Getting Started with SUP


Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is one of the best means of accessing your local water-ways.  Whether paddling lake, ocean, inlet or river, a Stand Up Paddleboard can be the ideal watercraft.  It will give you a sense of connection with nature while providing a healthy, fun and spirit enriching activity.  You can paddle however you like; casually just to get out on the water, cruise in a touring mode to cover more distance, or paddle with more purpose and speed for increased heart rate and exercise.  You can add Stand Up Paddling to your cross-fit training program, enhance your skills even further with some paddle surfing and downwinding, or combine SUP with yoga, pilates and resistance for fitness with zen.  Whichever way you choose, you’re going to engage your entire body and discover, as so many people already have, that Stand Up Paddleboarding may just be the perfect match for you.

If you’ve been thinking about getting into SUP, the following information provides what you’ll want know in order to get started.




To start with, you will need a few key pieces:

  • Paddleboard:  This will be your most significant investment and the board you choose will be based on a few factors.  Our Choosing Your Board page can help you figure out which boards could be right for you.
  • Paddle:  Your paddle is the second most important piece of equipment that can determine how much enjoyment you will get from SUP.  Our Choosing Your Paddle page can help you figure out which paddles could be right for you.
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device):  Stand Up Paddleboards are classified as watercraft or vessels so a PFD is required to be with you at all times.  We recommend you wear your PFD along with a whistle whenever paddling navigable waters.  Light weight, clip or zippered, vest-style PFDs are most commonly worn, though another option to consider if your not comfortable wearing a vest may be an inflatable belt-style PFD.  The inflatable belt provides a very minimalist feel when worn around your waist and can be deployed in an instant when needed but can also be manually inflated and worn as a standard keyhole-style PFD.  Check out our Mustang inflatable belt.
  • Leash:  The SUP leash is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment you can wear especially when in water deeper than yourself.  Should you take a spill, a leash will keep you connected with your board and ultimately make getting back on a whole lot easier and in some cases, even possible at all.  Coil style leashes are most commonly used for Stand Up Paddling, but you may want to consider a straight length leash when Wake or Paddle Surfing to help increase your distance from the board should you take a spill in the waves.
  • Proper Clothing:  Wearing the proper clothing can depend on where and when you decide to paddle.  For cool off-season conditions where hypothermia may be a concern, wearing a wet suit or dry suit is usually recommended.  In milder conditions, lightweight paddling pants, shorts, bathing suit, t-shirt or paddling shirt are all good choices.  All clothing should provide good range of motion, be able to get wet without getting heavy and be able to dry quickly.  When planning to paddle, we recommend checking local weather and wind forecasts as well as prevailing current and/or tide conditions.  This will help ensure being prepared with the appropriate paddling garment.
  • Sun Protection:  It’s recommended you wear sunscreen, sunglasses and possibly even a hat when out paddling on sunny days.  Water can also reflect UV rays if the sun is beating down so make sure to have the proper protection.  Most lightweight athletic wear tops will have UV protection built into the fabric and can be a very good choice despite hot sunny days as well.



Carrying Your Board to the Water

Paddleboards generally have built-in carry handles (or slots) positioned centre of the deck (standing area).  By leaning the board onto its edge (or rail), simply reach the handle or slot then lift and tuck the board under one arm and away you go!  You can carry the paddle with your other hand or tuck it under the boards deck bungee if available.  Make sure your board doesn’t hit the ground while carrying as you can cause nasty dings that could require repair.



