How To: Paddle Board Turning Tips

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Turning on a stand up paddle board is an essential skill to make the most of your SUP experience on the water. It also adds to the fun factor and excitement of paddling! If you are a beginner, it is important to first master your balance, change directions on the board, and finally be able to turn correctly and efficiently. With a little practice, persistence, and determination you’ll turning like a pro in no time. Check it out…

Proper Feet Positioning
Begin by placing the board in the water. Beginners can first kneel on the center of the board to get the feel of the board. Once you stand up, find balancing point of the board which is right in the center of the paddle board. Your feet should always be pointing forward toward the nose, about shoulder width apart. Two things can happen if you don’t stand in the center. If you are standing too far forward, the nose will start to sink as you stroke. If you are standing too far back, then you will drag the tail and therefore move slower. Your knees should be slightly bent with hips aligned. Avoid bending from the midsection. Once you have your feet and knees properly positioned, you are ready to learn to steer!

Steering a Stand Up Paddle Board
Crawl before you walk, right? The same rule applies to paddle boarding – steer before you turn! Beginners should always start on a calm body of water with little waves or wind. Trust us. This will help nail down your techniques with little frustration or fatigue. Steering is actually pretty simple. Paddle on the right side of the board with your left hand on the handle to turn left. Switch your hands and paddle on the left to turn right.  Once you get the hang of stroke steering, practice moving your center of balance with your hips over to the side you want to move in. Keeping your knees bent and your back upright, place more weight on the foot that’s on the turning side.

Turning a Stand Up Paddle Board

Now that you’re a steering master, it’s time to learn some various turning techniques. You can certainly ‘steer’ your way to make a 180 degree turn, but how about a quick turn in the opposite directions? Your friends will be impressed and quick turns will up your game!


The most basic of turns, the sidestroke is used the most often. Keeping strokes quick and short, paddle on the opposite side for which you wish to turn. This style of turning takes up more surface area on the water, so make sure you’re clear! To bring the board around more quickly, pull the blade back away from the board rather than pulling it parallel with the board. Once you’re heading in your desired direction, begin paddling on the opposite side to straighten out.
Back Paddle

A much faster turn, the back paddle will be one of your favorites once you get it down.  To initiate the turn, tightly grasp the paddle and dip your blade into the water on the same side that you want the board to turn towards.  This will begin to bring the board round in the right direction. Once momentum ceases, begin to paddle backwards on the same side to continue the turn. Once the board has turned about 90 degrees or slightly more, begin to paddle normally on the other side to straighten the board out. Now you’re ready to cruise!
Pivot Turn

The most advanced of turns, the pivot turn is the fastest way to turn your board around. It’s most useful if you’re surfing and trying to pull yourself into a wave. You’ll need to turn your board 180 degrees in a hurry to catch the most waves! First, you’ll need to get your weight back in order to lift the nose out of the water. Turn your body sideways with your toes facing the rail, and put more weight on your back foot. Make quick strokes on the opposite side that you want to turn your stand up paddle board. For maximum leverage and rotation, put the blade in the water away from your body, and then pull it in towards the tail of the board. The board should turn around fairly quickly with the nose in the air during the turn. You’re likely to fall in the water a few times while mastering this baby, so have fun with it!

As mentioned earlier, practice is the key to feeling comfortable with your new turning techniques. Before too long, all of these turns will be second nature and you’ll be having more fun than ever on your board. You’ll also notice that the back paddle and pivot turn will work your arms and upper body a little more. Bonus!

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  1. […] How Do I Turn? Turning quite simply involves paddling longer on one side until the nose of the board turns, also called the Sidestroke. Paddle on the right to turn left and vice versa to turn right. Another quick way to turn is to Backpaddle to to paddle backwards on either side of the board. You can also drag the paddle in the water for a quick turn. Lastly, you can make a Sea Stroke to change direction. Plant the paddle as close to the nose as possible and drag it back towards the tail in the water.  Check out all of our Paddle Board Turning Tips here. […]

  2. Sheila September 12, 2012 at 5:17 am - Reply

    This is awesome!

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