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9 Things You Need To Know About Paddleboarding (Beginner Guide)

Everything you need to know about paddleboarding so that when you start doing it yourself, you won’t look like a dweeb.

Terms You Should Know

Whether you are in the surf shop, out on the waves, or chatting up a bikini-clad babe in the coffee shop, you need to sound as if you know what you are talking about. Frauds are usually quite easy to spot just from a few minutes of conversation. So, here are three key words that will help you to fit in even if you are still learning how to balance on your board.


This is how you stand on your paddleboard. An ideal stance is with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing at the nose of the board. You need to be light on your feet with your weight evenly distributed.

The staggered stance is a variation where you would have one foot back on the side you are paddling from. This stance is used for speed and is considered an intermediate foot position. In other words, not for newbies.

Okay, but where on the board do you stand? Strive for standing where the handle of the board is as that would be the approximate center of the board. Now, this will change under certain circumstances. For example, when paddling into the wind, stand just behind the center to raise the board’s nose higher.

A racing stance (again, not for newbies) is a variation of your standard stance with feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart to reduce weight distribution.


A stroke contains three basic elements. They are the Catch, Power, and Release. If you canoe or kayak, the mechanics behind a stroke is similar only you are standing above the water and holding your paddle downward. Here is a closer look at each part of the stroke.

Part 1 – The Catch

The catch is when your paddle enters the water.

Part 2 – The Power

The power is the smooth transition from the catch where you are pushing the paddle through the water. This is the part of the stroke that enables you to move forward.

Part 3 – The Release

When the blade of your paddle reaches the location in the water that matches where your feet are on the board, you will pull your paddle out of the water. That releases it from the stroke. After you release, you repeat the stroke steps from the beginning.

Spoiler Alert: Although it sounds painfully simple, mastering the paddleboard stroke can take quite some time. In some cases, it may be years before you properly execute the perfect stroke. Up to that point, you are just practicing. Plus, it is important to remember that your arms are not to be used for power in the stroke. The key to the perfect stroke is to use your entire body to create motion.


We are not talking miles per hour here so don’t worry about someone onshore aiming a radar gun at you to track your progress. In paddleboarding, speed is measured as the distance traveled per stroke. It is the basis of what is called a stroke rate.

For example, an average stroke rate is in the 30 to 40 strokes per minute range. A racing stroke rate would be 50 to 60+ strokes per minute.

A SUP can go a max of 7 mph during a sprint. Paddle board speed depends on fitness, the size of the board, type of board and weather. Average speed is about 3 mph.

The Equipment

Now that you have a grasp of the language of paddleboarding, you should also learn a bit about the sporting equipment required to perform the stance, stroke, and speed parts of the sport. Lucky for you, you only need two things outside of your swimwear, sunscreen, and shades.

SUP Boards

There are a few different SUP boards out there ranging from recreational to inflatable and displacement hull (racing) boards. For a complete newbie, your smartest move in this sport would be to opt for a recreational board for your first time on the water.

You don’t even have to buy one, either. Where available, just rent a board to try out and see if it is all you hoped it would be without the expense right away. There are two sizes for recreational boards – 10’6 or 11’6.

Once you get the hang of things and want to move up because your skill level has improved, you could try the displacement hull variety. They are different in designs to recreational boards and are available in two different sizes – 12’6 and 14’.

See this site for more info: SUP Boards Review


After learning all the science behind the stroke, you will need paddles to put that knowledge to good use. There are a few things to consider about paddles. Your goal is to get a lightweight one, that feels good in your hands and has a soft grip for comfort.

If you are a big person (tall or stocky) you will require a different paddle than a shorter and lighter person. Each paddle has three parts – the blade, the shaft, and the grip. The larger the rider, the larger the blade you will need to produce motion.

For newbs, it is a good idea to start with an adjustable paddle to find the right fit and length that works best for you.

Thorough guide on how beginners can start stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and learn different techniques here:

Gili Sports


How to with pictures

The Safety Part

When you are out in the water with your paddleboard, try to stay within the areas where swimmers, surfers, or sunbathers hang out.