Getting on your board

When you’re brand new to the sport, it’s a good idea to start out in flat calm water, away from obstacles like boats, docks and buoys.  To get used to the board and its balance points, we suggest starting on your knees, before graduating to a standing position.  Here is what you need to do:

  • Stand alongside the board in shallow water, far enough out to ensure that the fin is not hitting the bottom.
  • Place your paddle across the deck of the board just forward of the centre point (typically the handle area).
  • Hold the board by the rails, but over the top of your paddle.
  • Give a little push forward while popping yourself onto the board on your knees just behind the centre point of the board.
  • From that kneeling position, immediately centre your knees side to side and get a feel for the balance point of the board.  The nose shouldn’t pop up out of the water and the tail shouldn’t dig in.
  • While one your knees, with both hands on the shaft of the paddle and blade angle forward, start paddling.  Paddle on either side of the board and remember to switch hands when you switch sides.
  • Once you’re comfortable, its time to stand up.  An important thing to consider is that a board is most stable when it is moving, so ideally you want to have a little forward momentum before you attempt to stand.
  • Give yourself a few paddle strokes as you prepare to stand and then place your paddle across the board (ensuring its not dragging on the water) and with your hands across the paddle shaft push down on the board evenly, stabilize and stand one foot at a time (still keeping your hands on the paddle and board) by replacing your knees with your feet.
  • Ensure that you are standing shoulder width and centred on the board side to side, and typically on either side of the handle (the balance point).
  • Stand up nice and tall but have your knees slightly bent, and again, feet should be inline and roughly shoulder width apart.
  • Start paddling as soon as possible.  Your paddle acts as a crutch or stabilizer, so getting it in the water is important.
  • When stand up paddling, one hand should now be on the shaft while other on the t-grip at the top of the paddle shaft.
  • When paddling on the left side of the board, your left hand should be holding the shaft while your right hand will be holding the t-grip, and vice versa when paddling on the right side of your board.



Paddling Stance

To ensure you are balanced on your paddleboard:

  • Your feet should be parallel, about hip or shoulder width apart and centered between the boards rails (edges).  Don’t stand on the rails.
  • Keep toes pointed forward, knees slightly bent and your back straight.
  • Balance with your hips—not your upper body.
  • Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright and shift your weight by moving your hips.
  • You should be looking forward or at the horizon and avoid staring at your feet.



Paddling Strokes

Once you are comfortable balancing on your board in flat water, it’s time to take off for a longer excursion and where the real fun begins!  Here are some pointers on basic paddling strokes:

  • If you’re paddling on the right side of your board, your right hand will be lower and holding the paddle shaft while your left hand is higher and on top of the t-grip.
  • The blade angle of your paddle should always face forward.  This may look or feel counterintuitive at first but it will make perfect sense once you start paddling.  Generally, as with our paddles, the logo on the blade will always be facing forward.
  • Keep your arms straight and twist from your torso while your arms push and pull the paddle stroke simultaneously.  Think of using your core in conjunction with your arms to paddle.  Much more energy is generated with the additional strength in those abdominal muscles.
  • Reach out as far forward as you can.  The most effective part of the stroke is when the paddle is in front of you.
  • Push down on the paddle t-grip with your top hand.  Plant the paddle in the water by pushing the blade all the way under the surface, pull it back to your ankle, then out of the water.
  • Keep your strokes fairly short and close alongside the board to start… no need to overpower it.
  • A small draw stroke at the beginning of the paddle stroke will keep you going forward.
  • To go in a reasonably straight line, paddle about 4 or 5 strokes on one side, then switch to the other.
  • When you switch sides, you’ll reverse hand positions.



Paddling Turns

There are a few ways to turn your paddleboard.

  • Side Stroke:  Simply paddle on the one side until the nose turns in the direction you want it to go.  If you want to turn right, paddle on the left side.  If you want to turn left, paddle on the right side.
  • Back Paddle:  A faster way to turn or reverse direction is to simply drag the paddle through the water or paddle backwards on either side of the board.
  • Sweep Stroke:  Plant your paddle towards the front of the board and take a long sweeping stroke towards the tail.
  • Stepping back on the board or looking over your shoulder to the direction of your turn also helps in making a turn.
  • Although usually requiring more practice and balance, another method of turning that works well, especially in surf, is to paddle on your dominant side (left foot forward, paddle on your right side).  Really bend your knees and put more weight on your back foot.  This allows the board to pivot and turn quickly.



