16 Common Paddle Board Mistakes To Avoid

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is popular among beginners and novices as it’s an activity that doesn’t require a lot of experience. It’s no surprise, too, as it’s a wonderful way to enjoy a beautiful day outside discovering new locations, getting a workout in, and relieving stress. 

However, it’s easy to make simple mistakes that can quickly veer into the danger zone when you’re a beginner paddle boarder. For example, you could fall off and injure yourself or get caught in bad weather which could lead to hypothermia or heatstroke.

So to have a fun and safe experience, you need to learn how to avoid these common paddle boarding mistakes. Our team of experts have put together this list to help you in your paddle boarding journey.

Common Mistakes by Beginner Paddlers

Here are some of the most common mistakes beginner paddle boarders tend to make.

Choosing the wrong paddle board

Paddle boards come in different sizes and types and can make or break your paddle boarding session. Typically, there are two types of paddle boards: epoxy boards and inflatable boards. For beginner paddlers, inflatable paddle boards are the ideal choice because they’re safer, weigh less, and are more portable.

When it comes to paddle board size, we recommend the following dimensions for beginners for better stability and support when out on the water:

  • Length: 10’-11’
  • Width: at least 31”
  • Thickness: 6”

You’ll also need a paddle board that can accommodate your weight. As a general rule of thumb, look for a board with a volume that’s twice your weight. Never overload your board as this can cause it to ride low and make paddling difficult.

All Maddle boards have a weight capacity of 350 lbs, making them perfect for paddle boarders of all sizes.

Facing your paddle board backwards

A paddle board has a narrow nose at the front and a wider tail at the back. The fins and ankle leash attachment should be behind you. If you face your paddle board backwards, you’d be paddling against the fin which can cause your board to suddenly turn, making you topple into the water.

Using the wrong paddle size

If your paddle length is too long or too short, it’ll strain your shoulders and back. Typically, a paddle that’s 8” taller than you will be ideal for recreational paddling.

Facing the paddle’s blade backwards

Keep the tip of your paddle blade (i.e. the inside of the curve of the blade) facing away from you. This will help you paddle in a straight line. If you hold the paddle blade backwards, you’ll just be scooping the water out, essentially dragging yourself down.

Standing too far forward on the board

To paddle efficiently, stand on the center of your board where the carry handle is placed. Standing too far forward will cause you to lose your balance and maneuverability. If you stand too far back, your paddle board’s tail will sink, causing drag and making your board turn.

Fitness and Posture Mistakes

Proper posture improves your paddle boarding technique, helping you get the most out of your time in the water and avoid any accidents.

Holding the paddle incorrectly

Holding the paddle board paddle the wrong way will lead to an inefficient paddle stroke. Your dominant hand should grip the top of the paddle, while the other hand should grip the center of the paddle shaft. Your arms should be roughly shoulder-width apart at 90° angles to each other.

Incorrect paddle boarding technique

For an efficient paddle technique, hold the paddle perpendicular to the board and not too far away from you so that you’re reaching out and losing your balance with each stroke. With your elbows slightly bent, reach forward and dip the paddle in the water so that the blade is submerged completely. Push the paddle backwards till it reaches your hip. Take it out of the water and repeat. This will prevent you from paddling at an angle, propelling your paddle board forward with ease.

You should also learn about the different stroke types to guide your board in the direction you want:

  • Forward stroke
  • Reverse stroke
  • Sweep stroke

Finally, use your core and leg muscles instead of relying only on your arms to power your paddle stroke so that you don’t exhaust yourself too quickly.

Poor balance techniques

Not balancing properly on your paddle board can lead to you taking an unnecessary dip. To maintain balance, stand in the center with your feet shoulder-width apart, your toes facing forward, and your feet flat on the board. This distributes your weight evenly between your legs.

Keep your knees slightly bent to withstand any sudden movements by the water. Always look towards the horizon and never at your own feet as this can cause you to lose your balance and miss any obstacles in your way.

