Are you looking for the complete guide – one that tells you everything there is to know about paddle boarding for beginners?
If you’ve just recently started paddle boarding and you’re not sure what to do, this is the beginner’s guide to paddle boarding that you’ve been looking for! We’ll tell you everything you’ll need to know for an amazing first-time paddle boarding experience and what to look out for.
Paddleboarding is a fun water sport in which the individual is propelled forward by a swimming motion using their arms while kneeling or lying down on a paddleboard.
Another known variation of this is stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), which requires you to stand, kneel or sit with the use of a paddle to propel your forward.
It also helps improve core strength and tones your muscles in addition to improving endurance, boosts your mood, and just being an overall great exercise!
Paddleboarding can be done with friends and family and even your pets! If you’re still not sure if you’d like to try paddle boarding yet, read on, and hopefully you’ll be convinced to try it someday. Not only is it an enjoyable sport, but it also comes with a lot of health and fitness benefits!
Here’s a quick summary of what you can look out for in this article:
Paddle Boarding For Beginners – The Complete Guide
- Types of Paddle Boards – Learn the difference between solid and inflatable SUPs
- Where Can You Go Paddle Boarding? – All the places you can practice paddle boarding for beginners
- What Type Of Gear Do You Need For Paddle Boarding for beginners? – Everything you need for a day out on your paddle board
- What To Wear For Paddle Boarding? – What to wear to look paddleboard-ready!
- Paddle Boarding For Beginners Tips – Basic beginner tips for first time paddlers
- Basic Strokes And Paddling Techniques You Need To Know – Learn basic techniques to keep you steady on your board.
- Paddle Boarding For Beginners Safety tips – Things you can be wary of when heading to your first paddle board experience.
Some of the links on here are affiliate links and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. I hope you find the information here useful! Thank you!
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Paddle Boarding For Beginners – The Complete Guide
Paddleboarding is one of the highest calorie-burning water-based activities and one of the easiest water sports to learn – if you have experience surfing, this will be quite easy for you to pick up. However, if you’re not, don’t worry, we’ll help you!
Types of Paddle Boards
There are two main types of paddleboards normally used for paddle boarding – the hard type and the inflatable type. When picking the right type of paddleboard for beginners, it’s important to ensure that it is buoyant enough to keep you afloat based on your weight for your safety.
This is because if the paddler is too heavy, your board will sink into the water, creating more drag that will slow you down on the water. This applies to both types of boards.
Also, keep in mind that you should take the weight of your gear and the essentials that you will be taking with you when considering the paddle board’s weight capacity.
1. Solid SUPs
Most solid paddleboards are fairly durable, lightweight, and are built affordable because they are made with an EPS foam core that is wrapped with epoxy and fiberglass. Another lightweight and sturdier (but more expensive material) is carbon fiber.
Plastic SUPs are generally more affordable but they lack quality in terms of materials compared to the rest and are a lot heavier too.
Why you should get a solid SUP:
- If you want great performance – Solid boards travel smoother, faster, and with minimal effort when compared to an inflatable SUP. If you intend to cover speed and distance, then a solid board could be a good bet.
- Stability is your priority – a solid board can provide better stability in rough water conditions and in waves as it is more rigid. It also tends to lower in water which creates a stable feeling when you’re on the board.
- You’re looking for a good fit – Solid SUPs come in various sizes and with more finely tuned shapes compared to inflatable SUPs so you have a higher chance of finding one that will fit you perfectly.
Why it may not be such a good idea:
- You’ll need plenty of space – Solid SUPs are solid and large so you will need to have ample space to store them safely. You will also need to have a vehicle that can transport your board – without having it stick out your window or jutting off your roof. That’s not only dangerous for the driver but also for other vehicles and bystanders.
2. Inflatable SUPs
An important feature of an inflatable SUP is its air core that is created by PVC exteriors with drop-stitch construction which allows it to maintain its shape when inflated with high pressure, making it rigid and rock-hard. They usually come with a pump to inflate the board and a bag to store it when it’s not in use.
A good quality inflatable SUP is created to be inflated to 12-15 pounds per square inch and should feel hard and rigid when it has been fully inflated.
Why you should get an inflatable SUP:
- Your storage is limited – if you live in a house that does not have enough room for a solid board, an inflatable one is a great substitute. They are a lot more compact and can be stored in small spaces such as the trunk of a car or a closet.
