Stand Up Paddle Boarding: How To Get Started

Stand Up Paddling (SUP) provides a nice and relaxing way to have fun on the water. With little equipment you can paddle on the ocean, lakes and rivers. Have fun with a group of friends, explore beautiful areas and see undiscovered points of views. SUP is also an exercise for the whole body and so it has become a cross-training activity. Moreover, once you practice the sport of standing on a board, you can enjoy unique views, of marine animals to a fantastic and unforgettable horizon.

This article lists the basic equipment for practicing SUP and techniques for you to get started. Remembering that good professionals and specialized SUP schools are part of this initiation.

1) SUP equipment

Good news: you just need some key equipment to enjoy the sport.

1 – Stand Up Paddle Board: This is the most significant investment. Sizes vary depending on the weight and experience of the rower.

2 – Paddle: To start choose a paddle that is 15cm to 20cm taller than you (important: some manufacturers recommend that this difference be of 20 to 25cm). Over time and with a good technique developed, you will know the best size.

3 – Leash: this is a very important equipment for the practice of both SUP and surfing as it is a safety equipment that will keep the board always attached to you if you fall in the water.

4 – Individual flotation equipment: Some places classify SUP as vessels, so in such cases it is important to always wear a vest if it is in navigable and supervised waters;

5 – Appropriate clothing: For cold climates where hypothermia is cause for concern, wear neoprene clothing. In warmer climates, wear shorts and a T-shirt or swimwear – something that offers mobility and that stays practical even wet;

6 – Sunscreen: wear protective clothing and sunglasses.


Drawing of a guy standing on a paddleboard with a paddlle in his hands.

2) Climbing on the board:

1- When you are new to the sport, it is best to start in calm waters that are free of obstacles. In the beginning, you may find it easier to get on your knees instead of standing. Here are the steps to get you started:

2- Standing beside the board in shallow water, place your paddle across the board, with the shovel in the water;

3- Hold the board by the edges. One hand can hold the paddle;

4- Climb on the board and initially knee or sit a little behind the center of the board;

5- From this position on your knees, have a sense of the balance point of the board. The nose (tip of the board) should not stand up and the tail of the board (back) should not be submerged.

6- Keep your hands out on both sides to stabilize the board;

7- When you are ready, stand on the board step by step. Put your feet where your knees were. You can also count on a friend to stabilize the board while you get up and stand on it.

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Techniques on the water:

These rookie postures maintain your balance while you are standing on the board.

1) Your feet should be parallel. Do not stand on the edges of the board.

2) Your toes should be pointed forward, knees bent and your back straight;

3) Maintain balance with your hips, not with your upper body;

4) Keep your head and shoulders stiff and straight, project your weight by moving your hips;

5) Your gaze should be focused on the horizon, avoid looking at your feet;

6) Just like riding a bike, when your forward thrust increases, your stability increases as well.

7) When you’re comfortable with the board swing in calm waters, it’s time to take a larger path, where the fun really begins.

Our Friends at paddle board Lanai show how to carry your SUP.

Some notes on the basic paddling technique:

1) If you are paddling to your right, your right hand should be further down the paddle and your left hand at the top of the paddle.
2) Keep your arms straight. You have more strength in the abdominal muscles than in your arms;
3) Apply force downwards by leaning on the end of the paddle;
4) Push the paddle of the entire paddle underwater, pull it up to your ankle and then out of the water;
5) At first, keep your paddles short and close to the board, there is no need to use more force than necessary;
6) A little effort at the beginning of the paddling will keep you moving forward;
7) To advance in a straight line, row four or five times on one side to then switch to another side;
8) When changing sides, change the position of hands.

Making curves on a SUP:

There are many ways to change your boards direction easily.
1) Simply paddle on one side until the “nose of the board” turns in the direction you want to go. Want to go right? Paddle to your left. Want to go left? Row to your right;
2) A faster way to turn or reverse direction is to simply hold the paddle behind the board, in the water, on either side;
With a long row from the beginning to the end of the board;

Other tips: Taking a step back or looking over your shoulder toward your turning also helps when making a conversion; Another trick that works well, especially in surfing, is paddling on your dominant side (left foot in front, right paddling). Bend your knees well and put more weight on your back foot. This allows the board to turn quickly.

When falling in the water:

Stand up Paddle is relatively easy to learn, but expect to fall while learning. Tips for these inevitable moments:
Look sideways so that you fall into the water and not your surfboard. Falling on the board is more likely to cause accidents.
If you separate from your board and your paddle, go to the board first and paddle with your hands to retrieve the paddle.

Common Starter Errors:

These mistakes are easy to make when starting out. Try to avoid them and you will have more fun:
1) Hunchback posture. Keep your spine erect and shoulders level;
2) Look at the feet instead of the horizon; Look straight not down.
3) Have both hands on the oar shaft. Your support hand should be on top of the paddle, on the handle;
4) Stand with straight knees. It is easier to balance with bent knees.

Next steps on Stand Up Paddle:

Once you master the basics, there are practically no limits to what you can exploit with your board. Play the waves and the sea, make turns and learn new ways to paddle. You will find yourself wanting a smaller board and more maneuverable as you become more experienced.

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