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Learn How to Stand up Paddle Board (SUP)

Learn How to Stand up Paddle Board (SUP)

Learn to Stand up Paddle Board

Inflatable paddle boards are the perfect type of board to learn how to stand up paddleboard (SUP) on as they’re known to be more forgiving than hard boards. Most inflatable boards have a weight capacity of about 350 pounds and the standard dimensions are perfect for beginners to get started in this water sport.

If you want to enjoy the many benefits of SUP including spending time in nature and getting in a full body workout, we’ve got all the helpful tips you need to get started. 

In this blog we’ve put together our top paddle boarding tips to help you learn how to SUP and the necessary steps to take before and after your time on the water. Follow along to make your first SUP outing a massive success.

“Learning to paddle board is fun and easy, when done with the right board, the right conditions, and the right people.”

Step 1 - Prep yourself and your board

Feeling pumped and ready to make waves? First, make sure you have all the essentials to get started

Begin with your board bag:

Check the contents of your paddle board bag to make sure you have everything inside that you’ll need, including:

  • Inflatable paddle board
  • Leash 
  • Pump 
  • Paddle 
  • Repair kit 

Next, make sure you have the necessary supplies and accessories:

You’ll need more than just an inflatable paddle board to learn how to SUP. You should also be bringing essential beach and water accessories to make the best of your day, including:

  • Swimsuit 

  • Towel 

  • Surf hat

  • Insulated water bottle 

  • Waterproof sunscreen

  • Phone dry bag

  • Anchor

  • Carabiners  

  • Safety whistle

  • Rope

  • Electric pump and a fully-charged pump battery (optional)

We also recommend that you bring a paddle board seat, an electric pump and a pump battery, and make sure to charge your phone and pump battery the day before your trip. 

Other necessities: 

One item you absolutely can’t skip out on when you go paddle boarding is a life jacket. Wearing a personal floatation device while using an inflatable stand up paddle board is highly recommended by Parks Canada. Wearing the leash alone doesn’t replace a life jacket. A personal flotation device is the safest way to enjoy your day on the water and make sure everyone returns home safely afterwards. 

You’re also going to want to pack a 
small cooler bag full of your favourite snacks and a (soon-to-be well-deserved) lunch. You can clip the bag onto your board’s d-rings using a carabiner. 

Don’t forget your sunglasses and sunglasses chain. The chain will help prevent your sunnies from falling into the water and potentially never to be seen again.

Lastly, you’re going to also want to bring 
a dry bag. A dry bag is ideal to keep any non-waterproof items safe. Having a dry bag is also beneficial for carrying your detachable fins when they’re not connected to your board. You can secure it under the bungee cord ropes at the front of your paddle by strapping them onto your board.

Pro tip: It helps if you pre-pack all of your items the night before (and fully charge your cell phone). That way you’re not in a rush when it comes time to go paddling and you’re less likely to forget something.

If you don’t already have these essentials, you can shop Maddle’s accessories to get everything you need to complete your day on the water.

Step 2 - Choose the right day

Paddle boarding is easy to learn, but choosing the right day is important for your first SUP adventure. The best setting would look like this: 

  • Not too much wind, so that the water is calm and free of waves or currents that could drag you too far away. 

  • On a day when there has been no recent rainfall. It’s best to stay out of natural bodies of water for 48 to 72 hours after rainfall due to high levels of bacteria that can be harmful to humans if exposed. 

  • A lake or beachfront with ample space in the parking lot. Inflating a paddle board requires some space and if you’re using an electric paddle board pump that plugs into the auxiliary outlet of your car, you’ll want to make sure you have enough space beside your vehicle to pump up your board without other vehicles getting too close and potentially running over your gear. 

  • A lake that’s not too busy with boats or jet skis. Motorized watercrafts tend to create big waves that you’ll learn to appreciate in time, but to start, let’s focus on keeping you upright on your board .