- You’re paddling in whitewater – similar to an inflatable kayak, an inflatable paddleboard is better suited to bumps and currents than a solid board.
- You have plans to travel – If you’re hopping on a plane or catching a bus, an inflatable SUP can be carried with you so that you can try some paddling when you arrive at your destination. They can be checked in at airports and most have straps for easy carrying.
Why it may not be such a good idea:
- If you’re looking for a good fitting board – most inflatable SUPs have limited sizes and weight capacities. This could be difficult for some to find the right ones so it’s important to take this into account when looking for the perfect board for you.
Where Can You Go Paddle Boarding?
There are several places you can explore to try paddle boarding for beginners:
- Large indoor pools
For beginners, lakes are the perfect place for you to practice your techniques and balance. As the waters are much calmer and still, this will allow you to practice your basic techniques like turning, bailing out, and stopping as well as balancing exercises.
If you are using a solid board instead of an inflatable one, you should take some time and practice how to fall off the board correctly while you’re at the lake. When you lose your balance, aim your body towards the water to stop you from hitting the board.
Paddling in the ocean can be hard to predict – sometimes it’s sunny and the waters are calm, the next, choppy and windy. When paddleboarding in the ocean, you should keep an eye out for any environmental changes especially in terms of weather.
Some of the things you should consider when heading to the ocean for paddle boarding are rough waters, gusty winds, diverse marine life as well as the forever-changing tides and currents but don’t let these deter you. The ocean is still a great place to paddleboard, but it’s better if you have some experience beforehand.
Alternatively, ocean bays are a great place to practice as they are more protected and don’t usually have waves breaking onto the seashore. This would be better suited to beginners as they are better suited for paddleboarding.
Similar to lakes, ponds are a great place to practice paddle boarding for beginners. Even though they are smaller than lakes, ponds are perfect for those looking for a relaxing paddleboarding trip alone or with loved ones.
Be sure to learn what types of wildlife inhabit the area before you start paddle boarding so that you’re aware of what to look out for when you’re cruising in the water.
A popular location for paddleboarders, rivers are also a great place to paddleboard. However, some areas or sections may not be suitable for beginners especially if you’re not familiar with the river’s current and junctions where it increases and becomes rapids.
Paddleboarding in river rapids requires a certain amount of skill and added protection and should not be attempted by beginners. We suggest exploring the long stretches of slow-moving waters first before heading to the challenging parts.
While not all harbors are not the safest place to paddleboard, the smaller ones with lesser traffic are. Best to try and avoid busy areas that have a lot of fishing vessels that move in and out of the port.
Normally, in harbors that allow paddleboarding, the speed limits of harbor boats are restricted so it’ll be best for you to ask the harbor authorities beforehand if boards are allowed in the area before you start.
6. Indoor Pools
A big pool is a great place to practice paddle boarding but make sure that they’re allowed in the pool in the first place as some public pools may restrict the use of large floatation devices but university pools and private owners probably won’t mind as much.
Before using your board in the pool, be sure to clean it up properly as residues from the ocean, pond, or lakes can affect the pool’s levels. Also, stay away from the edge as much as possible and wear a helmet to avoid hitting your head if you fall off your board.
What Type Of Gear Do You Need For Paddle Boarding?
Now that you know the types of paddle boarding for beginners and where you can practice your skills, it’s time to talk about what you’ll need for your paddleboarding trip.
1. A Paddle Board
For beginners, we recommend using a wider paddleboard to maximize stability. The Serene Life Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board has a non-slip top that is soft to cushion your falls and does a great job keeping you comfortable when you need to sit or kneel.
2. Stand Up Paddles
You will need a sturdy and reliable paddle that floats when paddling through the waters. The Attwood Emergency Telescoping Paddle comes highly recommended for its durability, good floating properties as well as adjustability so anyone can use it!
3. A Leash
A leash is crucial to keep your paddleboard anchored in case you tumble over your board or get swept by a strong current. Unigear Premium Coiled SUP Leash is the perfect choice if you’re looking for something sturdy and it also comes with a waterproof phone case.
4. A Personal Floatation Device
If you fall into the water while paddling, a personal floatation device is what helps keep you afloat. The Stearns Youth Boating Vest comes highly recommended as it is easy to use and has 3 adjustable 1-inch buckled straps for a secure fit.
5. A Whistle and Light
UST SplashFlash 25 Waterproof Flashlight is a great lighting device for beginners and expert paddlers whereas the Michael Josh 2 Pcs Outdoor Emergency Whistle can be clipped to your vest so that you don’t lose it in case you fall into the water.
