Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Photo by Bill Ebbesen.

Stand up paddle boarding or SUP originated in Hawaii and involves paddling a surfboard or specially designed paddle board while standing on it and propelling it with an extended canoe-type paddle.  Participants can take on this activity in the ocean and catch waves to surf to shore, on flat water or even navigating rapids in rivers.

Your Stand Up Paddle Board

When you are ready to buy a stand up paddle board, there are all kinds to choose from ranging in price from around $250 for a kid-sized board to $2400 for a large board with tie-downs for equipment.   Most boards have a foam core and some sort of outer covering although some are inflatable.  The inflatable boards are suitable if you can’t get a solid board onto your car or don’t have storage space.  The type of board, paddle and tether you get depends upon your weight and where you intend to do your stand up paddle boarding.


Typical stand up paddle board accessories include:

  • a paddle (required)
  • a tether of the correct type  (important for safety – see the video below)
  • a personal flotation device suitable for the type of water you intend to visit (required in some cases)
  • a cart if you can’t carry your paddle board with the built-in handle
  • a water bottle holder if your board doesn’t have tie downs
  • a bag for storage
  • a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads if you are paddling on white water rivers (important for safety).

Stand Up Paddle Board Lessons

It’s quite easy to start learning on your own without taking lessons.  Here’s how:

  1. Start on flat water without a current – like on a lake or a protected cove without surf.
  2. Put your board in shallow water,
  3. Hold your paddle in both hands and grasp the sides of your board so that the paddle sticks out on the side of the board away from you.
  4. Get on your board on your knees and adjust your position backward or forward so that the board sits flat on the water.
  5. Put the paddle on the board and practice paddling around with your hands to get a feel for how the board behaves.
  6. Hold the paddle close to its blade and try paddling around with it.
  7. When you are comfortable, carefully stand up on the board while putting your feet where your knees were, about shoulder width apart so you are facing forward.  Keep your knees slightly bent.
  8. Start paddling, again to get the feel for how the board will behave.
  9. Don’t be afraid of falling off, but try to fall into the water so you don’t hit the board and get hurt.

Once you’re paddling around the lake, watch others that are getting around well to see how they grip the paddle and use it.  Notice that going in a straight line is easier if you put the paddle straight into the water rather than out to the side.  Done properly you will be able to reduce the number of times you need to switch the paddle from one side to the other.

Also notice that if you plant the blade of your paddle fully in the water before you start your stroke, it will help with your balance and make your stroke more effective.

As you get more accomplished you will find that if you reach farther forward with your paddle while slightly twisting your body and leaning over,  you will be able to exert more force against the water and move faster.  You will also be able to paddle much longer because you are using your core muscles rather than just your arms.  Done properly,  you will feel it in your abs.

Watch this short video that shows how easy it is to get started.  If you decide you still want lessons, you can find a stand up paddle boarding hot spot and see if you can find an instructor there.  Also, check the American Canoe Association training schedule – perhaps you’ll find a course in your area.

Stand Up Paddle Board Fun and Safety

We came across the video below that shows people stand up paddle boarding in surf, on a lake and even through river rapids.  It also offers sound safety advice with regard to wearing a life jacket – or not in some situations – and the type of tether to use depending upon where you happen to be stand up paddle boarding.

Video Link:

If you are looking for a new water sport to try this summer, this one may be just the thing.  Not only can you explore around the water and shore,  you will also get great exercise!

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