How To Stand-Up Paddle Board: 17 Essential Tips For First Timers – Fringe Pursuits

So you have decided to take the plunge, literally and figuratively and give paddleboarding a try.

You are not alone, paddle boarding is exploding in popularituy. The Sports and Fitness Industry Association released findings that participation in standup paddling has increased by nearly 120 over the last three years. That’s faster growth than seen with all other water sports. This isn’t surprising as SUP-ing is an effective, low-impact workout, burning above 500 calories an hour.

But here’s the kicker:

You can do it wrong and you can get injured, especially if you are a beginner. In fact in a study, the NIH found that 41% of all paddleboarding injuries happen to beginners.

Interestingly the same study shows that beginners are likely to experience, shoulder or upper arm injuries (about 32%) followed by lower back and elbow (14%) and 11% respectively. These injuries are essentially the result of poor technique coming from inexperience. As someone who spends most of their weekend paddle boarding at the beach, I know all the mistakes beginners make so I’m going to give you the low-down everything I know about how to paddle board, what to wear paddle boarding, how to choose a paddle board, so you stay safe and injury free out on the water.

At the end of this article, we hope you have the who, what, where, when and why of paddleboarding and more importantly the confidence you need to get out and give paddleboarding a shot.

In order for you get the most out of your SUP session here are the 17 most important aspects of a safe SUP-day out.

Let’s Dive in!

Before You Start

You will fall in, I should repeat that. You. Will. Fall. In.

That said, most of the fear you have about falling is in your head, as long as you know how to swim and are relatively comfortable around water you should be fine. Once you accept that it’s completely normal to fall in, its not a big deal, you just get back on the board.

What Should I Wear Paddleboarding

Sun Protection In The Form Of Proper Clothing

Whether you are at the beach or on a lake, you will probably be out in the sun for a while, so what to wear paddleboarding is an important question. Although it seems obvious, you should make sure that you have proper protection from the sun. That means UV SPF of 50+ a shirt that covers your shoulders back neck and chest. Do yourself a favor and make sure you can move freely in your clothes, without worrying too much about how they will react with the water. For example a rash vest you can wear over your swimsuit is a great option. Jeans, however, not great.

Eye Protection

Believe it or not the most overlooked part of protection is making sure that you have protection for your eyes.

It’s amazing how much light is reflected off the surface of the water, without sunglasses you are going to spend a lot of time squinting.

Polarized sunglasses offer the best protection against UV rays, but most people are scared to lose them.

Here’s a tip from the pro’s If you are concerned about losing them in the water just tie a string at the ear hook which will keep them on your head, this works great on still waters like a lake, but not a great option for places like the ocean where you are likely to get dumped by the waves.


What you should wear paddle boarding shouldn’t end with clothing. Don’t forget to put high SPF factor sunscreen on areas not protected by clothes, your nose and cheeks- ear tips and back of the neck. You will probably sweat – so don’t forget to reapply.

Should I Take Lessons

It’s fine if you aren’t ready to go all out and buy the equipment, start slowly by renting instead.

Any good renting company will give you basic rundown before you start, and if it’s your first time most companies will throw in a lesson for a discount. Its worthwhile to take them up on this for 2 main reasons.

1 They’ll teach you how to stand up paddle board and make sure that you aren’t starting out with bad form. This is the killer, starting out with bad form means you will probably injure yourself, further on down the track.

2 It’s also a good idea to get the lowdown on the area you are SUP-ing in. people who are in the area daily can read the water well and inform you of dangerous currents and dicey water conditions. At the beach Paddle boarders and other watercraft like surfers often use the same marked areas SUPs tend to be heavier and collisions between SUP-ers and surfers often lead to injuries.

Rental prices vary by location but ordinarily, it should cost you about $20 per hour with a nice discount if you buy a package. Here’s our rundown on renting a paddle board.
If you are going to take lessons be prepared for anything between $30 for a group class to $150 for a private lesson.

