Stand up paddle board

Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opions remain our own.

What is Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)?

Congratulations! You have taken the first step to a lifetime of fun and adventure. This is the ultimate stand up paddle boarding guide. This ultimate guide is to help you get going on on your Stand Up Paddle Boarding journey. In this guide, you’ll find loads of helpful information including a paddle board is, how to choose the right one for you, and what accessories you will need to make yourself look like a pro. If you don’t need to read the whole guide be sure to click the area in the outline that you need to save you time.  

History of Stand Up Paddle Boarding 

Stand up paddle boarding has roots that date back to as early as 1,000 B.C. with different variations of using wooden rafts and paddles along the shore in countries such as Peru, Italy, and China. It’s also been noted found that villagers in Africa would stand on wooden platforms and propel themselves around hunting and fishing areas.

history of paddle boarding
image source:

 However, modern SUP can be traced back to Hawaii in the 1940’s before spreading next to California and taking off from there. In the early days, SUP was entirely devoted to surfing variations but as early as the mid-2000’sad began to spread into rivers, lakes, yoga, and fishing. Some of the earliest races for paddle boarding began in 2007 in California further promoting the sport and increasing product development. 

Today, it’s not only common to see surfers and paddle boarders (also called sweepers by surfers) sharing waves around most of the country. State parks, reservoirs, and now man-made water parks are all catering to SUP.

Types of Stand Up Paddle Boards

Hard / Traditional/ Epoxy Coated

 This is the traditional hard epoxy time of board that you would generally associate with surfboardsThese are usually constructed with Expanded polystyrene (EPS), fiberglass, and epoxy coating. These boards are more durable and lightweight while also allowing for better maneuverability and flexibility for the rider.

isle rigid paddle board

Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards

 These boards are made of PVC drop-stitch material which allows the two layers to fold up and be stored on top of each other in a tight space such as a backpack carrier. These types of boards have gained increasingly in popularity due to the space-saving capabilities, great overall durability, and comparative inexpensiveness.

peak inflatable paddle board

Fishing Paddle Boards

The relatively new use of paddle boards is for fishing. Anglers have found SUP to offer many advantages to other methods due to the space-saving of storage get a paddle board, the stability, and the ability to accessorize the deck of the board. Fishing SUPs are generally wider to offer more stability and may come with features already attached to the board for fishing. These features may include fishing rod holders, accessory mounts, chairs, and attachable fish cleaners.


Elkton fishing Paddle board

Touring Paddle Board

Touring SUP are great for long distances and for those that want to do it fast. These boards are typically skinnier with a more pointed nose. The rounded hull of these boards also helps it dispel water quicker to break through waves. These boards are also perfect for races and long travel island hopping.

soopotay touring paddle board

How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board?

What is your Skill Level

beginners guide to paddle boardingThis a great determinant for the type of board you want. In general, beginners want a wider, thicker, and more stable board. These are generally less nimble in the water and not a board that you want to take miles along the coastline but are great for stability to help prevent frequent falls off the board.

More experienced paddle boarders generally will use a more narrow, lighter, and more agile board to easier manipulate in the water and the waves. These allow for quicker movements, longer travel, and more opportunities for surfing.

For a full in-depth article, check out Gili’s comprehensive post detailing how to choose the perfect paddle board

Where will you be Paddle Boarding?

If you are primarily going to be using the paddle board in lakes and state parks then a thicker inflatable paddle board might be the best option. Looking to escape the crowds in high mountain lakes? Look for a lightweight inflatable board that you can hike with. Surfing in river or competitions? River boards are smaller, shorter, and often have a lip to help stay in a wave without dipping the front. Finally, if you are going to be in the ocean more you might look at touring boards to go long distances between beaches or to help you catch a wave surfing.

What is the Proper Size Paddle Board for You

The important details to consider in regards to selecting the best paddleboard for you is your weight, the length of the board, and the thickness of the board 


When purchasing a board consider your weight plus any additional weight that you might have on the board. If you are under 200 lbs there is usually no need to worry. If you weigh 235 lbs or more it is a good idea to check but should not have any issues. 


Short – Under 10 Feet long 

These boards are great for surfing and for kids. These allow for great ability and able to maneuver quicker and easier. 

Medium – 10 feet to 12 Feet Long 

This is the perfect size for most all-around boards including yoga, beginners, and most inflatables. The majority of paddle boards will fit into this category.

Long – Over 12 Feet Long 

The longer paddle boards are perfect for longer and faster travel. These are also more stable for choppy water and easier to maintain straight.

paddle board length

Picture from REI which has a great post on choosing a paddle board


Paddleboards will typically fall within the 30-35 inches in width with the majority of boards being in the 32-34 inches wide. The wider the board the more stable but also the harder to maneuver. Most beginners will want boards in that standard 32-34 inch wide range while advanced boarders can venture into more narrow paddle board. Some of the multi-person paddle boards that you can fit friends and pets on will wider than 45 inches!

