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How to Stand and Paddle on a SUP

Get in the know before you get on the water.

6 Min. Watch | Paddling

Over the years, stand up paddle boarding has become one of the world’s most popular water activities – and with good reason. It’s super fun and great exercise – especially if you know some of the basics before heading out on the water. This guide will teach you those basics, including standing, paddling and other tips for properly using your SUP. Happy paddling!

How to Size Your Paddle

There are several kinds of paddles. Some are one-piece, two-piece and even three-piece. Plus, they come in adjustable or non-adjustable styles. Regardless of what kind of paddle you prefer, it’s important to get one that is sized right to your body. This will ensure you get the most power out of each stroke and keep your body healthy. To figure out how to size your paddle correctly and where to put your hands, place the power face of the blade (canted part) in front of your toes and reach your hand up so that the base of it reaches the top of the paddle. That should be the right size paddle for you.

How to Hold a Paddle

The next step is figuring out where to put your hands on the paddle. Put one hand on the palm grip at the top of the paddle using a nice and light grip. To find out where you put your other hand on the shaft, place the paddle carefully on top of your head, make a right angle with both arms and then bring the paddle down in front of you. Now you’re ready to paddle.


How to Stand Up

You can kneel, sit and even lie down on a paddle board, but they call it a stand up paddle board for a reason. There are three different ways to stand up on a board, and you need to decide which is right for you.

The Two-Step - While kneeling, put hands around paddle and place them on the deck pad in front for 4 points of contact. Now move your feet one at a time to the spot where your knees were touching. One foot, now the other foot, look toward the horizon and stand right up on the board. Stand up job!

The Hop - Some people find it easier to stand up in one motion. So, from the same starting position of the Two-Step (kneeling with hands around the paddle and placed on the deck pad), do a quick hop with feet coming into position where the knees were and stand up.

The Two-Step with Paddle - If either of those methods don’t work for you, there is still another way to get up on your board. Get into the same kneeling/hand position as the Two Step and move your feet one at a time to the spot where your knees were touching. Before trying to stand put the front of the paddle on the deck pad and ease your way up using the support of the paddle to help your balance. Don’t forget to keep your knees bent and look towards the horizon.

Proper Stance

Once standing, it’s good to know the right stance and how our body should be positioned. A neutral stance is the best way to maintain proper balance and get the most out of each paddle. Keep your feet equidistant on either side of the center or belly button of the board (more towards the edges); keep your knees bent in an athletic stance while back stays nice and straight, and look out at the horizon. This stance allows your knees to act as natural shock absorbers to absorb the waves and wake of the water.

Basic Strokes

Forward Sweep - These next two strokes turn the board because it doesn’t always go straight. First step is to keep knees bent to get lower to the board. Holding the paddle correctly with a light yet firm grip, reach with the power face of the blade (curved inside part) towards the nose of the board and unwind your core making a big smiley face just under the surface of the water – all the way to the back of the board for a long, shallow stroke.

Reverse Sweep - For a reverse sweep, use the back face of the paddle (opposite side to the power face). Get low, with knees bent and rotate near the tail (back) of the board. Put the back face of paddle flat for support and unwind your core making a big smiley face under the surface of the water towards the nose (front) of the board.

Forward Stroke - Before performing a forward stroke, you need to make sure you’re starting with the right stance. Feet are on either side of the belly button of the board, knees have a natural bend in them, and back is nice and straight. Hold the paddle vertically reaching out towards the nose of the board. Keep your hands stacked on the paddle. To envision what this looks like, you’re holding the paddle properly like we discussed earlier, but imagine being able to drop an orange or tennis ball from one hand to the other. Reach out with the power face of the paddle towards the nose and make a downward sideward crunch with your oblique muscles right along the edge of the board and come out for a short stroke at your feet.

How to Stop

Stopping is pretty much a half of a reverse sweep. Get low by bending knees, rotate your torso towards the tail of the board and put the back face of the paddle flat on the surface of the water. Then unwind your core using a climbing blade angle, carving a half of a smiley face under the surface of water to your feet. A climbing blade angle simply means that the blade of the paddle starts flat at the tail of the board and unwinds to a vertical by the time you recover it at your feet. What this motion does is allow you to ease to a stop. So, get low, rotate towards the tail, back face flat, unwind with that climbing blade angle, recover the blade at your feet and you should be stopped.

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