How to Stand Up Paddle Board A Beginners Guide

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How do you use a stand up paddle board? You jump on and paddle off majestically into the distance right!? Well… No… There are a few things you have to do before you ride off into the most majestic of sunsets. Luckily we have summarised them for you here.
 
Paddle Boarding is easily one of my favorite things to do during the summer. Just like hiking, it is an excellent activity that you can include your friends, family. I actually recommend trying paddle boarding for the first time with your friends. This promotes a safe environment and also puts added pressure on you not to be the first one to fall off!
 
In all seriousness though once you read this guide on how to use a stand up paddle board, you will be the one leading the group and becoming the teacher. Should you get advanced enough you can even start Paddle Boarding with your Dog!
 
Below we go through tips and tricks and briefly talk about whats a good stand up paddle board for beginners.
How to Use a Paddle Board
Me Paddling at White Rock Beach, Canada
No, it is not! And I am not just saying that to give you a push into the water! From personal experience I have a terrible sense of balance, even when growing up I was always the butt end of jokes when on the balance beam. When I tried a paddle board for the first time I was able to stand up. The main difference between surfing and paddle boarding is your stance.
 
On a paddle board you are facing forward with one foot on the end of each side of the board. This helps you get full control of the board and gives you a more secure feeling instead of the sideways “balance beam” stance. This firm stance also allows you to maneuver the board better with the paddle. After a few goes you start getting more comfortable standing.

What you will Need to Start

It can be Inflatable or fiberglass hard board. See the differences below  

Sometimes a paddle will come with the board! Many times though, they are not of great quality and not all of them float. 

 

A whistle is great to have if you are going in deeper water and are further away from shore. In fact in many places you have to have a whistle with you to go out paddling.

This is especially important if you are in the surf zone and you fall off your board. The board leash straps around your ankle and insures that your board will not stray too far away from you.

Clothing Needed

A PFD or (or personal flotation device) comes in a variety of different forms for Paddle Boarders. The most common PFDs are Belt PFD’s and Vest PFD’s. Both of these are more ideal than your typical bulkly life vests because they do not get in the way of your paddling motion . 

Unless you consider yourself a nudest this is pretty self explanatory.  If conditions are colder you will need a wet suit or a dry suit for winter like conditions

Be sure to get something that covers your whole head and not just part of it if you are paddling the entire day.

Ideal to get polarised sunglasses with a strap at the back. in case they fall off of your face.

SPF 30 is usually acceptable, go higher or lower depending on your preference and skin tan. 

Renting vs Owning a Stand Up Paddle Board

There is no right or wrong in this answer it depends on how often you are going to paddle and where you live. Starting off I went to a local rental shop close to where I live. Their price is around $20 an hour although their definition of an hour was pretty loose. This allowed me to judge how I liked the sport and if I would do it again. You can probably guess that I did as I am currently writing this article about this subject!

Me Paddle Boarding

I rented a paddle board from this shop almost every weekend. This all added up which made me consider actually buying one. If you do the math $20 X 15 weekends is $300 spent on renting a board. I do not mean to knock rental shops by any means as they are a great way to try and learn the sport for cheap. It’s just that if you do decide to make it a weekly endeavor you are better off buying. At that price, you are about halfway to buying a pretty good quality inflatable paddle board that can easily last you over five years.
 
I ended up buying my own paddle board after about a year of renting and I’m glad I did so. I’m not just limited to that one area but now I can paddle all over Vancouver and just about anywhere with a body of water.
 
I ended up buying a new inflatable paddle board from Craigslist. While I am happy with the board quality and performance I kind of wish I bought a more respectable brand. This is because many of them come with manufacturer warranties. As a result, their accessories are usually of decent quality. Unfortunately for me my paddle locks into place and I cannot loosen it by hand while on the water. I am usually left kneeling on the board when paddling. I’ll go into the types of paddle board to buy below.
 
In the mean take a look at some of the inflatable paddle boards that I recommend for beginners.

Inflatable Paddle Board vs Hard Board

You can see more details about the differences between an inflatable paddleboard vs a hardboard here. In the meantime here is a round up on which you should choose for the following reasons.

