Home Paddleboarding How to Paddle Board: SUP Techniques, Strokes & Tips for Beginners

How to Paddle Board: SUP Techniques, Strokes & Tips for Beginners

Paddleboarding has been around for decades. Based on statistics, it’s one of the fastest growing aqua sport. Anyone regardless of age, body type, skill level or size can learn how to Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) because it’s a low impact activity that engages a good number of your body muscles.

It’s an excellent way to explore mother nature, as you also keep abreast of your health through various workouts. Herein, learn the basics of SUP, techniques and strokes, equipment and tips to make the experience easy and enjoyable.

Following are the steps to master the art of paddleboarding

1. Gather the Necessary SUP Equipment

It’s always best to come prepared and properly geared up as a beginner. Below is a list of the most common equipment you will need in the course of your water sporting.

  • Stand up paddleboard – you can’t go paddleboarding without the main component. But remember, you’re going with just any board, there are specific boards suitable for beginners. You need to select on that fits perfectly with your size and weight. You can purchase or rent out a board.
  • Paddle – similar to a canoe, the oar has a teardrop shape like blade which is used to slice the water as to maneuver the waters. You also need to choose a paddle that coincides with your height.
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device) -it can be a life jacket or vest. It is an optional gear used to keep you afloat. Depending on your location, the coast guard may deep it necessary for you to put on a life jacket.
  • Safety equipment like a whistle or light that’s used to alert other boaters in case of anything.
  • Clothing – you can put on a bikini or shorts but most people will opt for swimsuits, rash guards, and board shorts.
  • Leash – this is used to tether your board to keep you from falling off.
  • Sun protection (sunscreen and goggles).

You can also carry other accessories with you, depending on location, weather conditions, and water conditions.

2. Start with Beginner SUP Techniques

Stand up paddleboarding is an easy water sport to learn. You only need to do a few basic techniques guided by little instructions and you’re good to go. For this section, we shall take a look at three essential techniques for learning how to paddleboard;

  • How to stand up
  • How to balance
  • How to hold your paddle.

How to Stand Up on Your SUP

  1. Start by getting into the water about knee-deep into it. Ensure the fin of the board is completely submerged in the water.
  2. Standing alongside the board, hold it by the edges and begin to get onto the board using one knee.
  3. Lift yourself into the board until you’re fully on board and get into a kneeling position.  Ensure you are at the center of the board to maintain balance, otherwise, you can easily fall into the water.
  4. Hold the edges of the board to lift yourself up from a kneeling position into a standing position.
  5. Slowly by slowly, start to lift your chest as to move vertically, extending your legs so you stand up.
  6. You can open up your arms in a standing motion to maintain some stability.

Staying Balanced on a SUP

Once you’re up on the board, standing at the center trying to keep the board from losing balance and you falling off, position your feet in a parallel position similar to your hip distance. Keep the toes pointed to ears the same direction – forward.

You can test your balance  by slightly bending your knees and trying to swing back and forth like a surfer. Ensure your back is kept straight. Begin shifting your weight from left to right as you move your hips and look straight ahead. Once you have built some stamina, you can now start using the paddle.

How to Hold a SUP Paddle

Unlike kayaking where you canoe your way sited down without pressure of falling, the paddle, in this case, is rather essential for balance and maneuverability. You can easily hold the paddle the wrong way causing you to exert more pressure and energy than is needed. However, you can avoid this, simply;

  • Angle the blade of the paddle away from to and towards the nose or tail depending on the stroke you would like to begin with.
  • As you paddle on either side of the board, ensure the alternate hand is on the T-grip of the paddle. In case you want to switch sides, simply alternate the hand positions.

With your instructor, they can show you how you will begin to move around with the paddle. The position of your shoulder, torso, and legs should be to keep the movement steady.

Also, don’t be alarmed if you find your board moving in strange directions rather than a straight line. It is normal especially when you are starting. Once you master using the paddle correctly, you will control the direction effortlessly.

Below is the best YouTube video illustrating how exactly to paddleboard in five minutes

3. Progress to SUP Basic Strokes

In the world of paddleboarding, there are several strokes you will be introduced to. As a novice, the will learn the first three strokes as you proceed to learn two additional strokes.

Forward Stroke

As the name suggests, the stroke will propel your board forward. Here’s how you go about it;

  1. Insert the paddle into the water and planting it about two feet forward.
  2. Push the blade of the paddle all the way under the surface.
  3. Navigate the paddle in backward direction through the water up until your ankles.
  4. Remove the paddle from water and repeat the procedure.

