How to stand up paddleboard - a beginners guide

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Learn to SUP - A Beginner's Guide

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What is SUP?

Ok, let’s start with the basics. SUP stands for ‘stand up paddleboard’ or ‘stand up paddleboarding’. The modern version of the SUP originated from Hawaii as an alternative to surfing when there wasn't enough swell for ordinary surfing.The clue is in the name with this sport as you take to the water standing on a board quite like a standard surfboard. SUP boards usually are a bit longer and thicker than traditional surfboards. However, unlike traditional surfing, you also take with you a long hand-held paddle which you use to propel yourself through the water.

Who can SUP?

Stand up paddleboarding is a sport for everyone. Anyone can try it in calm waters, but for the big waves and more challenging waters one must be fit, skilled, and a good swimmer with guts. In other words, difficult waters are not for the fainthearted. But even if you are not an adrenaline junkie, there’s plenty to do on a paddleboard:

  • Flat water paddling

    • Flat water paddling is probably what first came to your mind when thinking the word SUP. It essentially means paddling along in the calm water. This is the exercise that usually gets people into stand up paddleboarding. Fun, relatively easy, but still a good workout improving your health and balance.
  • SUP racing

    • Flat water paddling for those with competitive tendencies. Take your paddle, your board and paddle faster than your competition.
  • SUP Yoga

    • SUP Yoga means performing yoga on a paddleboard. Experts claim that SUP yoga is even better workout than regular yoga. Standing on the board over water forces your midsection to work extra hard in order to keep balance
  • SUP Fishing

    • That’s right, paddleboarding and fishing make a great team. Paddleboards allow you to navigate thin waters where normal fishing boats can’t go. They are also easy to transport (especially inflatable paddleboards) and maintain. Additionally, the standing position makes it easier for you to spot fish that are swimming nearby.
  • Downwind Paddleboarding

    • Downwind paddleboarding involves paddling with high wind on your back on an open water and riding the waves. It is similar to surfing, but instead of riding a wave for a short period of time, you’ll be traveling long distances in a straight line on rolling waves.
  • SUP fitness

    • SUP boards are great platforms to perform muscle training. Compared to working out on solid ground exercising on paddle board puts greater emphasis on your core muscles and improves your balance.  

What kind of equipment do I need for stand up paddleboarding?

To get started, you need a few pieces of essential kit:

SUP board

There are several different kinds of boards to choose from. For beginners, wide and long boards are the way to go, because they are more stable than shorter and narrower boards. SUP boards have one or more fins on the underside to help you travel in a straight line.


You’ll find a range of SUP paddles available. The simple rule to follow is to choose a paddle which is 6-10 inches longer than the height of the paddler. If you are unsure about the length of the paddle, you can raise your hand above your head slightly bent and that would be an ideal length for your paddle.  

Buoyancy Aid

By law, buoyancy aid is not required when paddling in designated surfing areas. It should be noted that rules and regulations vary according to the type of water ( internal waters, harbors and other waterways). In addition, staying safe cannot be stressed enough so it is always good to wear buoyancy aid especially when learning the ropes of SUP.

Where can I paddle?

SUP can be done almost everywhere which is another reason why the sport is very versatile.

The best place to start practicing is somewhere with a little swell and sandy bottom so if (when) you will fall you won’t hurt yourself when you hit the bottom! With experience, you can SUP in the big swell with the professional adrenaline junkies, paddle down running rivers and white rapids, or take it easy at the lake. The choice is yours! There are options for everyone.

How to SUP?

Many places offer SUP lessons for beginners and this is a great place to start. Usually, it is a good idea to have at least one lesson, because it is the easiest way to avoid rookie mistakes. However, if you just can’t wait to grab your board and get paddling here are the basics to get you going:

1. Choose calm water, use the leash to attach the SUP to your ankle and walk the board out so that the fins aren’t touching the bottom. Stay within your depth while learning.

2. Climb onto the center of the board and kneel up with your knees apart. Find your balance. This is a great place to start! You can paddle in this position to gain your confidence or advance straight to standing up.

3. Slowly stand up from the kneeling position, one foot at a time. Stay positioned in the middle of the board with your feet facing forwards, shoulder width apart. Keep your knees slightly bent as this helps with balance.

4. You’re ready to paddle! Hold your SUP paddle with one hand on the top handle and the other on the shaft. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart.

5. Don’t hunch over as you reach the paddle’s blade forwards and submerge it into the water. Use your core and back muscles (rather than your arms) to pull the blade back through the water.

6. After about 4 strokes, switch sides, swap your hand positions and paddle on the other side of the board. You’ve got it!

Top tips:

  •         An SUP blade is usually slanted and you should keep it angled away from you. It’s common for beginners to get this the wrong way around, thinking they should be ‘scooping up’ water.
  •         Don’t look down! If you’re feeling a little wobbly, look up at the horizon. Many beginners make the mistake of staring at the end of their board but you’re better off fixing your eyes on a point ahead of you. This will really help with initial balance problems.  


SUP really is a sport for everyone and people are often surprised at how easy it is to get started. Why not get out, enjoy the outdoors and give it a go?

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