  • Sunny and hot, so that you’ll appreciate the cold water in case you fall in (which is likely to happen and is totally normal for beginners).

  • When you’re with a friend! It’ll be less intimidating, safer, and more fun to have someone to laugh with and help you along the way. And don’t forget to take photos. 

Step 3 - Inflate your paddle board

Inflate your paddle board

You can’t learn to SUP on a deflated board. So, let’s get it pumped up!

  1. Start by unrolling your inflatable stand up paddle board and laying it flat on a clean surface with the fins facing down.

  2. Close the valve of the board by putting it in the upright position. If you leave the button of the valve pressed down, the air you fill it with will come out when you remove your pump hose and you’ll have to fill it again.

  3. Choose the way to pump up your paddle board. There are two different ways to inflate a SUP board. The first is manually. You can use your manual paddle board pump, which is included with your board. It takes approximately  125 to 175 pumps to fully inflate to 15 PSI, so about 10 minutes and a lot of elbow grease.  The other method of inflating your SUP is by using an electric paddle board pump, which will inflate your board in about 10 minutes with a push of a button, automatically stopping at the desired programmed PSI.

Once your board is inflated between 15 and 20 PSI, make sure you close the valve cap to prevent water or dirt making their way into it.

Pro tip: Make sure you inflate your board to at least 15PSI. Anything under that pressure will affect your experience. Paddle boards become stiff at 1 PSI, so make sure you rely on the gauge on your pump to get it to the proper level of inflation.

Step 4 - Assemble the fins, paddle, and leash

You’re now ready to bring your SUP close to water and complete the final stages of prep before you can start paddling.

  1. Install your paddle board fins. Don’t worry if you find it difficult to slide them in, they’re supposed to be tight. Once they’re completely in, insert the clip to lock them in place.

  2. Attach the non-velcro part of your leash to the handle at the tail end of your paddle board and the velcro ankle strap to the middle handle. It’s going to be easier to put it on yourself later.

  3. Adjust your paddle board paddle. The best way to size your paddle is to extend your arm in the air. The ideal paddle length is the equivalent of the distance between your wrist and the ground.

Step 5 - Get wet

start paddle boarding

It’s time to start paddle boarding! The way to get onto your board depends on the type of entrance you have into the water (for example beachfront vs. dock).

  • If you’re getting onto your paddle board from a beach or waterfront: Carry your board at your side as you walk into the water. When you’re about knee-deep, set the board onto the surface with the fins facing down and carefully climb onto your hands and knees on the board.

  • If you’re getting onto your paddle board from a dock: Carry your board towards the end of the dock to an area of the water that is deeper than 2 feet. Place it into the water, fins down, and carefully climb onto the board onto your hands and knees.

Once you’ve climbed onto the center of your board on your hands and knees, slide your butt back towards your feet, push your hands up off the board, relax into a seated position on your shins, and grab your paddle. 

Once you have your paddle in your hand, you can raise your butt up from your feet, balance on your knees, and start paddling. To find your balance, you need to paddle. Think of it like riding a bicycle: it’s easier to keep your balance once you start moving.

How to paddle

In both the kneeling and standing positions, you’ll be able to hold the paddle with the same hand positions. Your paddle grip should have one hand on the top section of the paddle (also known as the T-grip), and the other hand wrapped around the center point of the paddle shaft. 

The paddle blade should be angled away from you, towards the nose of the board. Dip the blade fully into the water and take a long stroke. Use your back, arms, and core muscles to pull the blade back through the water and keep your knees slightly bent the entire time.

How to steer

  • To keep the board straight: To keep the board moving in a straight line, you need to paddle evenly on both sides. For example, 2 strokes on your right side and then 2 strokes on your left side. This will, of course, depend on the current, the wind, and any waves. These factors may cause you to switch sides more frequently instead of performing the exact same number of strokes on each side.

  • To turn the board: When you want to turn, paddle on the opposite side of the direction you wish to go. Your board will turn in the opposite direction of the side you are paddling on.