As you do this stroke, maintain a straight angle from your arms to your hips. Twist from your torso rather than the entire body. Also, you need to push the paddle down with the upper hand instead of pulling with your lower arm as that only exerts more weight.

To maintain a straight line you will have to paddle with alternate hands – either side of the board. You can go about three strokes on each side to maintain balance and also keep a vertical stature for a straighter direction. The main idea is to draw a letter A in the water where you constantly switch sides. 

Reverse Stroke

Next up is the reverse stroke. Most people use it to slow their pace, stop completely, or turn directions. To do the reverse stroke;

  1. From whichever side you were paddling, reach back behind you and plant the paddle in the water.
  2. Ensure it’s close to the tail as possible to cut the current you’re flowing in.
  3. With the blade, all the way under the surface,  start to pull back. If you were on your right, you should start turning to the right and vice versa.

The reverse stroke is actually very simple compared to the other strokes.

Sweep Stroke

The final novice stroke you will learn is the sweep stroke. It can also be used to change direction especially while standing or moving in a certain direction.

  1. From the right side, rotate your shoulders forward.
  2. Plant the paddle into the water ensuring the blade is submerged all the way under.
  3. Sweep the paddle in an arching motion, like you’re forming a letter C.
  4.  Start from the nose of the board to the tail as you rotate using your torso with your legs and hips as your base/ leverage. For a right sweep, you will be turning to the left and vice versa.

The sweep stroke can also be done in a reverse motion to change direction to the opposite side. You simply follow the above procedure but you live from the tail to the nose. If you advance to a racing game, you may need to leverage a back foot so you can turn directions much quicker.

Draw Stroke

A draw stroke is a winding technique used to pull up alongside a dock or used to change course. Here’s how;

  1. Turn your body towards the direction you intend to change to and plant the paddle in the water.
  2. The paddle should be parallel to your board with your shoulders and hips straight.
  3. Face the paddle towards the board and pull it towards you.
  4. Remove the blade from the water and swing it to either edge of the board – tail or nose.

This is an advanced stroke because of the need to know how to counteract the lateral movement from the tail because of the fin. You have to navigate the water with the paddle closer to the tail than the nose.

CrossBow Stroke

The final stroke is the crossbow stroke. This is one of the most efficient turns you can execute as it doesn’t change the stance of the board. For this stroke, you start by;

  1. Paddling from the right side while maintaining a neutral stance at the center.
  2. Rotate your torso towards the left to push your right shoulder forward.
  3. Plant the blade of the paddle on the left side with the power face facing the right.
  4. Rotate the torso again to the tight so you can bring the blade towards the nose of the board.
  5. Clear the noise area of the board with the paddle to bring it around.
  6. Repeat the motion until you achieve a turn.

You may bump into the board a few times, so simply pull the paddle out, plant it back in from the direction of your torso towards the direction you want to turn to.


As we wind up, let’s have a look at some of the tips you can keep in mind as you begin your paddleboard journey.

  • Learn your environment first hand. As a novice, you haven’t yet learned how to navigate the water while it’s rocking and the wind is blowing hard. Hence, settle for subtle waters like a pond or lake with little to no obstacles.
  • Launching is also better from a known shore rather than a dock of a beach.
  • A sunny day is always a better day.
  • Don’t exert a lot of pressure on your first session of paddleboarding.
  • It’s always advised to go along with someone – a friend, companion, or instructor.

Seeing that it’s your first experience, you best come prepared with all the equipment and gear you will need.


How Hard is Paddle Boarding?

Paddleboarding is not a hard water sport. In fact, it’s much simpler than other activities such and water skiing and deep water snorkeling. It’s an activity that most, if not all, can be indulged in. Paddleboarding has no strict instructions which is why you can paddle as you kneel or sit on the board. As long as you start with the basics, you can easily move from beginner to advanced in no time.

What is the Point of Paddle Boarding?

Paddleboarding had been around for over a decade a and for most people, they will consider it as a recreational activity more than a workout routine. Hence, many will indulge in this watersports just for the leisure of it as you get to enjoy a fresh breeze of air, the warm sun, and picturesque views of mother nature.

Is Paddle Boarding a Good Workout?

Yes, paddleboarding offers excellent workouts that can burn you over 800 calories if you’re doing it right. It’s a very complete and full body work out that will exercise even the smallest muscle from your head to the toes, with precision to the core, shoulders, and leg muscles.

SUP offers you more than just cardio workouts, from improved balance and stamina to great mental health, and other psychological benefits.

Further SUP Ideas & How-tos