windy days and adds more versatility to your board.
D-Rings (Front/Rear): can be used to tie down a board or also used in conjunction with bungie cords to stow gear securely on your board.
Leashes: A leash is a great option for those who may have balance issues or just want that security of knowing their board won’t float away in the event of a fall.
All arounders: These boards are going to be majorly for close to shore paddling and general recreational purposes. They will be longer and thicker and best suited for those looking for an all around board from surfing to fitness for any type of rider.
Hybrids: Hybrid boards integrate features from a kayak into the paddleboard. Most include storage and hatches to hold gear and other necessary items. Because hybrids incorporate features from both the SUP and kayak, they may come equipped with seat backs, heel rests, rod holders or other accessories.
Racing and Touring Boards: This category is more for speed and efficiency, with longer, sleeker designs and a pointed nose (bow). They will generally be less stable but some are still made to be versatile for recreational or cruising purposes.
Techniques: Listed are a few things to think about when using your new paddle board.
Mounting your board: Stand on one side in the center of the board and hold board by the rails. You can then lift yourself onto the board in a kneeling position. Once you’ve gotten your balance and a feel for it, you can stand up. If your tip or tail are digging into the water, you should adjust accordingly to make sure your board is level for optimum riding. If you have a paddle, the only difference is that you should set that across the paddle board and hold onto it while getting onto the board to prevent the paddle from going overboard.
Stance: In order to maintain the best balance, you should stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Move your weight with your hips instead of your head and try not to stare at your feet and instead focus on the beautiful view around you.
Strokes: This may seem unnecessary but it is important to know how to paddle in order to get where you want to go. Beginners will want to keep their strokes shorter and close to the side of the board until you get more comfortable. A helpful guide to maintain a straight line is to have about 3-4 strokes on one side then switch to the other side, etc. Also, make sure to switch hand positions when switching sides.
- Sidestroke: This refers to paddling on one side in order to turn a desired direction. To go right, you would paddle on the left and to go left, you would paddle on the right.
- Backpaddle: This will allow you to quickly turn or reverse direction by dragging the paddle or paddle backwards in the water on either side of the board.
- SEA “C” Stroke: If you plant your paddle in the water towards the front of the board and sweep it back through the water towards the tail, you are doing a sea or sweep stroke.