Stand Up Paddling – Tips and Techniques

Home/How To, SUP/Stand Up Paddling – Tips and Techniques


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.

Stance Basics

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’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.

Paddling Stroke

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!

Paddling Turns

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.

Leave A Comment