Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stand Up Paddle Boarding Beginner Tips

Stand up paddle boarding is much easier to do than it looks. You'll be surprised how easily you'll be able to balance on the paddle board your first time. Of course the type of stand up paddle board you try your first few times must be a stable board that is the proper size for your weight for you to have a successful paddleboarding experience.

Here are some examples of the types of paddleboards that are easy to stand and balance on:

Paddlers over 170 lbs. will be most stable on a SUP Board that is 11'6" to 12'6".
Suggested boards are: Generator 11'6" by Surftech , Hobie 12' ATR, Aquaglide Amundson 11'6, Randy French Softop by Surftech.

Paddlers under 170 lbs. will be especially stable on a larger board, but also can get a smaller board in the 10' 6" to 11' 6" range for maneuverability and ease of handling.
Suggested boards are: Hobie 11' 2", Aquaglide Amundson 11' 3", Hobie ATR 10'6".

Here are some SUP stand up paddle boarding safety and technique tips:

Safety-First be honest with yourself about your swimming ability. Outside of surf zones the Coast Guard is requiring life jackets on all paddlers. We recommend this waist pack life jacket.

  • Never leave your board, if you lose the paddle you can paddle it with your hands easier than swimming, also the wind can blow it away faster than you can swim. Always paddle up-wind first, it is way more difficult than down wind. Do not get caught a long distance down wind, you may not make it back.
  • Stay attached to your board with an ankle leash if you are on a lake or ocean. DO NOT use a leash on a river as it may snag and hold you down.
  • Your paddle is your friend – keep it in the water as much as possible. You can push the blade forward or back to keep from falling, and even lean on it or pull up on it momentarily to keep from falling. Never let go of your paddle.
  • Foot position – Stand in the middle of the board, too far forward will sink the nose, too far back will drag the tail and be slow. You generally want to stand centered with both feet about shoulder width apart and facing forwards for long distance paddling on flat water. But when the surface is choppy or you’re in waves you’ll want to adopt surfer's stance with your dominant foot forward just as in normal surfing.
  • Buy our new Coiled SUP Leash so that it stays on top of your SUP board, reducing the chance you'll snag anything under the water. Attach your surf safety leash to your rear foot.
  • Paddling – reach forward with your paddle and put the blade in almost vertically, close to the board. Stroke back, visualizing pulling the board forward in the water. Don’t try to extend the stroke too far past your legs, that angles the blade too much and pulls the board edge downwards. Your blade is angled forwards for two reasons–to make the blade more stable in the water (as you’ll see if you try to stroke with the blade backwards) and to improve the release of the blade as you pull it up. Stroking too far backwards defeats that smooth release.
  • Happy feet – You need to learn that your feet are not bolted to the board. As your balance improves you can move around the board more. In flat water paddle boarding you need to imitate this learning by forcing yourself to move your feet around. Shift from centered to fore and aft stance. Move your back foot more towards the tail then back centered again. In chop your learning will be automatic–when you master sideways chop you’re bound to be moving about on the board.
  • Turning and Spinning–Initially you’ll be turning the board slowly by stroking away from the board, but this is the slow way around. Fine for flatwater, but too slow to surf. The faster way is to put weight on the back of the board and stroke with the paddle to pivot the board. Once you are in a fore and aft position you can start practicing this by just putting weight on your back leg. This works even better if you take a step backwards. You need to lean on the paddle a bit to optimize these moves. Once you can spin the board 360 you’re ready to surf.
Photos: Top: Isabella demonstrating a turn on the back of the board. She steps back to slightly sink the tail of her board and uses her paddle to pivot.
Bottom: Randall demonstrating an across bow turn. He's bent forward and sweeps his paddle in an arc around the front of his board.

Stand Up Paddle Flatwater



  1. This sounds interesting. I live in Northern Michigan on Lake Michigan and I haven't heard of this much up here. I thought we had tried all the water sports by this point, but maybe not.

    Is this best done on lakes that are fairly smooth?

  2. Hi Kristine -- It's extremely easy to stand up paddle board on smooth water. Most people are happily stand up paddling in about 15 minutes their first time.

    We especially enjoy summer trips to lakes that are known for their reliable high winds, like Odell Lake about an hour drive from Bend, Oregon. Wind-driven waves on lakes are very different from ocean waves and they are a kick!! Be sure to do this with friends so that you have a buddy system going on if the wind direction changes and you get stuck.

    SUP paddle boarding windy lakes is great training and will make ocean chop much easier for you to handle when you do make it to the ocean.

  3. Can you use a windsurfer, without the rigging, foot-loops, and centerboard, to get started ?

    1. Yes. It is less stable than a SUP board but a lot of people use windsurfers to get started.

  4. My friends and I tried it this past weekend and we loved it!