Where Should I Paddle Board: Beach VS. Lake

When you are just starting out, a lake has a lot of advantages. Generally, the water is calmer at a lake than a beach. This will make the learning process of standing up, balancing, falling off and getting back on easier. Helping you build confidence on the water. If you live near the ocean, your best option is to find a beach with breakers.

How Do I Choose A Paddle Board?

When Choosing a paddle board answer these 3 questions:

What Is Your Skill Level?

If you are a beginner, when choosing a paddle board you will want to look for a thicker wider paddle board with a flatter top. The benefit of a paddleboard like this for beginners is that the larger surface distributes your weight evenly.

Think about this, a flat top makes the paddleboard significantly more stable on the water and easier for you to balance, and the thickness of the board makes sure you stay afloat.

BUT – this kind of board is a little bit slower in the water and cumbersome to navigate, which means that you are likely to find it harder to move left and right.

Obviously, this isn’t because you are bad at SUP-ing, its just the price you pay for stability.

As you improve your skills, you can start using boards that are more hydrodynamic, streamlined and have a rounded top, they are quicker and lighter and are easier to maneuver

I just don’t recommend starting out with them because if you do you probably won’t be able to stand for long and you’ll get give up, disheartened.

What Are The Conditions On The Water?

On a day with blustery winds and strong currents, you are going to be spending most of your energy pushing yourself forward and less energy keeping yourself and your board steady ( balancing). Frankly, in these kinds of weather situations, a larger board is better for you. On a windless day at a lake, give a smaller lighter board a go

If you already have a bit of experience and the water situation is calmer, you’ll want to pick a smaller more streamlined board- so that you can move faster in the water and navigate easier.

What Do You Want To Do On The Paddle Board?

One of the greatest things about SUP is what you can do while on the paddleboard.

All-Around Paddle Boarding

If you are a beginner you should begin with simple paddling. Starting slowly and building confidence is the key to successful SUP-ing. When choosing a paddle board, start with a wide, thick, flatter board and only when you get the hang of it to start using smaller faster paddle boards. Luckily, we picked a Take a best beginner paddle board in this post.

SUP Yoga

SUP Yoga is an increasingly interesting way people are using their boards – it combines the challenge of yoga with the unevenness of the paddleboard – because agility (the board not you) is not a priority here there is no need to “work your way up “ to a thinner board ,a wide thick board will do perfectly. Because we are fans of SUP yoga here’s our guide to SUP yoga boards.

SUP Surfing

SUP Surfing can be a little bit advanced, it combines the SUP paddling with riding surf waves.- if this is your jam, a wide thick board just isn’t going to work. The thicker boards are just not agile enough and waves will dump you over when you try riding the waves. So you are going to want to find a slimmer board with a slightly upturned nose to cut through the water.

Bottom line: here you are looking for agility over stability. Here’s our full comparison post an buyers guide on the best surfing boards.

How to find the right SUP Board Size

What Size Paddle Board To Get

The rough formula you should follow is this tall, heavy adults will need a larger board for more stability, while small, light adults and kids will need a smaller board as they’ll struggle to control a large SUP. Makes sense, right?

As a general rule, if you’re under 140 lbs you should choose a short 9’6″ board; if you’re between 140 lbs and 200 lbs you’ll need a board that’s around ten feet long; if you’re heavier (or if you’ll be carrying extra passengers) you should look for a large SUP measuring 11 or 12 feet long.

That said, you should recognize that the thinness or thickness of the board is more crucial to the activity you want to do.

If you are a bit heavier, a larger board may help, but honestly it shouldn’t be the defining factor in your decision, the activity you want to do with the board should ultimately decide what size you should be buying, if you want more information take a look at our guide.

How Do I Stand Up?

Stages Of Standing Up On A Paddle Board

Before You Set Out Make Sure

  1. 1 Your paddleboard leash is firmly attached to you ankle.
  2. 2 Your paddle is the right height. You do this by lifting your arm in the air and creating a right angle at your elbow. Adjust the shaft until the handle of the paddle reaches the palm of your hand.