Safety Mistakes

Like every other water sport out there, stand-up paddle boarding comes with its own set of risks. Avoid these common paddle boarding mistakes to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

Not wearing any safety gear

Never go out without a life jacket and an ankle leash that tethers you to your paddle board. A life jacket will save you from drowning in case the waters turn choppy or you hit your board and fall in, while a leash will prevent your board from being swept far away from you, leaving you stranded.

Not checking the weather forecast

Bad weather can turn your calm SUP adventure dangerous very quickly, so always check the wind and weather forecast as well as water temperature before heading out. Avoid paddling in dangerous conditions such as when:

  • It’s too windy/ sunny/ rainy
  • The waves are high, and the water, choppy
  • There’s a storm approaching

Another thing to remember is to paddle upwind i.e. go against the wind when you’re heading out, and let the wind carry you back towards the shore (downwinding).

Wearing the wrong clothing

What to wear paddling depends on the wind and weather conditions. Wearing the wrong clothing will leave you uncomfortable and may even be downright dangerous at times.

You need warm layers when it’s cold and moisture-wicking fabric when it’s hot. For detailed information, read our full guide on what to wear paddle boarding. As a general rule of thumb, always wear clothes that you’re ready to swim in and avoid cotton.

Paddle boarding in shallow water

While shallow water is okay when you’re just learning how to SUP, it’s generally not a good idea to go paddling in water that’s less than 20-30” or knee deep. This is because shallow water contains more obstacles such as rocks, branches, and wildlife which can damage your board—especially your paddle board fins which are roughly 8-10” in height. It also puts you at a higher risk of falling and getting injured.

Falling on the board instead of in the water

Many SUP beginners make the mistake of falling on the paddle board instead of into the water. Not only will this injure you, it’ll also bang up your board, so if you’re about to fall, try to fall sideways from your paddle board into the water. Never try to dive in since you don’t know how deep the water is, or if there are any obstacles in the way that could injure you.

Equipment and Maintenance Mistakes

Taking care of your paddle board properly is the key to ensuring its longevity.

Not inflating your paddle board correctly

Inflatable paddle boards have a recommended PSI (pound-force/ square inch), which is a measurement of pressure. For example, Maddle boards have a recommended PSI of 15. You need to inflate your paddle board to the recommended PSI. If you don’t inflate it enough, it’ll lose its rigidity and flop around, making it harder for you to paddle. On the other hand, inflating it too much will cause your board to pop due to excess pressure.

Leaving your board in the sun

Your paddle board should be stored in a cool, dry place as leaving it in direct sunlight for too long will heat up the air inside it. This heated air will then expand, stressing your paddle board seams.

Always rinse your paddle board after taking in the ocean to avoid saltwater damage. And make sure it is dry before you roll it up and place it in the bag.

Dragging the board

If you drag your paddle board instead of carrying it under your armpit, you run the risk of scratching it or creating holes on its surface. Get a lightweight board that you can carry easily, or get a friend to help you out. Or, better yet, opt for an inflatable board so that you can carry it in your backpack easily.

Maddle boards are lightweight and come with handles, making them easy to transport whether you’re crossing a sandy beach or walking over some slippery rocks.

Why am I so wobbly on a paddle board?

If you’re wobbly on your paddle board, you might be using the wrong stance or a wrong board size, your paddling techniques might be incorrect, or the waters might be choppy.

Why is my paddle board bowing in the middle?

Overloading a paddle board, not inflating it enough to its recommended PSI, or improper storage and maintenance can cause an inflatable paddle board to bow in the middle.

Why does my paddle board deflate when I take the pump out?

If air is rushing out of your paddle board when you take the pump out, your valve pin might be in the “open” position instead of “closed” or your board might have a hole.

Maddle boards are lightweight, affordable, and come in different designs. Shop Maddle and stand out on the water with a design that reflects your style.

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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