10 Stand Up Paddle Boarding Tips That Will Have You SUPping Like a Pro

As you’ll quickly find out, getting right on a SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board) with no prior experience can be exhausting, and it’s not as easy as it looks!

To lend you a hand, we’ve put together 10 tips to avoid looking so noobish when starting out. Keep your eyes peeled because we’ve thrown in some expert advice!

Stand Up Paddle Boarding Tips

1. SUP Position

It’s not always obvious to a beginner SUPper which is the nose end and which is the tail end. Unless you have some on-deck graphics helping you out, check the underside of the SUP for the fins. This will tell you it’s the tail end. You want the tail at your rear and your feet facing the nose – the front.

2. Standing Up

If you’re already a pro at SUPping, then this is a breeze for you. But, for most people who want to have a reputation at being a bad-ass SUPper, it’s going to take some practice.

It’s best to start out on flat water away from obstructions like other water vessels and buoys.

  • Start in shallow water with hands on either side of the board.
  • Grip the rails of the SUP and climb on board into a kneeling position.
  • You should be just slightly behind the center towards the tail of the board.
  • Take yourself a few paddle strokes out.
  • Again, grip the rails of the SUP and get a feel for your balance.
  • Get up to standing position once you feel balanced with one foot at a time.
  • Your feet should be about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and core engaged.

There is no shame in starting on your knees! You gotta learn to crawl before you can walk right?

stand up paddle boarding tips

3. SUP Stance

It’s sort of like a dance learning to maintain balance and foot placement when on-board. But, here’s how to do it without looking goofy!

  • Ensure your feet are parallel and hip or shoulder length apart and not on the rails of the board.
  • Keep your toes pointing in a forward direction towards the nose, knees slightly bent, and back straight.
  • Since you’re balancing yourself with your hips, keep your core engaged and move with your hips by shifting your weight from either side to maintain balance.
  • Keep looking straight. Try not to look down at your feet too much or you’ll lose momentum or balance.

You might find yourself wanting to get into a surf stance when standing, but it’ll make paddling a whole lot more difficult than it has to be, and you’ll see a whole lotta water in your face too. Save the surf stance for the surf.

4. Blade Direction

It makes sense to have the scoop part of the paddle towards you right? – to scoop water and propel you forward. Well, when it comes to SUPping, it’s the reverse that’s true as you’ll find out for yourself. The elbow (angle of the blade) has to face away from you to take the stress off your body and provide a smoother stroke for standing up.

This slightly trailing angle aids in blade stability for the most torque per stroke. So, keep the blade in a vertical stroke position and as soon as it starts to veer by the time it nears your feet, it’s time to take the paddle out and re-stroke.

how to hold a sup paddle
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5. Basic Strokes: Forward

It’s not a broom, it’s a paddle, so you need to learn how to wield it right! Reverse the directions if you’re a left-handed user.

  • Hold the paddle grip with your left hand and your right hand on the shaft about a shoulder length downward.
  • Keep you right arm straight and pull your left hand towards your chest to put the blade forward.
  • Rotate your left shoulder and right hip to extend your reach and insert the entire blade into the water.
  • Use your large back muscles and hips to pull the blade through the water, not your arms. Your right arm should still be relatively straight throughout this.
  • Repeat this stroke on one side a few times and switch hand positions to stroke on your left side if you want to maintain a straight line.

6. Turning with Forward/Reverse Sweeps

Learning the little turning tricks saves a lot of time and cuts some slack for the back muscles!

To make a sharp left turn, put the paddle to your right and stroke towards the tail of the SUP while leaning with your torso to the left. This is turning with the forward sweep stroke.

To make a sharp right turn, put the paddle to the tail of the SUP and pull and stroke towards the nose while leaning with your torso to the right. This is turning with the reverse sweep stroke.

7. Practice Falling

No accidental fall is ever prepared for, but practicing falling off your SUP can reduce the potential for serious injury. Here’s a couple tips:

  • Always allow yourself to fall to the side and into the water, not on your board!
  • Use a leash to stay connected to your board.
  • If you happen to lose your paddle during a fall, get to your SUP first and then retrieve your paddle.

Just like learning the tricks of trades is part of muscle memory, you can at least be aware of how to fall correctly when it happens to you. Don’t worry, it’ll happen!

8. Be Smart About Waves

It doesn’t matter if you’re braving class II rapids or hitting the waves at the beach. You’re dealing with Mother Nature and respect for her is called for. Be smart about knowing your limitations and riding water conditions that match your skill set – and your board. If you’re a beginner, don’t try to act tough and ride those huge swells, Mother Nature will win. Even seasoned SUPping pros should still take care to choose their waves carefully.

female on stand up paddle board in the surf
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9. Know the Weather

Be prepared for the type of weather you’re heading into. But, like many a forecast, it can be bound to change in an instant. If the weather turns while you’re on the water, don’t try to super-hero it! Get into the paddling prone position by laying down on the board with your blade under you with shaft towards the nose and surf it home.

10. SUP Etiquette

This tip really deserves a whole speech of its own. You’d be surprised at how many SUPpers still don’t practice SUP etiquette. We guess it’s a dying code of social graces that mimics service at the local grocery store today. So, we’ll lay it out straight for you here! Keep in mind, this is for the beach goers.

  • Don’t bail on your SUP! Kicking it out when you fall off or hit a wave will mean someone else on the wave or further down the beach will get hit by your SUP!
  • Share the waves. Don’t hog every swell that comes your way because someone may be dying to surf it too. Wait your turn and even offer freebies here and there. You’ll be respected for it.
  • Don’t hover and micromanage. When someone’s riding a wave, don’t hover on the top, cut in on the wave, or paddle for it. It’s rude. Plus, if you get in the way, you’ll sure know pretty quick how it hurts to be run over by a SUP!

SUP it Like it’s Hot!

Once you’ve got the basics down, feel free to build skill after skill by hitting the water every chance that you get and experiencing all of the fun and health benefits of Stand Up Paddling! You’ll be a SUPping pro in no time with practice, practice, practice.

So, SUP it like it’s hot and be careful not to get scorched!

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