How To Paddle Board for Beginners (A Tutorial)

how to paddle board

Congratulations!  You have invested in a stand-up paddleboard and accessories. But have you learned the basics on how to paddle board for beginners?

Not to worry. In this tutorial, I will work you through some of the key dos and don’ts you need to be aware of as you begin paddleboarding.

SUP Safety & Board Handling

Step 1: Check Weather Conditions

how to paddle board as a beginner

Image credit: ww.blog.costaricasurfinstitute.com

As a paddler, the first thing you should always tick off your checklist before you hit the water is to be aware of the weather conditions over the period you plan to paddle board. You do not want to go out on the water in really strong winds. Especially offshore winds.

Offshore winds can be very dangerous, so look at the sky, check the weather forecast, check if the wind is strong and blowing away from the shore. If it is blowing away (i.e. offshore), the wind will carry you straight out and if you’re not a strong paddler or you don’t have a good technique it’s very hard to get back into the wind.

After checking the weather conditions and you establish that there is a light wind, then you can paddle. Light windy conditions are good for paddling. However, always paddle into the wind first.

Step 2: Pick a Stand Up Zone to Launch Your PaddleBoard

Before you launch your paddle board, find a place in the water that has a sandy bottom so you don’t get cut on shallow reefs. Preferably, pick a spot with a nice sandy bottom entry into the water that is deep so if you fall you won’t get hurt. I like to call this the stand up zone.

If you are launching your board from a dock, then check to ensure there are no obstructions around you and you can climb on the board with jumping onto it.

Step 3: Attach Your Paddle Board Leash

It is advisable to always paddleboard using a leash. The leash is not usually attached to the board. So you have to do this yourself.

It is easy though. There is a nylon strap with velcro that you have to put over the leash string at the back of the board so that it sits right on the nylon piece. You then triple wrap the velcro over the leash string so that is firmly attached to the board.

The other end of the velcro goes around your ankle. The leash keeps your board attached to your body at all times so that if you fall in the water, you can always pull the board back to you.

It is important to always have a leash attached to your board.

So that’s the basic safety and board handling instructions. Let’s move on to the next phase: how to paddleboard.

SUP: Basics on How to Paddle Board for Beginners

At this point, you should have a good idea of how to tell a conducive weather condition for paddleboarding as well as the basics of handling your board. Next is some basic tips on how to stand up paddle board for beginners. These will help you have fun paddleboarding and enjoy the use of your board and accessories.

Step 4: Transporting Your Paddleboard

paddle board tips for beginners

First of all, you always want to carry your board in and out of the water. Do not drag it on the beach or other hard surfaces as you don’t want to scratch it.

The fine little rocks in the beach will scratch the paint so please be careful how you handle your board. To carry your board, it is recommended you hold the panel and lift it as it makes it very easy to carry the board.

Next, carry the board to a spot on the water where the fin clears the sand so that you go deep enough and the fin won’t touch the sand when you get on the board.

Step 5: Launching Your Paddleboard

When you are starting out launching your paddleboard, you should get on your knees. The handle of the board is usually a good indicator of the centre of the board. That’s where you want your feet to be – right around the handle and not too far forward and not too far back.

As you prepare to start paddling from a standing position, you want your feet to be parallel and pointing forward. They should also be a bit more than shoulder-width apart, right around where the handle is.

Paddle board tip - kneeling position

So what you can do initially, is get on your knees and take a couple strokes while on your knees. As soon as the board is moving, it’ll be more stable than if you were standing on the board. You can now stand up and start paddling at this point. See this article to learn more about how to balance on a stand-up paddle board.

Step 6: Paddling on your Paddle Board

After you have taken a couple strokes, put the paddle on the board in front of you, get up on both feet and now pick up the paddle and put it in the water right away to start paddling. Always use your paddle for balance and stability. If you do lose your balance, you can use your paddle to stabilize yourself.

To use your paddle to balance yourself, you can push down on it and you can also lift it up to keep you stable. Then, you should take a couple strokes on one side, then switch sides and take a few strokes on the other side also. This way the board will end up going straight.

Looking straight from the front, the paddle should be straight up and down in the water. Kind of perpendicular at a 90-degree angle to the water. (see below)

tips on how to paddle board for beginners

You don’t want to hold the paddle diagonally out to the side. You want to get the paddle straight up and pull it back in a straight line, straight towards the back of the board. You don’t want it out to the side because this is a steering stroke and that will make the board turn more.

Another thing is you want to keep your stroke forward. Reach forward with the paddle and end the stroke at your feet so that by the time you get to your feet, your paddle should come back out of the water. Repeat the stroke cycle by going stroking forward again and ending the stroke at your feet.

