How to Stand Up Paddle Board for Beginners

Water activities are a great way to enjoy the warm summer months, and stand up paddle boarding is one of the best options available.

This popular new sport can range from relaxing to exhilarating.

However, if you’ve never tried it out before and you want to make sure that your first time stand up paddle boarding goes smoothly, then it never hurts to be informed.

We’ll go over everything that you’ll need to know so that you can get started with this activity, and you can feel free to jump to any of the sections which interest you.

First, we’ll go over the necessary equipment for stand up paddle boarding, before discussing some of the fundamental techniques.


The first thing that you’ll need to ensure is that you have all of the necessary gear to go stand up paddle boarding.

Keep in mind that you won’t always have to buy your own gear, especially if you’re trying stand up paddleboarding for the first time, as many venues offer all of the necessary gear for rental.


The most crucial piece of gear is the board itself, and there are a few different types to choose from.

You’ll have to determine whether you want a planing or displacing hull, whether you want a solid or inflat​​able stand up paddle board, and you’ll also have to determine the ideal size based on your weight.


While a leash isn’t the most obvious piece of equipment, it can help you from being separated from your board when you fall off of it.

If you plan on buying your own stand up paddle board, don’t forget to buy a leash separately, as a lot of them don’t come with a leash included.


Getting a paddle of the correct size will ensure that you can move around as efficiently as possible.

If you want to check whether a paddle is the right length for you, raise your arm straight up and see whether or not the handle of the paddle reaches your wrist.


As with any activity in relatively deep water, it’s highly recommended that you wear a personal flotation device while you’re stand up paddle boarding.

Even if you’re a proficient swimmer, you can end up dazed if you hit your head while falling into the water, and a lifejacket can keep you afloat.

What to Wear 

You’ll also want to be sure to wear the right clothing when you go stand up paddle boarding.

Take a close look at the predicted weather conditions and the temperature for the day before you head out.

You should also take into account the water temperature. If it’s going to be a hot summer day, you’ll likely only need to wear a bathing suit and your lifejacket.

However, if you’re going stand up paddle boarding in the cooler seasons, then you’ll likely need to wear a wetsuit or a drysuit.

The main difference between these suits is that the wetsuit keeps you warm but still eventually soaks through, while the drysuit can withstand colder temperatures and keeps your skin dry.

Getting on and Maintaining Your Balance 

The first thing you’ll have to do is get on the paddle board. Bring it into the water until you’re up to your waist, and maneuver yourself onto the center of the board.

While you get on, keep a firm grip on both sides of the board to ensure that it doesn’t flip into the water.

Take a moment to kneel down on the board and get balanced, this may take a few moments. 

While in a kneeling position, you can start to paddle gently while getting used to the feeling of being on the board.

Once you feel like you’re ready, firmly position your hands on the centre of the board and smoothly rise to your feet, taking care to avoid any jerky movements that can unbalance you.

Holding Your Paddle

Once you have your balance, you’ll need to get accustomed to holding your means of locomotion: the paddle.

First, make sure that you’re holding the paddle in the correct orientation.

When moving forward, you’ll want the concave side of the paddle to face you so that it extends further away from you.

Take a moment to determine which side will be your dominant side while you paddle.

When the paddle is on the left side, your right hand will be at the top grip, and the left will hold the shaft of the paddle.

If you’re paddling on the other side, just swap where your hands are placed.

The Basic Strokes

The last thing that you’ll need to know so that you can finally move around on your stand up paddle is the set of three basic strokes.

This will allow you to move forward, backward, and rotate your paddle board on the spot.

Forward Stroke

This is the fundamental stroke and the one that everyone learns first.

The forward stroke allows you to move the board along the water, and you can gradually turn by favouring one side when you forward stroke.

To get the most out of your forward stroke, you’ll want to exert more force on the top part of the handle, using it as a pivot point so that you can move more efficiently.

End your stroke when it reaches your leg and then plant the paddle once again, repeating the motion.

Reverse Stroke

If you want to get yourself out of tough situations, then you’ll need to know the backward stroke.

You’ll mostly have to reverse the motion of the forward stroke, placing the paddle near the back of the board and pushing towards the front.

Reset the motion when you reach your leg.

Sweep Stroke

The sweep stroke will let you turn in place or when moving at a slower speed. Position your paddle near the front of your board, at a slight inward angle.

You will then want to sweep the paddle along the side of your board in a semi-circular motion which looks like a “C”, with the inside of the curve facing the board.

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Stand up paddle boarding is a lot less intimidating when you have an idea of what to do and how to do it.

We hope that this guide has been able to prepare you for your next attempt. Good luck, and be sure to have fun!

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The Adventure Lab

At The Adventure Lab, our goal is to provide high-quality, actionable information and advice to help you plan for your next adventure. Our team of writers consists of professional mountain guides, personal trainers, exercise physiologists and more.