How To Get Started With Stand Up Paddleboarding: The Basics

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Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is an exhilarating water sport that offers a unique blend of adventure and relaxation (if done right). 🏄‍♂️🌊💦

If you’re eager to dip your toes into the world of SUP, you’re in for a fantastic experience. I’ve been an avid paddleboarder for years, and I’m here to guide you through the essentials of getting started with this super fun water sport.

Looking for our best paddle board product recommendations?
Check the Paddleboard Insiders Buyer Guides

In this article, we’ll explore the gear you need, basic paddling techniques, how to maintain balance on a paddleboard, proper paddle handling, dealing with falls, different paddle strokes, and valuable tips for your inaugural outing.

What Gear You Need For Stand Up Paddleboarding:

When it comes to stand up paddleboarding, you only really need a few key pieces of equipment to get out on the water. Here’s what you need:


One of the first decisions you’ll make is choosing the right paddleboard. Beginners should opt for a stable, wider board. You can choose between inflatable and solid boards. Inflatable paddleboards are convenient for storage and transport, while solid boards may offer slightly better performance.

Pro Tip: When selecting a board, consider its length, width, and volume. A wider board offers more stability, making it ideal for those just starting.

Recommendation 1: ISLE Pioneer 10’6″ Paddleboard

stand up paddleboarding

Where To BuyAmazon

Why It’s Awesome:
– Allows up to 285lb in weight

– 10’6″ in size

– Comes with bag, leash, fin and paddle

– 2 Year warranty on materials

– 60 day return policy

The ISLE Pioneer paddleboard is their original bestselling paddleboard and it’s designed to be an all rounder board. It’s perfect for both flat water and even small waves so you will have ample choice for where you want to paddleboard. I highly recommend this board and you can never go wrong with it 🙂

Recommendation 2: Tower 10’4″ Paddleboard

Where To BuyTower Paddleboards

Why It’s Awesome:
– Non-Slip deck that is great for stability and it performs like a hard board

– Beautiful wood design

– Comes with paddle, pump, deck pad, fins, hand hold strap and carrying strap

– 2 Year Manufacturers Warranty

stand up paddleboarding

This Tower paddleboard is a really good SUP. It is made from rugged materials that function in a similar way to a hardboard, and because of this you’ll get all the benefits that come from this.

It’s also extremely durable and they even have case studies where they drive over the paddleboard with a car to show how sturdy they are. So if you’re looking for a top quality SUP that doesn’t destroy your budget then I would recommend you look into this.

Get more recommendations on top paddleboards here:
8 Of The Best Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards For People On A Budget

Next up… You need a paddle…


Your paddle is your engine, so choose wisely. Look for an adjustable paddle that suits your height. A lightweight paddle will reduce fatigue during longer outings.

Pro Tip: Stand next to your paddle, and the handle should reach your wrist when your arm is extended upward.

Recommendation 1: Super Paddles Elite 12k Bamboo

stand up paddleboarding

Where To BuyAmazon

Why It’s Awesome:
– Made from carbon fiber so it’s featherlight and you won’t feel like you’re holding anything

See also  The Ultimate Guide To Choosing And Using A Paddle Board Motor

– 3 Piece & adjustable so that you can get the perfect fit for your height.

– Comes with a rugged, adventure bag included for easy transport.

– Looks good and is an extremely high performer when it comes to paddles.

This is a featherlight paddle that was build for speed and performance. It has a carbon shaft and blade that’s covered in a beautiful Bamboo veneer. This is the best paddleboard paddle that I’ve ever seen and I would strongly recommend it for anyone no matter what level.

Recommendation 2: RedSnake Hydrodynamic Paddle

Where To BuyAmazon

Why It’s Awesome:
– This paddle is durable, light and floatable to make sure that you don’t lose your paddle when falling.

– 3 Piece & adjustable so that you can get the perfect fit for your height.