Paddleboarding Mistakes You Should Avoid

One of the key mistakes to avoid as a beginner standup paddler is to avoid paddling way back towards the end of the board, thus throwing water behind you. This is very inefficient and energy sapping.

Another mistake that many beginners make is holding the paddle backward. You want to hold the paddle with the blade angle always facing forward. So it’s important to hold the paddle with the angle of the blade the correct way and if you have trouble balancing while standing up, you can always get on your knees and paddle on your knees.

You want to hold the paddle with the blade angle always facing forward. So it’s important to hold the paddle with the angle of the blade the correct way and if you have trouble balancing while standing up, you can always get on your knees and paddle on your knees.

Another tip for when you’re standing up and you are struggling to balance yourself on your board is not to look at your feet. Don’t do this.

Instead, try to straighten up your torso and look at the horizon. This will help you find your balance. And always put the paddle in the water and start paddling to get the board moving. This is a very effective way to make the board more stable.

Furthermore, if you have a hard time turning the board while standing up, do not fight it and lose your balance. Instead, get on your knees and turn the board while on your knees.

And always put the paddle in the water and start paddling to get the board moving. This is a very effective way to make the board more stable. This will help you find your balance.

Yet another mistake I often see people make and I want you to avoid it if you’re sitting or kneeling on the board, don’t try to hold the top of the paddle. You are better off holding the paddle mid-point on the shaft of the paddle.

Holding the paddle mid-shaft will make it easier to the paddle on your knees.

Okay, so those are the basics of getting up and paddling.

Step 7: Turning Your Paddleboard

Let’s now touch on how you turn your paddleboard. This is one area many beginner paddleboarders worry about.

This is one area many beginner paddleboarders worry about. It is actually very easy. Basically, if you keep paddling on one side only, the board will slowly turn around – in an arc-like shape or direction.

Basically, if you keep paddling on one side only, the board will slowly turn around – in an arc-like shape or direction.

To turn the board faster you can also paddle backward on opposite sides. This will make the board come around.
Once you start moving backward, you can switch sides again, and paddle forward on the opposite side.

It is a good idea to practice this in the deep water. Practice the turning before you get to the shallow reef.

So those are the basics of turning.

Other: Paddle Handling Techniques

Other important points about how to maneuver your paddle to get the desired movement include pulling the paddle straight back towards the end of the board to move straight forward.

If you want to make a turn, you can put the paddle blade angled out and make like a curved stroke. This will make your board turn faster, so you need to angle the blade out and push kind of away from the nose and then back towards the tail.

Do the same thing on the opposite side, pull it out away from the tail and then forward on the nose to make a half circle motion with the blade. This will make your board turn better. And you can do all this without moving your feet at all.

You only need to stay right in the middle of the board and turn the board with your paddle strokes as I explained above.

Another thing is switching sides. You know when using a paddle on one side and you need to switch sides, don’t try to do it without switching your hands also. Always switch your bottom hand first when you change sides.

Step 8: Ending Your Paddleboarding Trip

It is important to master how to come back into the beach because as you approach the beach you don’t want to run into the sand. Not a good idea.

What you want to do is as you’re moving towards the beach, you can get on your knees and when you see you are pretty close to the sand but not close enough to hit the sand with the front of your board so you don’t scratch your beautiful board, you get off.

Get off the board so that you are now in knee-deep water or maybe waist-deep water. Next, put your paddle in the water next to you or hold it while you lift the board up on one rail away from you.  Grab the center handle of the board and then take the paddle in other hand and you can now lift the board up and carry it out of the water.

IMPORTANT: Please do not drag your board on the sand or any other hard surface to avoid scratches and other damage to your board.

It’s best to carry your board all the way up to your car to keep it from getting sandy.

If it’s windy, you should point the nose of the board straight into the wind. You can point the nose or tail of your board into the wind. It doesn’t really matter.

However, you want to angle the board into the wind because if you have the board sideways facing the wind it’s going to try to blow you and your board away.

Conclusion

Those are the very basic points of stand-up paddle boarding I wanted to share with you as you take up this very exciting sport. It is important you learn the basics first especially for your own safety and the safety of others around you.

I will also, from time to time, share with you some more advanced techniques and tips for SUPing.  

Finally, don’t forget to check out some of the other very good articles, tutorials and tips I have such as best stand-up paddle boards for beginners, the best stand-up paddle boards for 2017, how stand-up paddle boarding can make you fit and more on this site.

Stay safe and have fun. Later!

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