Inflatable Paddle Boards are great for

  • Portability
  • Storage
  • Durability
  • Beginners
  • Safety

Fiberglass Hard Boards are great for

  • On Water Performance
  • More Challenging Conditions
  • Being More Rigid
  • Having a Smoother Ride
  • Paddling at a greater speed
The feel of these boards is very different. Remember inflatable boards you are sitting “on top” of the water while with hardboards it’s partially submerged. This often has a very different feeling. An example of this is when my friend bought his inflatable board for the first time he had difficulty standing on it. He was used to the board having that more stable feeling of being partially in the water. As a result, standing up on the inflatable board caused him to feel unsteady. Like anything in life, pick one and practice your balance and you will be a pro in no time.
 
I chose a flatwater Inflatable paddle board model and I’m actually pretty happy with its speed and tracking. It is, however, not as stable as the hard boards I have rented in the past. This is not a knock on all inflatable paddle boards, mind you, flatwater boards tend to be more narrow because they are built for more glide. Starting out I would say that it is safer to be on an inflatable paddleboard. This is because if you fall chances are it will not cause as big of an impact as falling on a fiberglass paddleboard.
 
A good quality inflatable paddleboard is also less expensive compared to a good quality hardboard. Good quality inflatable paddle boards will run you anywhere from $450- $800. Fiberglass (or Epoxy) paddle boards are in the $600 – $1500 range.
 
Below I will outline the types of paddleboards there are and which are good for what kind of paddling.

Types of Paddle Boards

Below are some direct comparisons of each type of SUP to help you judge which paddle board you should try. Of course it’s hard to peg the exact stats of each paddle board model so the charts are simply generalised representations of that type of board, not the models in the pictures. 

Paddle Board Pictures respective rights  go to BIC, NSP, Naish, Focus SUP, Isle and California Board Company. 

Recreational/ All- Around

Recreational Paddle Board

These boards are rounder in looks and are usually wider as well. These are the ideal types of boards to start off with as a beginner. They won’t win you any races on the water but they give you that stable feeling that you need before heading out. Typically the measurement sweet spot for these boards is 10’6” to 12’ length and 30- 34 “ width. All around paddle boards can be found in both hardboard and inflatable varieties. The Inflatable ones will generally be cheaper though.

Hybrid Touring/ Flat Water Boards

Flat Water Paddle Board
These boards are the in-between of an all-around board and a touring board. They have the pointy nose feature of the hardboard but they maintain the all-around board’s width. These boards are still pretty good for beginners. Yet, in my experience, they can get some getting used to. The main benefit you have with these boards is the hydrodynamic hull. The hull of these boards maneuvers easier and I noticed that they were quicker.
 
I did a direct test between my inflatable flatwater board and my friend’s all-around board and I could immediately see some differences. His all-around board felt way more stable, especially when I ran into some waves. But, my flatwater board was faster in the water and it was able to maneuver better as well.

Touring and Race Boards

Race Paddle Board
Touring boards are meant to be paddled long distances, so the design used is to reduce drag. They are typically pointy, longer in length, and skinnier in width. These boards range from 11’ to 12’6” in length. Theoretically, you could start off with this board but you will have a very steep learning curve. Which means you will probably fall into the drink more than a time or two.
 
Touring boards come in inflatable and hardboard varieties. But, the hardboards are better served for their purpose because they are faster. Isle Surf and SUP did a test and found that inflatable touring boards were a little slower than their hardboard cousins.

Surfing Paddle Boards

Surf Paddle Board

These boards are often hardboards that look like a hybrid between a paddle board and a surfboard. There are a few types of surfing paddleboards but the most common tend to be the longboards and the shorter surf paddle boards. These boards are more for people who are experienced and have access to coastal surf. As a result, they are less stable and have a higher rocker (side of the board that has a curved appearance). This rocker allows you to have more control while riding a wave.

Yoga Paddle Boards

Yoga Paddle Board

These are the most stable boards you can find that are meant for, you guessed it! Yoga! If you are already a big yogi then I would highly recommend using these boards as part of your practice. This is because it allows you to work on your core stability muscles that are essential for keeping the board steady on the water. SUP Yoga boards come in inflatable and hardboard varieties. The inflatable ones are usually more popular because of the convenience factor.

Fishing Paddle Boards

Fishing SUP

Fisherman you are in luck! There are fishing paddle boards and they can be used for the same purposes as stand-up fishing kayaks. The fisherman who goes with these boards typically wants something more versatile. They have the ability to stand, sit, lie down or kneel while on the water. As a result, these boards are very steady and can be used as beginner boards. These boards come in inflatable and hardboard preferences. Both a great, but it just depends on what your needs are.