– Comes with a paddleboarding bag for easy transportation

– It gives you a really strong power output on each stroke.

stand up paddleboarding

I absolutely loved this paddle! Not only is it a great all around paddle, but it also has some incredible power behind it. The carbon fiber frame is light and durable and it folds into a small little package when you’re travelling. But my favorite part of this paddle is the ergonomic handle because it takes off a lot of strain on your wrist. If you’re looking for a new paddleboard paddle then this is a great choice and it was my #2 favorite paddle in testing.


Safety should always be a priority. Invest in a comfortable PFD that’s approved for paddleboarding. Make sure it fits snugly to provide maximum protection.

Recommendation 1: Onyx M-16 Belt Life Jacket

Where To BuyAmazon

Why It’s Awesome:
– US Coast guard approved

– Small and non-restrictive (you can barely feel it on your waist)

– Easy to inflate in the water + the CO2 cartridge is included.

The Onyx M-16 is hands-down the best belt paddleboarding life jacket that I’ve ever seen. It is small, non-restrictive and it feels like nothing is on you when you’re paddling. But if you ever have an instance where you fall into the water then you can rest easy knowing that it’s there for you.

Recommendation 2: Onyx MoveVent Life Vest

Where To BuyAmazon

Why It’s Awesome:
– US Coast guard approved

– Open arms stops you from feeling restricted when paddling.

– Can easily hold even the heaviest people in the water.

This life jacket is amazing for a beginner paddleboarder. It is extremely buoyant, comfortable and visible in the water (even in low light). And while it does struggle with being bigger than a belt life jacket, it will provide you with the extra buoyancy that you need when falling in the water.


Attaching a leash to your ankle or calf is essential. It prevents your board from drifting away if you fall off, ensuring a safer experience.

Recommendation 1: BPS Storm Premium Leash

Where To BuyAmazon

Why It’s Awesome:
– Coiled leash stops it from snagging on rocks and seaweed in the water.

– 10 Foot length gives you plenty room if you separate from the board.

– Has a handy swivel on the ankle that stops it from tangling and dragging in the water.

– Extremely comfortable and doesn’t chafe your ankle.

This leash is a world-class leash that will serve you for years to come. Over the years I’ve tested out dozens of leashes and there are often common problems like being uncomfortable, too short or get tangled. This leash seems to avoid all of those issues with it’s smart design and quality material. It’s the only recommendation I will give you because it’s the only leash that I’ve found that truly met my needs.


Paddleboarding often involves hours in the sun. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen, wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare, and put on a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun’s rays.

Recommendation 1: Surf Bucket Hat

Where To Buy: Amazon

Why It’s Awesome:
– This is a hat that was designed for watersports

– It protects your face and neck from the sun and stays on your head during a wipeout (with the chin straps)

– It has a removable neck flap that you can use for extra protection.

This is an awesome wide-brimmed sun hat that provides shade for your face and neck, reducing the risk of sunburn and heatstroke. It also has a chin strap that is really handy if you fall off your SUP or to keep it on during a windy session out on the water.

See also  10 Best Places To Paddleboard In San Francisco, SF (w/prices)

Recommendation 2: Kuguaok Polarized Sports Sunglasses

Where To Buy: Amazon

Why It’s Awesome:
– These are stylish, comfortable and have a polarized lens that eliminates all glare from the water.

– It comes with a rope to stop them falling off your face if you fall.

– They float for a while so if they fall off it’s not a disaster to find them again.

These are some really nice (and budget-friendly) sunglasses. They are polarized to avoid the glare on the water… And they come at a price that you really don’t care that much if you fall into the water and lose them. The strap should prevent that but it’s always a possibility 😉

Recommendation 3: Sun Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen

Where To Buy: Amazon

Why They Are Awesome:
– SPF 50 and completely water resistant so you don’t have to worry about burning if you go in the water

– It moisturizes your skin and is also oil free so you don’t have sand sticking to you.

– It was made for surfing so it’s a really good quality sun cream that you’ll love.

This is a really high quality sun cream that I love! It’s made for surfing so it’s really good when it comes to you going in and out of the water constantly. It’s also non-stick so you won’t be covered in sand… And I know this sounds weird, but it smells like summer (in a good way). This is my favorite stand up paddleboarding sun cream on the market.

