How to Paddle Board: Your Basic Guide as a Beginner

| Updated on March 27, 2024

If you’ve seen and heard about the health benefits of stand up paddle boarding, you’ll be excited to get out and try it. However, before you can paddle between scenic coves along a tropical coastline, or glide across the glassy waters of a serene lake, you’ll have to get the basics mastered

In this post, we’ll take a look at the most important things you need to know before you start paddling. It should give you the confidence to get out onto the water and really enjoy stand up paddle boarding! 

Get the right equipment

Whether you’re going to rent or buy your equipment, there are some essentials that you must have before you get out onto the water. These are:

  • Paddle Board
  • Paddle
  • Personal Floatation Device
  • Leash

Paddle Board

Seems quite obvious, but yes, you’ll need a board for stand up paddle boarding. Choosing your board depends on what you’re going to use it for, as SUP is one of the most versatile board sports there is. As well as regular paddle boarding, you can do yoga, fishing, surfing, or even touring from the back of your board. 

Another important aspect to factor in is the size and volume of the board. It should fit with your skill level and weight. Paddlers who are too heavy for their board will find it difficult to paddle, due to increased drag in the water. 

Unless beginners have a set of idea of the way they want to paddle board, an all around board or inflatable SUP are the best options. iSUPs have the extra advantage of being foldable and very easy to transport. 


The other key piece of SUP equipment that isn’t specifically safety related is your paddle. When regular paddling, it should be about 25cm longer than your total height. However, in SUP surfing, you’ll need a shorter paddle. Rather than buying two, get a height-adjustable paddle. It’ll save you some money! Paddles come in a range of different materials – aluminium are heavier and cheaper, while fibreglass and carbon fibre are lighter, but more expensive. 

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

Your PFD should be like a seatbelt in a car. You always remember to put it on, but it never actually is called into action. However, if you do fall off your board, all a PFD will do is keep you afloat until you can get back on your board or to shore. An essential piece of kit!


The last essential gear for stand up paddle boarding is the leash. It’s like the PFD, as in you should always wear it, but hopefully it will rarely be used for its desired action. Leashes keep you tethered to your board if you fall into the water. Are you a surfer looking for a more chilled water sport? SUP might be for you, but be sure not to use your surf leash. SUP leashes are longer and thicker!

Take lessons

If you don’t feel comfortable going out on your own, then take a couple of SUP lessons. You can find these at most popular SUP destinations, and they will help build your confidence as you get out onto the water. An added bonus of taking lessons is that you’ll be supplied with equipment, so there’s no need to worry that you’ve forgotten something.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can either continue taking lessons or you can head out on your own. But don’t underestimate the value of having an expert teacher guide you and give you their top tips on how to stand up paddle board! 

Start somewhere calm

If you do decide to take lessons, this will be one of the first things your instructor tells you. If you’re not going to take lessons, remember this. As with all new sports, you need to walk before you can run (or in this case, stand up before you can paddle). You won’t be able to do that if you’re on a rough surface or waves are crashing against you.

Instead, find calm and flat water, and start to get accustomed to the feel and the movements of the board. You may not feel ready to stand up to begin with, but that’s okay. Start by kneeling, and stand up one foot at a time. Though this may seem slow, it’s better than falling off your board and giving up.

As well as calm and flat waters, you need to have lots of space when beginning. If you’re in a lesson with other budding paddlers, make sure there’s enough space between boards so that neither person falls and distracts the other. 

Learn to take a fall

Hopefully it won’t come to this, but as a beginner, there’s a possibility that you will fall off your board at some point. However, that’s fine! Don’t let it put you off. Just make sure you know the right way to fall if it does happen. 

The key thing to remember is that you must fall away from the board. Falling into it, can leave you with a nasty injury. Even inflatable paddle boards can do a good job of re-arranging your face.

If you do fall away from the board and you’re wearing a leash and paddle board, you don’t have to worry about getting into difficulties or losing your board. 

Know your limits

This one doesn’t just apply to paddle boarding. Knowing your limits is important not only to get enjoyment from the sport, but also to keep yourself and others safe from injury. Take it at your own pace, and it won’t be long before you can make the most of everything SUP has to offer, including yoga, surfing, touring, and fishing!

Priyam Ghosh

Tech and Internet Writer

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