In other words, try to avoid open water where the waterskiers and power boaters play. Not only will you save yourself from getting in an accident or some other incident but you become a vessel in the eyes of the USCG once you get out past the swimmers and surfers.

What this means is you will be expected to have the correct safety devices on you as you paddle. They will include a PDF Type III life jacket, a whistle, and a flashlight.

Lessons Or Go Solo?

It is a lot like learning how to swim through correspondence if you try paddleboarding just from what you have read here. Yes, it’s not all that complicated but there are tricks to getting on your board and special maneuvers (like a pivot turn) that are best learned through lessons on the beach.

Plus, in a lesson-on-the-beach situation, you will be surrounded by others with the same skill level (newbie = zilch) as you so if you get intimidated by crowds, this won’t be such a bad way to pick up how to get that board to move under your feet.


One thing we have yet to have mentioned here is that it is good for your health. There are five very good health benefits you can get from just a little time on the water. Here is a look at what they are.

1 – Core Strength Increaser

SUP engages your core muscles. That means your abs are going to feel it in the morning. Oh, and your arms, legs, back, and shoulders will, too.

2 – Stamina Builder

Considered a low impact workout, you can spend hours without knowing it. This will help build your stamina.

3 – Joint Stability Enhancer

The motions that your feet and lower legs will experience are much the same as those used in physical therapy exercises. Balance muscles will also get a workout that all work together to stabilize your joints.

4 – Stress Reducers

Enjoying nature, being outdoors, getting a low impact workout, and many other aspects of paddleboarding work to calm the mind. Have a particularly rough day in the office? Hopping on the lake and paddling around will put that to rest.

On a windy day:

  • Step back while paddling

When you are paddling on one side, the best you can do to exert more power on the paddle is by putting your opposite hand on top of the paddle (if you are paddling on the right side, place the left hand on top) and move one of your feet back a little so that you can create a surfer’s stance. If possible, keep your body closer to the tail to ensure that you can lift the nose of the paddleboard from the waves effortlessly which, in turn, will then swing towards the direction you are paddling more easily.

  • Paddle directly into the wind

Another thing that you can try is to paddle directly into the wind for some time before drifting away from it. Even though paddling into the wind will inevitably take more strength and effort, the reason why we are recommending this is that you will be able to paddle on both sides and enhance the stability of the paddleboard. For the uninitiated, downwind-crosswind makes paddling smoother; the wind that you leave behind will protect your arms and wrists from straining as much and keep you on the right track.

  • Be mindful about your deck bags

Regardless of the weather, it is always a wise idea to review the items you have in your deck bags and remove the ones that aren’t useful. Your objective is to keep the deck bag as light as you can so that amid the mayhem, this extra piece of the carrier doesn’t add to your ordeals.

  • Carry an extra fin

Always carry a deeper and larger fin that what the paddleboard is already using for safety reasons. This fin will aid you to garner the paddleboard with enough stability and improve tracking even through the strong crosswinds. A rule of thumb is to avoid all-around fins because they make surfing through crosswinds all the more difficult.

Paddleboard fins are not universal because they are accompanied by different fin boxes. Each one has 0-5 fins, depending on use and size. There are snap in, dual tab, and us fin box.

How many fins you need for paddleboading is typically 3. The number varies between 0 and 5. Use 0 if you are whitewater SUP, and up to 5 if surfing.

Paddleboards tend to be wider and thicker than kayaks. Two people can ride a paddleboard. There are factors to consider such as riders’ weight and board size. You want to ensure that the board is designed to carry the weight of two people, or get a 2 person model.



Standup paddleboarding, or SUP, has been part of the Hawaiian surf culture for hundreds of years. It is technically an offshoot of surfing and it was converted into what was known as paddle surfing in 2005 with roots in Texas.

Two years later, the first SUP race was held but it was not in Texas. This race was on Lake Tahoe which straddles the California-Nevada border. Since then, it has become one of the most popular water sports.