And there you have it…

These are all the items that you need to start stand up paddleboarding, easy right?

So once you have those items then let’s go into the techniques.

Basic Stand Up Paddleboarding Techniques

The first thing that you’re going to have to learn is how to stand up, so let’s cover that now.


Standing up on a paddleboard may seem daunting at first, but it’s all about balance. Begin in knee-deep water, placing your board parallel to the shore.

Follow these steps to stand up confidently:

  • Start on your knees in the center of the board.
  • Keep your hands on the board for stability.
  • Gradually move one foot forward, placing it where your knees were.
  • Now, step up with the other foot.
  • Maintain a slight bend in your knees to absorb movements.

If you learn better with a video then this is a good one:

Here’s a more detailed guide on how to stand when paddleboarding:
How To Stand On A Paddleboard: The Definitive Guide

Next, let’s talk about how you hold your paddle.


How you hold the paddle is crucial for efficiency and comfort. It is really simple when you know how, but most people don’t actually teach you this…

But I got you covered 🤓

Follow these guidelines:

  • Hold the paddle with one hand on the handle and the other hand on the shaft.
  • Ensure the angle of the paddle blade is facing forward.
  • Keep your hands shoulder-width apart for better control.
stand up paddleboarding

Something that you want to pay close attention to is the direction of your paddle. You want the curved side facing backwards.

For example: The blade should angle forward from the shaft, towards the nose of the board (like in the image).

This will help you get some real traction whenever you paddle, and propel you forward.

Different Stand Up Paddleboarding Strokes

To navigate efficiently, it’s beneficial to learn the various paddle strokes:

Forward StrokeUse the forward stroke for cruising and maintaining a straight line.
Reach forward, immerse the paddle fully, and pull it back to your ankle.
Alternate sides with each stroke to go straight.
Reverse StrokeThe reverse stroke helps you paddle backward or slow down.
Push the paddle away from your ankle towards the tail of the board.
Sweep StrokeWhen you want to make sharp turns or wide arcs, use the sweep stroke.
Extend the paddle out to the side and sweep it in a wide arc.

This might sound complicated but as soon as you get out on the water then it will be easy 🙂

Staying Balanced When Stand Up Paddleboarding:

Balancing on a paddleboard is a skill that develops with practice. Don’t worry about falling in a few times when you’re first getting started, that’s completely normal! You’re learning.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can pick it up when you take off the pressure of being able to stand immediately.

See also  Best Paddle Board Stickers: 15 SUP Decals You Can't Miss

But let’s make sure that you’re as steady as possible on the board.

Here are some tips on how to stay steady:

Keep a Wide StanceStand with your feet hip-width apart.
Distribute your weight evenly between both feet.
Slightly bend your knees to absorb the board’s movements.
Engage Your CoreActivate your core muscles by slightly tucking in your pelvis.
A strong core helps maintain balance and stability.
Look AheadFocus on a fixed point on the horizon.
This not only helps with balance but also keeps you oriented.

Take a look at this example and see if you can spot all of these different tips in the photo.

stand up paddleboarding

Next let’s talk about falling.

Falling And Getting Back On

Falling off your paddleboard is part of the learning process, but knowing how to fall and get back on is crucial for safety:


Falling into the water is part of the paddleboarding journey. Embrace it with a sense of humor and learn to fall safely (Even the pro’s fall off). You want to make sure that you are at least aware of how to fall properly so that you can prevent silly injuries and niggles that could have been prevented.

stand up paddleboarding

The trick is to try to fall away from your board to avoid collisions, and always surface with a smile – it’s all part of the fun! You have a leash attached so it’s not a big deal and your board isn’t going to float away. But if you can fall away from the board then you’ll avoid hitting the board or a nasty paddleboard fin.


And once you fall off – don’t panic! Just get back on the board (it’s easy once you know how).

Here’s how to get back on your board:

Step 1: Swim to the back of the board and grab the handle near the tail. Push down and this should elevate your board into the air.

