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20 Tips & Tricks for Stand-up Paddling Beginners

by Cristina Costea

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Stand-up paddling, or SUP, is the fastest-growing watersport in the world. It’s incredibly fun, easy enough to learn for beginners and challenging enough for experienced paddlers. It provides a great entire body workout and it can be done pretty much on any water surface, from lakes to oceans. 

Stand-up paddling was made popular in the modern world by surf legend Laird Hamilton in 2004, but its roots can be traced back to the ancient Hawaiian culture. If stand-up paddleboarding is something you want to try, check out our awesome tips and tricks for SUP beginners!

1. Get the right board. For SUP beginners, your best choice of board would be a board that’s as wide, thick, and long as you can possibly find. It will help keep you steady and balanced. If you can’t seem to find your balance on the board, maybe you need to go even larger and thicker!

2. Get the right paddle. The rule of thumb is that the paddle needs to be around 10 inches (25 cm) longer than you, for a good grip and traction.

3. Get the right leash. Again, a good rule of thumb is that the leash needs to be either as long as or a bit shorter than your board. Remember to always use your leash, even if you’re an advanced paddler!

4. Start in calm waters. It may seem like a no-brainer bit of advice, but it needs to be said. Start in calm waters, take it slow, and only start paddling once you’ve managed to find a good balance.

5. Don’t be afraid. You will fall, so you need to make peace with this piece of information. Don’t let that scare you! In the words of the immortal Batman’s Alfred Pennyworth: “Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

6. Learn to take a fall. Your instructor will most likely teach you how to take a fall, but if they don’t, go ahead and ask them to show you. The falling part is one of the most important parts of learning any type of watersport! Knowing how to fall will help you avoid getting injured.


7. Don’t look at your feet. Have you ever taken dance lessons? It’s the same thing – you must not stare at your feet and look straight ahead in front of you. Looking at your feet can cause you to lose your balance or even crash into someone else.

8. Tackle the waves you know you can tackle. As a beginner, you may be eager to start riding the waves, but you may not be ready for that. Listen to your instructor and take it slowly!

9. Wear a vest. If you’re an excellent swimmer, you can skip the vest. But otherwise, it’s recommended that you wear a vest.

10. Learn how to stand. And then how to paddle forward and how to change direction. It may take you a few days, but once you got these mastered, you can start truly enjoying SUP. 

11. On your knees! That’s the position in which you start paddling. Once you’re comfortable there, you can…

12. … start to get up, with one foot at a time. Make sure you are in the middle of the board.

13. Keep a less than firm grip on the paddle. A very firm grip will tire your arms and it doesn’t really help with paddling.

14. Sink the paddle in the water as deep as you can to garner traction and lean onto it!


15. Keep your grip on the paddle shoulder-width apart. Try to avoid short grips, because they have no force in propelling you forward.

16. Your feet on the board should not be in a surfing stance! They’re supposed to be parallel and shoulder-width apart.

17. To turn right, put the paddle in the water on the left side and turn your upper body to the right.

18. Take a tiny break after each stroke. It’s not for relaxing, but for getting a feel of the board and your direction.

19. Once you’re comfortable on your board, try new things, such as SUP yoga! It’s a fantastic workout and it’s fun! Or maybe even try crossing the Atlantic on your SUP board!

20. Have fun! Learning new things can get frustrating at times, but SUP should be nothing but fun, fun, fun!


Inspired to try SUP and put these tips and tricks into practice? Take your pick from our vast selection of SUP camps and vacations

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