Basic Equipment for Paddle Boarding

Paddle Board 

This is the most important and largest piece of equipment that you will need for paddle boarding. As mentioned above getting the ride board for your paddling ability and your size will make the most difference in how much enjoyment you will get out of it.


paddle board leashA must-have for all conditions but especially important in surfing and open water paddle boarding. A leash is a simple device that attaches from you to the board so that if you fall off the board won’t go flying away from you.


The engine that makes the board move. In paddle boarding, there is a single paddle that when sized appropriately alls you to move, steer, and also can help balance on the board. The paddle shafts can be made of aluminum, carbon fiber, or even simple wood. Aluminum paddles usually add increased durability while carbon paddles are lightweight and strong. Be sure to check out the Best Stand Up Paddle Board Paddles for more information.


electric paddle board pumpThe paddle board pump is only needed if you have an inflatable paddle board. This is the type of pump used to fill the board with air. These can come as manual pumps that you have to operate, battery-powered ones such as used on air mattresses with a specific adaptor, or an electrical pump that plugs into the car and pumps them up automatically.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) 

Also known as a life jacket. Along with the leash, a necessary and important must-have anyone that is paddle boarding. In fact, some state and national parks require you to have a personal flotation device on your board at all times. These come in the class vest type or the smaller and sleeker fanny pack style. These are less cumbersome but also more expensive.


The fins on the bottom of the paddle board help with stability, agility, and overall feel of the board. The bigger fins have more surface area and more contact with the water which makes it easier to go straighter for a greater total number of strokes. 

Shorter fins have less surface area and allow for quicker turns but more switching from side to side of the paddle to maintain a straight line. 

Single fins – The classic setup of most of the original boards. This creates a single pivot point on the board for turns and balance. The size of the fin will determine the stability and ability to maintain a straight-line movement. Most beginners will want a larger fin in a single fin setup.

Multiple fins – Made popular by surfers, the 3-fin or 4-setup allows for greater control and maneuverability while trying to maintain a straight-line speed for catching waves. By creating a lot of surface area with multiple fins but making those fins generally shorter allows for the favored combo of expert riders.

How to Stand Up Paddle Board?

How to Begin Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Once you have all of the necessary equipment, now the fun part begins. There are a couple of different ways to get started. We recommended starting in shallow water (knee deep) and crawling on to the board eventually ending up in the middle of the board on your stomach. 

If you try to start on land you can damage the fin and the paddle trying to get out into deeper water.

From there just get the hang of the water and the balance of the board. If you feel comfortable, work to your hands and knees, and then move into a tall kneeling position. The best position for balance is just behind the center of the board. This is a great position for a beginner! You can now paddle on both sides but remain more stable than in a standing position.

Once you are in the tall kneeling position we recommend shifting your weight side-to-side to test your balance and find the boundaries of the board. Now it’s time to try some maneuvers. In tall kneeling:

  • Try to paddle 4-5 strokes on the right side of the board to complete a turn. 
  • Try to paddle 4-5 strokes on the left side of the board to complete a left turn.
  • Paddle backward to help steer and straighten on the board on both sides

Now, if you are ready, feel free to stand up and try this all standing. 

One word of advice for beginners, you want to keep the board moving! Momentum helps keep the board stable. When the board is not moving in any direction the waves and bumps of the water will be more intense and make it more difficult to balance.

How to Paddle Correctly

Forwards Paddle 

  • Place one hand on top of the paddle and one hand in front of you on the shaft of the paddle.
  • Push the paddle into the water in front of you far enough that you won’t lose your balance (about 2-2.5 feet). ‘
  • Push down with the top hand to submerge the full paddle and twist from the torso (pulling the board past the paddle)
  • The board will go away from the side being paddled on alternate sides as needed to keep the boarding doing straight

Backward Paddle 

  • Same hand placement as paddling the board forwards.
  • Reach the blade of the paddle behind you and twist the torso to bring the paddle towards the front of the board. 
  • The board will turn to the same side as the paddled side
  • Backward paddles are great for quickly turning, slowing the board down, and quicker maneuvers in tight places.