What To Wear For Paddle Boarding?
There are several factors you’ll have to consider before picking out what to wear when you’re out paddleboarding for the first time:
- Easy to move around in
- Keep you warm or cool (depending on weather conditions)
1. A swimming suit or boarding shorts
When paddleboarding, it’s important to wear something that will dry up fast to ensure that you don’t stay wet for too long. A great swimming suit for women and a pair of board shorts for men will do just the trick.
This is a fitted, spandex top that protects you from the sun and other natural elements. It should be lightweight and offer some UV protection to avoid any sunburns from being too long out in the sun.
Sun protection is crucial when you’re out in the sun for prolonged hours. Make sure to wear sunscreen at all times – preferably one that is waterproof so that not only you don’t get slow roasted in the heat but also to avoid wrinkles that are caused by sun exposure.
This is another important but optional choice of clothing for paddleboarders to keep themselves safe from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat will do wonders with protecting not only your face but also your eyes and head from the sun.
5. Wetsuit (In case of cold weather)
If you’re heading to a location where the waters are 15 degrees Celsius (60 F) or less, you have to wear a wetsuit to ensure you are insulated enough in case you fall off your paddle boat. This is because, in the case of capsizing, you risk getting hypothermia if you’re in the water for too long.
Paddle Boarding For Beginner Tips
1. Always Wear A PFD And Carry A Whistle With You
As a beginner, you may not be fully equipped with the techniques required to bring yourself to safety so having these items on you makes it easier to ask for help and keep yourself from drowning
2. Use A Leash
A leash is important to keep you from losing your board when you fall off. This will be safer not only for you as a beginner, but for everyone else around you as well.
3. Practice On Solid Ground Before Going Into The Water
To learn how to stand on a paddleboard, the best way is to practice on solid ground beforehand. This can help you be better prepared when you’re holding your balance on the water surface.
4. Make Sure You Paddle The Right Way
When you paddle the right way, you will find that you’ll have a smoother paddle stroke and minimal stress on your shoulders and elbows.
To paddle safely and effectively, put one hand on top of the paddle and the other hand down the shaft. The face of the blade should point forward with the bent angle of the paddle pointed towards you.
5. Face The Right Direction
Before hopping on your board, find out where the fins are and make sure you’re in front of them when you paddle. Fins at the back keep the board straight and help with gripping when you surf waves.
6. Paddle With Your Core
Remember to engage your core when paddling as opposed to using all of your arm strength. The core is the strongest muscle of your body and they drive power into each stroke you take without tiring you out too much.
7. Fall Off Your Board The Right Way
This is an important technique that you should master to avoid damaging your board and for your safety.
Knowing how to fall safely can help you stay clear of the board when you fall into the water to not hit the board or the fins. This is particularly essential to know when you’re heading to locations with currents or waves that can sweep you off the board.
8. Practice Climbing Back Onto Your Board
Knowing how to climb back up is just as important as knowing how to fall correctly so that you don’t panic when you find yourself in the water.
Hold on to the center of the board, and grab the handle with one hand and the far edge with the other hand. Kick your feet out behind you and give yourself a good push back up with your arms pulling to pull your chest up onto the board. Then, with your knees facing front, swing around into position.
Basic Strokes And Paddling Techniques You Need To Know
Before you begin paddling, you need to be sure you’re using a paddle that is of the right length. A paddle too short will have hunch over awkwardly to maneuver your board whereas a paddle too long can be heavy and difficult to use.
You can find SUP paddles in two types – a fixed-length type and an adjustable type. An adjustable paddle is more suitable for beginners as you will be able to experiment with the length while still learning to stand up paddle whereas a fixed length one is better suited for tours and races because of its stiffer and lighter properties.
Here’s how you can measure your board to see if it’s the right length for you:
- Stand with the paddle upright so that the blade touches the ground
- With one arm, reach above your head and take note of where it lands on the paddle.
- A properly sized paddle will have you find the T-grip handle resting in the bend of your wrist.
Next up, you’ll have to learn how to hold a SUP paddle properly.
Your blade should angle slightly from the shaft towards the nose of the board. This is known as the power face because it’s the side that powers the board forward by pushing water back.
Hand positioning on the paddle is also important as many beginners put their hands too close to each other, it limits the amount of power they can put out with each stroke.