When You Fall

Stand Up Paddleboarding is relatively easy to learn, but expect to take the occasional fall as you’re gaining skills.  For those inevitable times that you may lose your balance note the following tips:

  • Be sure, when standing, to paddle in depths where falling in the water does not cause injury.
  • When possible, aim yourself to the side so that you fall into the water and not onto your board.  Falling onto the board may cause injury or damage.
  • If you get separated from your board and/or paddle, get your board first.  Climb back on and using your hands as paddles, maneuver to retrieve your paddle.  Note: An ankle leash is always a good idea to keep you connected with your board.



Common Mistakes to Avoid When Learning

These mistakes are easy to make when you’re starting out.  Try to avoid them and you’ll have a lot more fun on the water!

  • Avoid remaining in a hunched over posture when standing on your board.  Keep your back relatively straight unless leaning forward to start your paddle stroke, shoulders should be level.
  • Avoid staring at your feet instead of forward to the horizon.
  • The angle of the paddle blade should always point away from you.
  • Avoid having both hands on the paddle shaft.  When stand up paddling, one hand should always be on the t-grip.
  • Avoid standing with your knees locked straight.  It’s much easier to balance with knees slightly bent.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, there’s almost no limit to the watery worlds you can explore on your stand up paddleboard.  So get out there, enjoy the view and have a great time on your SUP!  Your body and mind will thank you for it!



Stand Up Paddleboarding FAQs

Q:  Do I need waves in order to paddleboard?

A:  Even though paddleboards look like oversized surfboards, you don’t need waves in order to enjoy this self-propelled sport.  In fact, flat water is preferred for building your paddleboard skills.

Q:  Where can I rent a board?

A:  Most ‘paddle powered’ watercraft rental operators will rent you a board.  Visit any of our ‘sister company’ Okanagan Beach Rentals locations to rent paddleboards.  It’s a great way to test out the sport before you commit to buying.

Q:  What size paddleboard is best for me?

A:  The choice is determined by a combination of paddler weight and skill, your intended use and the local conditions.  Talk to us at LakeSUP Paddleboard Co. for help choosing the right paddleboard.

Q:  What should I wear for paddleboarding?

A:  Wear clothing that lets you move and can get wet: a t-shirt and shorts or a swimsuit work well in warm climates.  In cold weather when hypothermia is a concern, wear a wetsuit or drysuit.  Either wear or have a PFD with you at all times.

Q:  Do I need to wax the top of the paddleboard?

A:  Most all paddleboards have a traction pad attached to the top of the board.  These pads provide reliable grip and should not be waxed.  If you acquire a paddleboard that doesn’t have such traction pads, you’ll need to use a grip wax to provide traction.

Q:  How do I transport the board on my car?

A:  A roof rack with bar pads attached to protect the board is best, but some bar pads (as with our aero style pads) can also be placed directly onto the roof.  Be sure to stack your board fin side up and use cam buckle straps (not ratchet style) to avoid over tightening.

Q:  Can the fins on a paddleboard be removed?

A:  With the exception of some inflatable models, fins can easily be removed for travel or storage.  They help you navigate and track straight through the water so be sure you paddle with them attached.

Q:  Where is the best place to stand on a paddleboard?

A:  Generally standing with feet on either side of the handle or slightly back (the centre point) is the best place to stand for optimal stability, comfort and performance.  The nose of the board shouldn’t pop out of the water and the tail shouldn’t be digging in.

Q:  Can I take my paddleboard on rivers?

A:  Yes, you can paddleboard almost any navigable body of water but be sure when paddling rivers to watch for rocks, log jams or any obstacles that may pose a potential hazard.  White water paddling is also quite popular but inflatable paddleboards are generally used and the sport is saved for the more hardcore experienced paddlers.

Q:  Can you surf with a paddleboard?

A:  Yes, generally the smaller waves, but learn to surf in an empty break before you enter the lineup.  When you get good, remember to share the waves!