The day I went paddleboarding for the first time will always be etched in my memory as a turning point, the day I embraced the gentle art of balancing on water. It was an early summer morning, and the sun was just beginning to cast its warm glow over the calm sea as I arrived at the beach, a secluded cove known for its crystal-clear waters and gentle waves.

I had always been intrigued by the graceful silhouettes of paddleboarders against the horizon, and I decided it was time to experience it for myself. The rental shop was already open, a small, shabby hut filled with various water sports equipment. The owner, a sun-kissed man with a laid-back demeanor, recommended a beginner-friendly stand-up paddleboard (SUP) for me. It was a solid board, about 10 feet 6 inches in length and 32 inches wide, providing ample stability for a novice like me. The board was a bright aquamarine blue and felt sturdy under my arm as I carried it toward the shoreline, the polyethylene surface cool and slightly textured.

He also handed me an adjustable fiberglass paddle, which felt lightweight yet strong. He showed me how to adjust the length so that when I stood the paddle upright, the handle reached just above my head. I nodded, committing his instructions to memory, and thanked him before making my way to the water’s edge.

The sea was inviting, its surface shimmering with the morning light. I placed the board in the shallow water and tentatively stepped on, one foot at a time, feeling the board wobble under my weight. I started on my knees, paddling out a short distance to where the water was calm and free of the breaking waves. The paddle sliced through the water with a satisfying swish, and I felt a surge of excitement as I moved away from the shore.

Once I felt stable enough, I slowly rose to my feet, keeping them parallel and about hip-width apart for balance. My legs were shaky, and my heart raced with the thrill of the unknown. I focused on a point on the horizon and began to paddle, the board responding to my every movement. The sensation was exhilarating, a mix of serenity and adrenaline as I glided over the water.

I paddled along the coastline, taking in the sights from this unique vantage point. Schools of small fish flitted beneath me, visible through the glass-like water.


As opposed to the common belief that states paddleboards are meant for standing only, you can actually sit on them and paddle your way through. However, the catch is, not all are designed for the rider to sit on them; some even come with the option of customization where, if you desire, you can attach a sit and make space for your paddle gears separately.

Below we have listed some of the best paddle boarding accessories that you should collect before moving out on the trip:


When moving into the water, the first most concern in every mind rises about safety. But not everyone likes to wear those heavy and uncomfortable life jackets. Well, the best way to keep yourself safe during unfavourable situations is to carry a restube. These inflatable tubes can be tied around the waist with ease. Whenever you feel the urgency, just pull the trigger, and the restube inflates automatically. This handy product can ensure complete safety while moving in the water.

Paddleboard carrier:

Many people report discomfort while carrying their paddleboard from car to beach. Well, to make this task easier, you should invest in a SUP carrier. The market is loaded with many such products, and they are available at a reasonable price. Depending upon whether you are using a solid paddleboard or the inflatable one, you can find a suitable career for it.

Dry bag:

You might be carrying so many valuable accessories to the site, and it is not possible to leave them anywhere while moving into the water. It is good to carry a dry bag in which you can store all your essentials, including keys, camera, smartphone, wallet, clothes and other accessories as well. These dry bags are easily available in a variety of colour, size and shape. You can pick the adjustable one to ensure complete comfort on the way.

Paddleboard seat:

When you want to enjoy kayaking for a longer duration, it is important to feel comfortable on the board. Experts advise investing in a comfortable paddleboard seat that can be easily mounted on the board. These seats are designed using dry, comfy materials and can provide more support to your back. You can also look for seats with straps in the front and rear portion for enhanced adjustability.

Paddleboard anchor:

Have you heard about anchors? They are essential to help you keep board stationery for some time. Anchors provide so many benefits to the users; they can be used while fishing, doing yoga on the board, relaxing in the middle of the water and when you want to get stable in the ocean. Anchors can be easily attached to the paddleboard and can help you get on to the board as well.


  • The blade should slope away from you

If you are picking a paddle for the first time, chances are you will hold it in a way that will allow you to scoop the water and make your way forward. For the uninitiated, this will pull up the water more than you want and create a drag that will eventually slow you down and create difficulty in tackling the paddleboard altogether.