To figure out where to put your hands, start with grabbing the T-grip of the paddle with one hand and the shaft with the other. Raise it over your head so that it’s in line with your shoulders and rest the paddle shaft on your head.
With the T-grip still in one hand, glide the other hand on the shaft so that you form 90-degree angles at your elbows with your arms. This is where your hands should be positioned when paddling your paddleboard.
It can be helpful to mark the spot on the shaft with tape so that you know where to place your hand the next time you go paddleboarding.
To better understand these techniques, check out this video on how to hold a SUP paddle in the water for a better paddling experience as a beginner.
Basic SUP Strokes
Beginners are usually not very familiar with different types of strokes you can utilize to get your board to do what you want it to do – turns, move backward, or stop.
However, fret not – the more you practice, the easier it will become for you to navigate your board in any direction you want without plopping into the water. For you, we’ve listed five basic strokes you can practice refining your technique and paddle efficiently.
1. Forward stroke
- Considering that you paddle on the right, your right hand should be placed on the shaft and your left hand on top of the grip. Vice versa applies if you paddle on the left.
- Reach as far as you can and plant the paddle in the water. Then, push the blade under the surface of the water and draw it back to your ankle before taking it out of the water.
- Keep your arms straight with a slight bend and twist from your abdomen as you paddle. Make sure to also push the paddle grip down with your top hand instead of using your lower arm to pull back the paddle.
2. Reverse stroke
- This stroke is normally used to turn, stop or slow down.
- If you will be paddling on your right, plant the paddle in the water behind you near the tail of your board. The blade should be completely submerged.
- Similar to the forward stroke, keep your arms straight and turn from your torso instead of using your arms to pull the blade forward.
3. Sweep stroke
- This stroke is useful for turning your board while moving or standing still.
- If you’re paddling on your right, rotate your shoulders and bring your right shoulder forward.
- Plant your paddle in the water as you reach forward and submerge the blade completely perpendicular to your board.
- Use a big arcing motion from the nose to the tail of the board and sweep the paddle away from the board. Remember to rotate your torso using the leverage provided by your legs and hips.
- Doing a sweep stroke on your right side will turn you to the left and vice versa.
4. Draw stroke
- The draw stroke is used to move your boat to the side and can come in handy when you’re trying to pull alongside a dock or change your course.
- Rotate your shoulders in the direction of your choice and plant the paddle in the water over the side of the board.
- To move the board in that direction, pull the blade towards you and slice the blade out of the water by swinging it towards the tail or nose of the board and repeat.
5. Crossbow stroke
- This stroke delivers a nice, efficient turn without having to change your position on the board.
- Assuming you’re paddling on the right side and standing naturally in the middle of your board, rotate your body to the left so that your right shoulder comes forward.
- Bring your paddle across the nose of the board and submerge the blade fully in water on the left side.
- As the power face of the blade is facing right, rotate your torso in the same direction to bring the paddle towards the board’s nose.
- Try to clear the nose of your board by bringing the paddle around. If it bumps into your board, submerge it and try to bring it around in an arcing motion again.
- To turn to the right, vice versa applies.
Paddle Boarding For Beginners Safety Precautions
- Always check your equipment before heading to the waters
- Make sure you dress appropriately for the weather and water conditions
- Wear a leash at all times
- Keep your floatation device (PFD) every time you’re on the water
- Carry a whistle and a lighting device if you can
- Let someone know where you are and what time you intend to get back. Carry a communication device like a phone with you for emergencies.
- Check the weather forecast beforehand to avoid unfavorable weather.
- Ask the local guides for any tips or for anything that you should be looking out for (like boats or crocodiles) when you’re on the water.
- Paddle with a friend or family member.
- Practice rescuing yourself in calm, shallow waters to prepare you for any possible emergencies.
- Remind yourself to stay calm should something go wrong – like falling off your board or a sudden change of weather. Just stay calm and focused, you’ll figure it out.
Paddleboarding is a great watersport not only as a form of exercise but also as a form of relaxation. You can enjoy some time alone in the waters almost anywhere and it helps tone you up as well while you’re at it.
If this is your first time trying paddle boarding and you’re not too sure if it’s for you, don’t worry. We think you should give it a go and try it for yourself first and remember to enjoy it!
We hope this simple guide to paddle boarding for beginners has helped you understand the sport better and most of all, we hope we’ve convinced you to try it!
We’re just saying- you should.