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How to Stand Up Paddle Board – 101 Guide

   September 8th, 2017   Posted In: Articles, How-To   Tags:

How to Stand Up Paddle Board

How to stand up paddle board is pretty easy, but there are some important tips to consider in order to keep yourself both safe and efficient and to ensure you’re having the most fun!

From coast-to-coast and in every river, lake, and reservoir in between people are stand up paddle boarding. The sport is growing both in the competitive fields and among your average Joe/Janes looking for weekend activities. So, how hard is stand up paddle boarding?

Paddle Board Gear 101

Stand up paddle boards, or SUPs, come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the type of paddling you do. However, at the most basic level, every SUP has a nose, a tail, and two side rails. There are also handles in the center of every board, which demarcate the geographical center of the board. This is typically where you want your body weight to be centered.

On the bottom of every board there is a fin(s). The fin helps you track straight in the water as you paddle and also adds a layer of stability to your board.

The paddle is another essential piece of gear for this sport. While there are a variety of designs and materials that can impact the weight and performance of the paddle, each one has three important parts: the T-grip, the shaft, and the blade.

The T-grip is the handle of the paddle. It serves as your steering wheel. The hand on the opposite side on which you’re paddling is always on the T-grip. When you switch sides, you switch hands. The shaft of the paddle is where your other hand will be placed when paddling. The blade of the paddle is what powers each paddle stroke. For that reason, the blade should always be fully submerged in the water.

How to Ride a Stand Up Paddle Board

how to stand up paddle board

Image courtesy of Jobe Watersports

Part of knowing how to stand up paddle board is knowing how to ride. Standing at the geographical center of the board with a foot on either side of the handle (about should width apart), place the paddle blade (with the blade angle facing away from you) near the nose of the board and pull it to your toes. Rather than pulling your paddle through the water, think about pulling your board to the paddle. Try to imagine engaging your core: tightening your abs and rotating your hips. This is called the forward stroke.

Keeping the shaft of your paddle vertical and your blade close to the rail of your board will help ensure that you’re moving straight through the water rather than zig-zagging or turning. After about 5 or 6 paddle strokes, or when you begin to feel yourself turn off course, switch hands and paddle on the other side of your board. Switching sides a lot when you first learn to paddle is not unusual.

Maneuverability and turning is important when you’re paddling. If keeping your shaft vertical you’re your blade close to the board helps you paddle straight, then you’ll want to do the exact opposite when turning. To make the most simple turn, you’ll want to place the blade in the water at the nose of the board and orient your shaft as horizontal as possible (feel free to bend your knees to do this). Push the blade away from the nose, not down the rail like in the forward stroke. You’ll be turning away from your blade. Continue this motion until you’re desired heading is achieved. This maneuver is typically called a nose sweep.

Safety 101

I always recommend taking a lesson from a certified instructor before hitting your local waterway. This usually ensure familiarity with the equipment and key safety information.

Always familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations. The U.S. Coast Guard requires a personal floatation device (PFD), which should also include a whistle. I also recommend a leash, though it’s important to consult a professional on the appropriate type to use depending on your paddling destination.

Whether you’re paddling alone, with a buddy, or in a group, a float plan is also important to leave behind with a friend or family member. This could be an email, a note, or a text message, but it should always include where you’re paddling, what time you’re leaving, when you’re expected to return, and any pit stops you plan to make along the way.

These are the most fundamental pieces of how to stand up paddle board, but there are a lot of fun strokes and maneuvers to learn and try! Get out, stand up, and have fun!

Scott is an American Canoe Association L3 certified standup paddle board instructor. He's been SUPing his home waters of the Potomac River for over 10 years. Scott is the SUP Director of Potomac Paddlesports where he teaches flat water, white water, and race training classes. When he's not teaching, Scott's SUP racing in the mid-Atlantic region. Although a frequent podium finisher, it's all about the SUP community for him. During Scott's off-season he can be found where his water is still white (just frozen): Whitetail Ski Resort volunteering for the National Ski Patrol.

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  • I think a lot of people underestimate the need for a SUP leash. You can be separated from your board in the blink of an eye if the current are even kind of fast.

    • Hey River Rat! We agree, you can never be too prepared! You should always be aware of the conditions and the possibilities of what can happen around you! Practice safety, preventative measures and good judgement!

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