Step 2: Grab the side of your SUP (the rails) and pull your chest onto the board

Step 3: Kick your feet while holding the board to get your stomach onto the board

Step 4: Paddle like you’re on a surfboard so that you can fetch your paddle

Step 5: Get back on your knees to find your balance and then try again. (PLUS – pat yourself on the back because you did it!)

Tips For Your First Stand Up Paddleboarding Outing

As you embark on your first SUP adventure, consider these valuable tips to ensure a memorable and safe experience:

Start in Calm Waters

Choose a location with calm, flat waters for your maiden voyage – this will give you the highest likelihood of standing for the first time.

Avoid strong currents and heavy wind, especially when starting out because it makes it significantly harder to paddle.

Use this interactive guide to find some amazing paddleboarding spots near you:
Best Places To Go Paddleboarding Near Me – A Free Interactive Guide

Go with a Friend

Paddleboarding with a buddy is not only more enjoyable but also safer. You can help each other if needed and it’s just more fun to experience it for the first time with someone else there.

Make sure that you are capturing all the special (and funny) moments also while you’re out on the water with a camera.

Recommendation 1: Go Pro Hero 11 Black

Where To Buy: Amazon

Why It’s Amazing:
– Waterproof action camera that you can use to catch amazing water shots on Lake Mead

– Great image quality and Hi-Res photos will make this something that you can take everywhere

– Has won Emmy awards for its Hyper Smooth Stabilization.

Respect Nature

Enjoy the beauty of nature while paddleboarding but do so responsibly, avoid disturbing the wildlife and dispose of trash properly.

A really good rule of thumb to follow is to leave the environment exactly how you found it, do that and you’re all sorted 🙂

Learn from Others

Observing experienced paddleboarders can be incredibly instructive. Watch other riders and see if you can see all the strategies and techniques that I’ve spoken about in this article (and some of the mistakes).

You can pick up valuable tips and techniques from watching other people and it’s a really easy way to improve without having to get your feet wet in the water.

Looking for more tips to get you going faster?
15 Pro Tips to Make Your First Time Paddleboarding a Great Experience


In the world of water sports, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) stands out as a remarkable and accessible adventure that connects you with nature while offering a fantastic full-body workout. As you embark on your SUP journey, remember that the key to success lies in preparation, practice, and patience.

We’ve covered the essentials of SUP, from selecting the right gear to mastering basic paddling techniques, staying balanced on your board, and understanding different paddle strokes. Armed with this knowledge, you’re well on your way to becoming a proficient paddleboarder.

Stand Up Paddleboarding FAQs

Is SUP suitable for beginners?

Yes, SUP is beginner-friendly. Start in calm waters and practice in a safe environment. Don’t rush the learning process.

Looking for insider guides to some amazing paddle boarding locations?
Check the Paddleboard Insiders Location Guides

Do I need prior experience in water sports?

No, prior experience is not necessary. SUP is easy to learn, and you can progress at your own pace. Just be patient and persistent.

What’s the ideal board size for beginners?

For beginners, it’s best to choose a wider and more stable board for better balance. As you gain confidence, you can explore narrower options. Look at some of the recommendations about to see the kind of paddleboards that you should look at getting.

Can children participate in SUP?

Yes, children can enjoy SUP, but they should always wear appropriate safety gear and be supervised by adults. Make it a fun family activity!

Here are some of the best paddleboards for children on the market right now:
The Best Kids Paddleboard Of 2023: 5 Easy Options To Get Any Child On The Water Fast.

Are there any age restrictions for SUP?

There are no strict age restrictions, but children should have proper supervision, and adults should be physically fit for the activity. Stand up paddleboarding can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Stand up paddleboarding
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Jason Watson

My initial goal was to document my paddleboarding experiences with friends and family, but that has evolved into a commitment to share this sport with as many people as possible because of the health benefits & peace of mind it has given me. This sport is not only a great way to see the world, but it also helps us come closer to ourselves. Information gives us strength!

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