Where to Stand Up Paddle Board

If you are a beginner like I once was I would recommend a calm lake or bay. I live next to the ocean and as we know, the seas are a particularly uncertain mistress. I would always have to check the tides and water conditions before heading out.
 
I remember the third time we went out paddleboarding it was particularly difficult paddling in windy conditions. There were a lot of waves and we could only kneel while we paddled. It was also pretty difficult to make any headway against the waves. But, hey at least we got a learning experience and more cardio than we bargained for!
 
You want to start out launching off sand, grass, or off of a dock. When launching you want to place the paddleboard in front of you and climb onto it. Watch the video below on exactly how to do this as they are great at explaining the process.
 

Quick Beginner Tips Before You Begin

Before you get into the water here are some things to keep in mind to make your pregression seamless. 

Adjust Your Paddle Height

Adjust the paddle to your ideal height. How you do this is by extending the paddle to how high up your arm can extend upwards. You then lower the knob to where you can rest your wrist onto it. If you are going to start off kneeling you can adjust the paddle on the fly, although this will be more difficult.

Engage Your Core

Engaging your core will help you paddle for a longer period of time. This is because a lot of the actual paddling motion is your core being activated. As a result, this lessens the burden on your arm muscles. See this video for more information.

Look and Face Straight Ahead

You will feel much more balanced at ease when looking ahead as opposed to looking behind. I cannot begin to recount how many times I’ve lost balance just because I looked behind me to see what my friend was doing. It is also a good idea to keep your head up because that allows for maximum stability. In many ways riding a paddleboard is a lot like riding a bike. When you ride a bike do you look down? Of course not! While looking ahead keeping your posture will also allow you to keep stability in the water.

How to Tackle Wind and Water

A boat comes flying by followed by a big wake. What do you do? If you are a beginner, I would say your best bet is to prepare yourself by getting into the seated or kneeling position. The further down your center of gravity is the less likely you are to fall into the water.
 
If you do want to fancy your chances and try to stay balanced while waves come at you, keep your knees bent. When you are standing straight you are not able to react to movement in the water. As a result, you will topple into the water. If you bend your knees you can absorb the impact and maintain a better center of gravity.
 
The best way to tackle a wave is to paddle along with it or into it (for smaller waves). Having a wave hit your board on its side will greatly reduce your balance which will increase the chances of your falling into the water.
 
Wind can be a bit trickier. While it won’t impact your balance as much it will determine how much harder or less you have to paddle. Paddling against the wind can be a slow and tiring ordeal. It’s best to keep that into consideration when you are figuring out where you want to paddle.

How to Get up on a Stand Up Paddle Board

The first thing you want to do is make sure you have a steady platform on which to stand. I bought an inflatable flat board as my first paddle board. The result is a lot less steady and my learning curve is much steeper. So make sure to start off on a wider type of paddle board that has a U-shaped nose and is at least 30” Wide.
 
You’re at the beach, you got your board and you’re ready to go paddle boarding! The only problem is how do you get on and stay on? Follow the steps or video above and you will become a pro in no time! The 10 Tips from Surfer Today also explain the process well
how to use a stand up paddle board
courtesy of
StandUpPaddlingTV
  1. First Wade in knee-deep water with your board facing in front of you. Make sure that the water is deep enough so that the tracking fin does not scrape the bottom
  2. Place your paddle perpendicular onto the board for balance. You will then place your right knee a few inches to the right of the board, make sure you are holding the board steady when doing this. Next, you will place your left knee onto the other side of the board handle and stabilize
  3. Assuming this is your first time you will want to paddle along on your knees for a while. This is to get used to how the board handles while on the water.
how to use a stand up paddle board
Courtesy of PaddleTV
  1. To stand up (assuming you are in the kneeling position) place the paddle onto your board in front of you with your hands over it. Place your toes onto the board, then place one knee in front of you in front of your chest and let the other one follow. You will then be in a squat position so you straighten your back and rise up so that you are standing.
  2. Once you are up we recommend that you place your paddle into the water quickly so that you get extra balance. This also gives you instant momentum moving forward and there for stabilizing the board in the process. It’s the same principle as getting on a bike.
  3. Once up you want to ensure that you are on the “sweet spot” of the board. This sweet spot is where the board is perfectly balanced. That is the front end is not too much in the water and neither is the back. If you are not within the “Sweet Spot” of your board. Simply place the blade of your paddle onto the board for stability and move up or down.