Half Circle Stroke

  • The best stroke for turning the board quickly. Start by putting the blade in the water fully submerged
  • Pull the paddle towards the back of the board in a half-circle stroke, or in a large arc motion. 
  • This will cause the board to turn to the opposite side of the board from the paddle

How to Stay Balanced on the Paddle Board

Great! You made it up on the paddle board but now you have to stay up. Here are some tips to keep you upright and prevent you from swimming:

  • Start with your feet shoulders width apart, parallel, and slightly behind the middle of the board
  • Your back should straight, knees and hips slightly bent, and toes pointed forward or slightly out-turned. 
  • Keep your eyes forward and try not to stare at your feet or the front of the board.
  • Try to correct your balance using your hips and avoid using your torso

Falling and Getting Back On a Paddle Board

Unfortunately, in SUP you are going to get wet, sometimes when you want to and sometimes when you don’t want to. Falling into the water is inevitable so you might as well do it correctly and get back on the board safely:

  • Makes sure that your leash is always attached at all times so you don’t lose your board
  • If you do fall, fall away from the board and try not to fall on the front of the board
  • Try not to fall straight down to the bottom but bend your knees and curve your feet upward to avoid hitting the bottom

When getting back on the board:

  • Grab onto the side of the board near the center
  • Reach with one hand across the board
  • Give a powerful kick with your legs to propel you onto the board
  • Pull with the far hand until your torso is in the middle of the board

How to Transport your Paddle Board

There are a couple of different options when transferring your boards to the water. If you have an inflatable SUP then no problem. Make sure that they are in the bag and get there safely. If you are transporting your board inflated or are using a solid SUP then you will need a roof rack or system to get to the water. 

Car Roof Racks for Paddle Boards

Yakima Paddle board rood rackThese attach to car crossbars and make it easier to transport the boards. Most of the best car roof racks have built-in straps that make it easy to tie down and be on your way. Be sure to click on the link for the best car roof rack options.

Tie downs and Roof Protectors

For roof protector or roof paddings, you may need additional cam straps. Here are some tips to make it easier. 

  • Start with the longest and biggest board first. You will want to keep all the boards facing the same direction. 
  • Put the widest part in the middle of the car or between the roof racks
  • It’s best to put padding between the boards when transporting
  • If you have crossbars you will want to create a figure 8 with the cam strap over the top of the paddle boards and under the roof racks.
  • Make sure the straps are tight and can’t slip off the end of the racks

How to Store your Paddle Board

Inflatable Paddle Boards Care and Maintenance 

 For inflatable paddle boards, there are 4 important steps that you must perform after each use to maintain the longevity of the boards. 

Clean after Each Use – Keep the board inflated and rinse it with fresh water using a hose on both the top and bottom of the boards. Next use a mild soap or inflatable boat cleaners such as Star Brite Ultimate Paddlesports Cleaner and a soft washcloth or towel to remove any dirt, rocks, or plant debris. Cleaning is especially important after use in salt water as salt can damage the board over a long period of time. 

Remove Dirt and debris from Valve Area – Cleaning around the valve area will insure proper inflation and maintaining a specific PSI. Use a Q-tip or a soft towel to clean in and around the valve 

Remove Moisture and Water from Inside and Outside of the Board – Moisture and water can get inside of the valve and cause mold or mildew. To clean out the water, open the valve and hook it up to an electric pump and turn on high for a few seconds. 

For the outside of the board use an ultra-absorbent towel to get the board to dry quicker and ready to store in the garage or in the pack.

Store Dry and in a Safe place from moisture

Now that the board is clean, dry, and ready for the next adventure make sure that where ever you store the paddleboard it’s not going to get a repetitive beating from nature and storms. 

How to Store Your Paddle Board In the Garage

If possible always try and store the paddle boards indoors. Sun, in particular, can be really rough on paddle boards. If you have an inflatable paddle board this is a little easier. Once you clean and dry them, put them back in the storage pack, and find a dry area in the garage or shed. 

For standard paddle board and inflatable paddle boards that you want to leave inflated there are a few options

Ceiling Rackspaddle board ceiling storageThese are perfect for the garage because you can store them up and out of the way. This saves wall space and is perfect for any garage.


Wall Racksstand up paddle board wall rack storageThe wall racks are another great option for storing the garage. They can be placed at any height. You can store multiple boards in the same area and can easily reach them to get to the water quickly.

Vertical Wall Racks – A wall rack allows for the most amount of paddleboards in the smallest amount of space. 

Store Your Paddle Board in a Bag or Cover

paddle board storage bagOnce your paddle boards are clean, dry, and ready for storage we recommend using a paddle board bag. These help keep any sunlight, dust, critters, and any other things that might cause damage to the boards. It also may prevent scratches from the storage racks and help save the board for long term use.

If you have an inflatable paddle board these usually come with a storage backpack already. If not we recommend the THURSO SURF Inflatable Paddle Board Carrying Bag because of the comfortable straps and the universal size.


Congrats! You’ve made through the ultimate guide to stand up paddle boarding for beginners. For more great informational posts be sure to check out our blog for the best in paddle boarding. Time to get out there and enjoy the adventure!


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