How to ride a stand up paddle board (SUP) properly

In Devon we love a SUP. But although it is a sport with a relatively easy learning curve, it’s actually a little trickier than you might think. Especially if you’re going to try and stand up and then paddle.

Oh and if there is anything other than a little bit of swell, it can get that much trickier.

So, you’ve got your best budget SUP, and you’re ready to go out. But how do you actually get on your SUP and ride it?

Where to position yourself on a SUP?

Your SUP has a carry handle, which is normally right in the middle of the board. Aim to stand (or sit) astride this central point.

So when you get onto your SUP, put your knees either side of the carry handle. This means you will have your weight in the middle, not too far forward, and not too far back.

We’re assuming it’s just one person for now – but if you do carry anyone else on your board in the future, you’ll need to adjust your position to spread the load.

How to stand up on a SUP

From a kneeling position on your SUP, if you want to stand up, you’ll need to do a fairly fluid movement to avoid wobbling and falling.

You want your feet either side of the carry handle. Ideally you want your feet around shoulder width apart, but don’t worry about getting this spot on – so long as you have your feet wide enough to balance. You can adjust it later.

So if you want to stand up on your paddle board, you’ll need to follow these steps:

Step one: As you’re kneeling in the centre, you can either roll back onto your heels – with one hand on the board to steady yourself.

OR

Bring one foot forward and push yourself up, bringing the other foot to standing as you stand upwards.

This will be a little wobbly.

Get your balance on a SUP by standing in the middle with your knees bent

Step two: Once standing, bend your knees slightly so that you’re not rigid and you have some flexibility when the board wobbles.

Step three: Try and paddle. Moving the board actually makes it more stable and less likely that you’ll fall in.

Your paddle should be around a head height higher (or a spread hand) than the top of your head when stood on the ground in front of you.

EXPERT TIP:

It’s actually easier to stand up on a paddle board if it’s already moving forward. So try and paddle forward whilst kneeling and then stand up while the board is still moving. Then, once you’re up and standing you can do another paddle to keep the momentum and stability.

Is it OK to fall in from a SUP?

Unless you’re already some kind of surfing/skateboarding/snowboarding expert who has impeccable balance, chances are you’re going to fall in.

Everyone falls in.

In fact, falling of your SUP is part of learning how to properly ride your paddle board.

So, embrace the falling. When you fall in, you’ll most likely be able to pinpoint what made you fall and probably avoid doing it again.

So yes, it’s 100% OK to fall in from your SUP.

In fact, if you are worried about falling in, practice in a safe area (not too deep, not too shallow, not too far from shore) and keep practicing standing, falling in and standing up.

Do I need a life jacket to stand up paddle board?

If you’re new to stand up paddle boarding it is strongly recommended that you also use a life jacket. Although it’s not an essential or a requirement, it is definitely a good option if you’re not super confident on the water.

In fact, even strong swimmers can get into problems if they fall into the water from their SUP.

Although you do not need a life jacket for flotation device to ride a SUP, it is a very good idea.

TIP:

ALWAYS wear your leash! If you don’t wear your leash and you fall in, you might be watching your SUP drifting away from you at speed – and that’s an expensive mistake to make. So this one is NOT optional.

ANOTHER TIP:

Taking a lesson is actually a great way to learn how to ride a SUP properly. Sign up with SouthWest SUP in Plymouth’s Royal William Yard (or any SUP school near you), and take your own board if you like.