Lying On The Board

When you first get into the water you are going to want to walk with the board beside you until the water is around your waist. Then you should slide onto your board onto your stomach, the same way surfers do. When you are in water deep enough where you are unable to touch the floor with your feet you should attempt the kneel


When you feel you are comfortable and steady on the board. Slide your knees forward to your chest and straighten your back. If it’s your first time on the board I suggest you try to paddle in the kneeling position for a bit- until you get the hang of it.

Getting Into Position

In the center of the board, there is usually an indent that is used as a grip to travel with the board. Make sure that your feet stay in line with this “belly button” hold your paddle in front of you. You should be on an “all fours” position with your face looking forward.


When you feel steady in the previous position, keep looking forwards most people feel the need to look down at what their feet are doing, but its not very helpful, if you keep looking down you won’t be able to balance properly and you will probably fall off.

One at a time move your feet so that you are standing with one foot on each side of the “belly button” Keep looking ahead.

Staying Standing Up

Keep your knees slightly bent, and face forward. If you feel yourself tipping, try to shift your weight between your knees to compensate.

BOOM! You’ve got it!

How Do I Get Around?

The Right Technique To Use

Paddling Forward

From your waist lean slightly forward and plant the blade in the water and pull the board past it. To be effective here, the end of the stroke should be when the paddle is parallel to your feet. While you may feel the need to push as far as you can go, the extra push won’t help you that much but hyperextension will get you injured. .


Use the paddle to make little strokes backwards, as you get more advanced you can “brake” by stepping on the back edge of your board and pushing it into the water.


2 options – either paddle only on the opposite side of the board where you want to turn or lean forward and paddle at an angle from the nose of the board- the opposite way you want to go.

Here are some great How to paddleboard videos on youtube that give a visual representation of the info mentioned:

Beginner Mistakes

Locking Your Knees

It feels natural to lock your knees as soon as you have managed to stand up. This is just a recipe for imbalance.

Let me explain: Locking your knees will make you tight and rigid and any small movement will make you unable to correct your center of gravity. Making you naturally over correct and fall off – locking your knees is a clear rookie mistake. instead keep your knees slightly bent, similar to a “ski” position, this will make you a lot more flexible and agile. And if you feel yourself drifting to one side you are more able to shift your weight to correct.

Standing Up Too Quickly

Here is where people get Surfing and paddleboarding mixed. Unlike surfing there’s no wave to catch so there’s no value in jumping up quickly. If you do, you will fall off. Before you move from one step to another, make sure that you are stable first.

Paddling From Your Shoulders And Arms Not From The Core

Instinctually you’ll want to use your arms to propel yourself forward, beginners tend to use the shoulder upper arm and forearm to do the bulk of the heavy work.

Not only are you likely to get tired from this very quickly, but this kind of overexertion and hyperextension will send you on a boat to injury town. Instead, you should use your core by keeping muscles and midsection engaged. How do you do it? When rotating to paddle, instead of using your shoulders, twist from your midsection. This will keep you balanced and stop you from getting tired.

How To Fall Off

If you feel like you are going to fall off the worst thing that you can do is try to stay on your board. Don’t Do it! Firstly; you are probably not going to manage it and worse case scenario you can hurt yourself pretty badly if your head hits your board or paddle or combination of both.

Try and fall to the side away from the board itself. Don’t worry about losing your board your leash is attached well to your ankle

How To Transport Paddle Boards

Here’s the deal. Paddleboards are transported the same way as surfboards.
Meaning if you want to own your own board you’ll also have to invest in roof racks for your car.

We get it, It’s not something that everyone wants to do, it’s an investment and it can take up a LOT of space.

The good news is -The easiest boards to transport are inflatable boards, they don’t take up much space once deflated. And you don’t have to attach roof racks to your car.

More people are choosing this option we thought that it deserves an article all on its own so we put together a separate guide to inflatable SUPs.

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