9 SUP Beginner Mistakes To Avoid (Proven Tips)

common SUP beginner mistakes

Last summer, a friend of a friend of mine spent over $650 on a new standup paddleboard, a fiberglass paddle, and other SUP accessories. Unfortunately, he fell awkwardly on his first time out with the paddleboard, hurt himself and swore off paddleboarding.

Turns out, he had not taken the time to learn about the most common SUP beginner mistakes to avoid. At that point, I decided that beginners to SUP should have enough information on these common mistakes.

Below you will find the most common and potentially harmful mistakes you can easily avoid when paddleboarding.

1. Getting On Your Board In Shallow Waters - (Most Common SUP Beginner Mistakes To Avoid)

Common SUP Beginner Mistakes

The first mistake to avoid is to make sure that the fin of your paddleboard doesn’t hit or touch the sand at the bottom. Note to yourself also, that the fin will go down more after you get on the paddleboard. 

It is quite common to see SUP beginners put their board down at shallow waters and try to jump on it, and then the fin gets stuck in the sand.  

So please, remember to get your board far enough in the water where the fin clears the bottom after you have climbed on it. 

2. Standing Up Too Soon On Your PaddleBoard

Do not try to stand on your board as you get on it. Instead, always get on your knees first before you try to stand up. Furthermore, I recommend you’re kneeling in the middle of the board before you try to stand up. 

You can also sit on your ankles if you are more comfortable in that position than in a kneeling position. You should then start paddling from your kneeling or sitting position and hold the paddle by the middle of the shaft so you are not straining your shoulders.

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3. Stay Out Of The Way

I know. I am sorry if I am coming across as condescending. However, there is a reason why I am adding this a common mistake to keep an eye on. 

Most beginners and new paddlers want to paddleboard on the same square inch of water close to shore. Unfortunately, that is limited real estate. Inevitably, it is common to see beginners crashing into other paddlers, surfers and others having fun in the water. 

I recommend you take your time to make sure you have plenty of room to practice standing, falling and paddling.

4. Paddling With The Wind Behind You

This is a safety hazard that can be costly and dangerous.

Do not make the mistake of starting to paddle with the wind behind you (downwind paddle boarding). Make sure you paddle into the wind first. This is a common mistake I still see SUP beginners make.

The simple reason is the wind can carry you downwind, and you having to struggle to come back.

Learn more about downwind paddleboarding here.

5. Looking Down At Your Feet

The next mistake to avoid is when standing up don’t look down at your feet. Instead, try to look forward and into the horizon.

When you look down, then there is a very high chance of you losing your balance and falling down on the board or in the water because you kind of end up going where you look.

If you look down, you’re going to go down.

Remember, to always look into the horizon when SUPing. If you look down at your feet/board, you're going to go down. Bob, SurfersAndPaddlers.com

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6. Your Paddle Blade Is Facing The Wrong Way

TIps for SUP Beginners

Paddle with blade angled forward.

Holding your paddle the correct way will enable you avoid blisters on your palms and really enjoy standup paddleboarding.

The correct way to hold your paddle is with the blade angled forward. 

I don’t know if it is impulse, but I’ve observed most beginners try to hold the paddle with the blade angled backwards. Unfortunately, by doing so, you end up pulling your board down. 

So the correct way is to hold the blade angled forward.

7. Holding The Paddle Too Far Out To The Side

Staying on the subject of correct techniques to hold and to maneuver your paddle, do not make the mistake of having your paddle far out to the side of your paddle board. 

The correct way, to paddle forward, is to have the paddle in a straight up and down movement and pull it back in a straight line. This will make your paddle board go straight.

However, if you have your paddle out to the side of your board, what will happen is that your board will gradually begin to turn around. 

So, if you’re going straight, you hold the paddle straight up and down.

If you want to turn, you can employ a steering paddle stroke – get the paddle out to the side, get your body lower to the water and, get the paddle kind of at a low angle, way out to the side.

8. Gripping Your Paddle Too Close Together

SUB Beginner Tips

Yet another common mistake I’ve seen many SUP beginners make is holding their hands too close together on the shaft of the paddle.  

You see, if you try to hold your paddle really close together and try to stroke it, you’ll notice that it’s very hard to make a stroke and get any power in your paddle. Worst is that you can actually hurt your shoulder. So please avoid this mistake.

Try to hold your paddle with one hand halfway down the shaft and the other hand on top of the handle. This technique enables you to get a lot of power on your paddle.

9. Standing In The Wrong Position

And finally, a very easy avoidable mistake is standing in the wrong place on your board.

It is common to see SUP beginners standing too far back on their boards and then they are surprised they are not moving forward. Lol!

You will find it’s very hard to get your board moving, plus it’s less stable if you stand too far back on your board. This forces the board into an angle, and it just kind of drags through the water.

So try to stand right in the middle, where the board’s flat in the water.


So now you know all the common SUP  beginner mistakes that paddleboarders make when starting out.

I am confident you will not be making these mistakes now. Don’t sweat it if you do make some mistakes as you can always refer to this article to figure out what you are doing wrong and how to correct it. 

Finally, always think safety first when planning to SUP.  Have fun in the waters and stay safe!

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