Our friends over at Höga Kusten Surf suggest the following technique for people who may not be able to do the above technique

  • Start from the side of the board
  • Lay the paddle over the board by your side facing front of board
  • Put your arms far onto the board as you manage
    SWIM with legs to get your body horizontal in the water
  • KICK your feet hard use your elbows and under-arms as a hinge to get the board under your chest.
  • IMORTANT : Do NOT grab the far end But put your hands on the near side of the board, by your waist, and push your body inwards until you’re over the boards.

Just because you are on a stand-up paddleboard doesn’t mean you actually have to “stand up” on it. I find that you actually get better strokes from your paddle by kneeling as opposed to standing up. Still, it is a good idea to at least attempt to stand at some point or another as it will work more muscles and become a more compounded exercise.

How to Paddle

There are a few principles you should note when paddling. The first is the position of your paddle. Typically a SUP paddle has a bend before the shaft. You want this bend to be forward-facing. This allows the paddle to hit the water at the proper angle. From here will learn a few techniques. REI explains it best in the video below. 

Forward Stroke

When paddling forward you should start off with the paddle reaching about two feet in front of you. Place the blade into the water and move it down to your foot. Use your torso and core while doing this motion and keep the paddle in a straight line. I usually like to do 3 to 4 stokes on each side before switching sides if I am trying to keep a relatively straight course. If you want to turn to keep paddling to the one side.

Reverse Stroke

This one can be a little bit more tricky for newbies as you are not used to backward momentum but it is an important skill to practice. You can use this stroke to slow down (like when you see that sunken log too late that could hit your fin), to stop or turn. You want your stroke to be about 2 feet behind you going to your foot.

Sweep Stroke

This is handy for making sudden turns where you want to do a 180. For this one, you bend over and stick your paddle out further than the forward stroke. You do a Rainbow motion (half-circle) from the nose of your paddleboard all the way to the tail of the board. When doing this motion you want the blade entirely submerged. This is to get the most power possible as this motion often requires the most amount of effort.

How to Fall off a Stand Up Paddle Board (And Get back on)

At some point, you may fall off of a stand up paddle board and that’s ok! When you get to the point of no return (when you are unbalanced and falling) simply fall feet first into the water. Avoid landing on any part of the board. This will keep you from seriously injuring yourself. I also recommend that you have an ankle leash and PFD on so that you are not stuck stranded in the water. I especially recommend this for people who are getting into SUP Yoga.
 
When in the water there is a good chance your paddle has gone overboard as well. First swim towards your board, get on, and then retrieve your paddle. It is best to get onto the board first as you can always paddle your board but can’t paddle your paddle without a board! It is also a good idea to spend some money on a decent quality paddle that actually floats. I almost lost mine in lake Shuswap last summer!
 
To get back onto your paddleboard go at it from the side, use the carry handle as leverage to haul yourself back up onto the board. Like how a seal would haul onto the rocks. If your paddle has gone overboard retrieve it. The below video will show you how to do these steps properly.

How to Transport a Stand Up Paddle Board

how to use a stand up paddle board

For people that do not have a lot of room to spare (such as me) an inflatable paddle board is your best bet. It’s easier to store and they’re easier to transport. When rolled up Inflatable boards are about the size of a hockey bag and often can be carried by a bigger bag. As a result, you can store them in a closet when you are done or simply place it in the trunk or back seat of your car. When the inflatable board is ready for your use you have to unroll it, inflate it, and your set! The process usually takes 5- 10 minutes depending on the paddle board and the pump you are using.
 
If you do have space and plan to get serious about stand up paddle boarding then a hard fiberglass board is a good option. For storage usually, a garage or anywhere away from the sun is a good place to store it for the winter. For transportation, you can tie it to the top of your car/ truck roof or in the bed of your truck if it is long enough.

Final Thoughts

Getting on a paddleboard for the first time is not the hardest thing to do in the world but it is also not the easiest. If you follow these above steps and watch the videos closely. You will be well prepared for your maiden paddling journey. Hopefully, you pick up a new hobby or obsession that you enjoy doing during the spring and summer months.

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