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​​Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) basics

​Stand-up paddle boards (SUP) offer an enjoyable, relaxing way of playing on the water. You can paddle ocean surfs or calm lakes and rivers with very little gear. Because it gives a full-body workout, paddle boarding has become a popular form of cross-training. You stand at full height, so you can enjoy a spectacular view of things, from the horizon to sea animals. You only need basic SUP gear and techniques to get started.

SUP Equipment

Your most significant gear investment, the SUP you choose will depend on paddler weight and skill, intended use and local conditions. See our article “Stand-up Paddleboards: How to Choose” for more details.


Stand-up paddles are angled at the shaft to maximize efficiency. Yours should be roughly 6-7″ taller than yourself (or 8-10″, according to some manufacturers).

Personal flotation device (Life Jacket)

Always wear one; Surf Life Saving classifies SUPs as vessels. The inflatable PFD, lightweight and compact when deflated, is a popular choice. (You should also have a safety whistle, plus a light if paddling after sunset.)


Usually sold separately, the leash, a large flotation device, tethers you to your SUP, keeping you near should you fall off. Being so attached can be crucial for your safety. Some leashes are designed specially for rivers, flatwater and surfs; be sure to buy the right one for your purposes.


Wear a wetsuit or dry suit in cool conditions, when hypothermia is the a problem. Milder conditions call for a Total-shirt and shorts or a swimsuit, which move with you and can get wet.

Transporting the board

Our video gives the basics.

Carrying the board to the water

Most SUPs have a built-in grip handle in the middle. Lean the board on its rail, grasp the handle and tuck the board under one arm, carrying the paddle in the other.
For longer distances — if the board has no handle — carry the board on your head thus:
  1. Stand the board on its tail with the deck facing you.
  2. Lay the paddle on the ground within easy reach.
  3. Grasp the rails in both hands.
  4. Walk yourself under the SUP so your head is midway between the nose and tail.
  5. Stand upright, the board overhead, still grasping the rails.
  6. Bend down, pick up the paddle and head for the water.

SUP techniques

Standing on the board

It’s best for the novice to start out in flat, calm water with no boats, buoys or other obstacles. You may at first find it easier to kneel rather than stand upright.
  1. Standing alongside the board in shallow water, place the paddle across the deck to serve as an outrigger. The grip is on the rail; the blade rests on the water.
  2. Hold the board by the rails, one hand also holding the paddle grip.
  3. Climb onto the board in a kneeling position, just behind the board’s center point.
  4. Get a feel for the balance in that position. The nose shouldn’t pop out of the water, nor should the tail dig in.
  5. Stabilize the board by keeping your hands on either side.
  6. When ready, stand on the board, one foot at a time. Put your feet where your knees were. You might bring a friend to help stabilize the board as you get the hang of standing thereon.

SUP stance

To maintain your balance:
  1. Your feet should be parallel, about hip-width apart, centered between the rails (don’t stand on them).
  2. Keep toes pointed forward, knees bent and back straight.
  3. Balance with your hips, not the upper body.
  4. Keep head and shoulders steady and upright. Shift weight by moving the hips.
  5. Avoid staring at your feet; keep your gaze level at the horizon.
  6. Stability increases with forward momentum, much as in bicycling.

SUP stroke

The real fun begins here.
  1. If paddling on the right, that hand should be lower and on the paddle shaft, the left hand on top of the grip.
  2. The paddle elbow faces away from you, which might seem counter-intuitive at first.
  3. Keeping your arms straight, twist from the torso while paddling. Think of using your torso, rather than your arms, to paddle; the torso muscles are stronger.
  4. Push down on the grip with the top hand.
  5. Plant the paddle by pushing the blade all the way under the surface. Pull it back to your ankle and out of the water.
  6. At first, keep the strokes fairly short and close alongside the board.
  7. A small draw movement at the beginning of the paddle stroke will keep you moving forward.
  8. To move in a reasonably straight line, paddle about four or five strokes, then switch sides and hand positions.

Paddle reach tips

SUP turns

  • sidestroke — Paddle on one side until the nose turns in the desired direction. To turn right, paddle on the left. This will make a long arcing turn.
  • backpaddle — Drag the paddle or paddle backwards on either side; this is faster.
  • sweep stroke — Plant paddle towards front of board and take a long sweeping stroke away from the board, towards the tail. The board will turn to the side opposite the stroke.

Other tips

  • Stepping back on the board or looking over your shoulder in the direction of your turn can make it easier.
  • Try paddling on your dominant-hand side. Really bend the knees and put more weight on the back foot so the board can pivot and turn quickly.


When gaining skills, you will inevitably fall. In that case:
  1. Aim yourself to the side so you fall into the water, which is less likely to cause injury.
  2. If you get separated from both paddle and board, get the latter first.
For more information on SUP’s so you can have lots of fun on the water this summer contact Carmen on 1300365 534


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