“You need to trust yourself when learning to paddle board. Engage your core, plant your feet, and look up towards the horizon.”

Step 6 - Stand up on your paddle board

Stand up paddle boarding

When you feel ready, it’s time to stand up on your board. 

  1. Start from a balanced position on your knees. With the paddle in both hands, lean forward and put your hands on the board directly in front of you with the paddle between your hands and the board. 

  2. Brace your core and use one foot at a time to place your feet on each side of the middle handle and slowly stand up. 

  3. Keep your knees bent slightly with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Point your toes forward and look straight ahead towards the horizon.

  4. Trust yourself, squat your way up, and that’s it! You might not start doing SUP yoga right away, but it’s a good start!  

What if I fall in?

Stand up paddle boarding

Don’t sweat it if you fall off the paddle board. Falling is part of the fun. Just make sure you practice falling in deep water so that you don’t land on hidden rocks or hit the bottom. When you fall, try to control where you’ll land, and aim for the water.

To get back on your board after a fall, get back on from the side and in the center point of the board. Use your arms to push yourself up and kick your feet in the water to help propel your body back onto the board. Don’t try to stand up directly from being in the water—this is impossible to do. Start by getting your hands, stomach, and thighs in direct contact with the board (like you are laying down face-first on the SUP) before getting back into a kneeling or standing position.

Step 7 - Dismount gracefully

When it’s time to call it a day, you’ll need to get off your board the same way you got on it.

  • From your standing position, bend your knees and lean forward to get back into your tabletop position and then your kneeling position.

  • Paddle to your final destination from your knees and dismount from the board the same way you got onto it (e.g. on a beachfront, step into the knee-high water and walk your board up the shore).

Getting back into your kneeling position before you dismount is very important. If you hit the shore, dock, or another solid object while you’re still standing, your center of gravity is much less stable and you are likely to get knocked off your board which can result in injury.

Step 8 - Clean, roll & store

By now, you’ll probably be in love with your new paddle board and excited for your next adventure. But once you get out of the water there’s still work to be done to ensure your paddle board is well taken care of.

Clean your paddle board

Once you’re out of the water, be sure to clean your board before heading home. To do so, use soft soap, clear water and a clean cloth to remove any trace of dirt. You can also use a SUP cleaning kit with UV protection to prevent discoloration.

Roll up your paddle board

Once your board is clean, you’ll need to deflate it and roll it up to get it back into the board bag.

  1. Begin by removing the paddle board fins.

  2. Make sure your board is completely dry. If you don’t have time to wait, make sure to dry it later at home.

  3. Open the valve cap and then press the center pin to deflate your board. To speed up the process, you can use an electric paddle board pump or a manual pump placed in deflating mode. 

  4. Once your board is completely deflated, start from the nose of the board and roll it towards the tail.

  5. When you’re done, shove it in your board bag with the rest of your paddle board accessories and off you go!

Store your paddle board

When you get home, store your board in a dry and tempered environment. If you plan to store it for a long period of time, carefully inspect it to make sure it’s completely dry and dirt free so that it stays in great shape, waiting for its next trip.  

Learn how to SUP with inflatable paddle boards

Starting a new sport can be challenging, but at Maddle, we believe that anyone can enjoy paddleboarding. That’s why we’re here to help you and answer any question that you might have so that you have the best experience possible. We’re happy to have you on board! 

Shop our collection of paddle boards and paddle board accessories to get everything you need to learn how to SUP.

Camille Brodeur

Driven by the intersection of lifestyle and fitness, Camille's mission is to inspire others to integrate elements of beauty and aesthetic into their outdoor activities. Her depth of experience in the paddle boarding world allows her to inform and motivate others to get out on the water in the safest and most fun ways possible. Whether it be through her work at Maddle or elsewhere, Camille continuously strives to expand the public consciousness surrounding SUPs.


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