Instead, try holding the paddle in a position where its slope will be away from you and therefore, push down on the water to create a slight lift to furnish you with enhanced smoothness to drift across the water.

  • Use your core strength

If you are standing up while paddling, ensure you are relying on your core strength more than the power of your arms because the latter can make you tired soon. Twist your torso which also happens to be the strongest muscles of the body.

To attain greater efficiency and capitalize on your core as much as you can, bend your knees slightly and look straight towards the horizon rather than looking at your feet which is the stronger instinct especially when you are starting off.

  • Use the right arm

It might not seem very important but, trust us when we say that placing the right hand on the paddle can make way for a lot of difference. If you are paddling on the left, your right hand, despite its strength should be on the top of the grip, and similarly, when paddling on the right, the left hand should be holding the paddle from the top.

Remember to switch hands only when you are shifting between the two sides and not otherwise. Practicing this from the initial days itself will allow you to regulate the paddle better and not fall off the paddleboard that often.

  • Push down and pull back

When you are stroking the paddle, the last thing that you would want is for it to not ensue the amount of power you are looking for. Hence, to evade this possibility, push the paddle hard so that its blade is fully immersed in the water and then pull back towards your ankle as if you are trailing it and then bring up the whole paddle.

More than anything else, you must focus on your posture; avoid being too stiff or too relaxed. Bend your knees slightly, keep the back straight and level your shoulders.



Do not wax the bottom of the paddleboard. For those of you who might know, adding wax to the bottom of the increases its friction and creates an unnecessary drag which, in order to be evaded, will call for more power and strength on your part. An increase in surface friction automatically means surged tension and less tracking and gliding.



Inflatable paddleboards do not pop during regular usage; they are durable and tough. But if you do not put them at right places, you may end up compromising even inflatable and the rigid ones as well.



Paddle length should be somewhere between 8 inches to 10 inches; taller than the overall height of the paddlers. However, the ideal length is always related to the arm length of the paddler, their height, how strongly they can hold it and the thickness of the board.



Prone paddleboarding is known by several names, for some, it is traditional. The rider either lays-down or kneel on the board and paddle using hands. In simpler words, we can call it swimming while laying on the board. Some may confuse it with bodyboarding, which involves riding waves in a prone position. Besides that, both activities need different types of boards.

Adjustable Paddle: A SUP paddle with adjustable heights that can accommodate riders with different heights.

All Around Board: Boards with ample width and rounded nose that are designed to work in all conditions.

Blade: This is paddle’s flat section which helps to create forward motion by engaging with water.

Bungee: A part of the bungee cord which is attached to the tail of the board. It helps to transport a few accessories such as PFDs and dry bags etc.

Carry Handle: It is an integrated handle that allows easy transportation of the board.

Crossover: A special type of board which is designed for paddling in all kind of conditions.

Deck Pad: It is a textured, soft EVA material which covers stand-up paddle board’s deck for enhanced traction, grip, and comfort. The deck pads can vary in terms of thickness, length and texture.

EVA: It is the textured and soft material which is used to make deck pads for paddleboards.

Fin: It is located exactly below the board, somewhere close to the tail. It is possible to find paddleboards with unique fin styles and shapes. They help to enhance the board’s ability to travel in the straight line.

Foam: This material is used on the core of most of the non-inflatable paddleboards.

Goofy Foot: It is a famous surfing stance where riders keep their right foot forward on the paddleboard.

Quad: is a fin arrangement with four fins.

Recovery: This stage comes after the release phase of the paddle stroke. In this condition, the paddle is moved forward to begin a new stroke. Note that the recovery phase is basically the final part of the paddle stroke.

Touring Board: This type of SUP boards are meant to cover larger distance and that too at a faster speed.

Tracking: It is basically a measure of how well the SUP can travel in the straight line. Higher tracking level leads to straight board movement.

Valve: It is the point where Inflatable SUP is connected to the pump hose to fill the air.

WindSUP: These types of boards are designed with a mast attachment that allow the use of specially designed windsurfing sail.

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