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Stand Up Paddle Basics – SUP Level I

Here are some basic tips for the beginning SUPer:

Environmental Conditions

•Know your local weather conditions before you go out to paddle.

•Go early to avoid the wind.

•Check the tides.


•Wear your PFD (Personal Floatation Device – Life Jacket)

US Coast Guard rules say adults (12 and over) must carry a PFD on your paddleboard if you are outside of the surf zone. But if you are going to carry it, you’ll might as well wear it.

•Attach a whistle to the zipper of your PFD.

•Children under 12 are required to wear a PFD.

•Always wear a SUP leash. You won’t lose your board if you fall off.

•Wear protective footwear. You can always stow it away once you are on your board.

•Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen, hat, and lip balm.

•Wear clothing that will protect you from the sun and wind if warm.

•Wear poly base layers if it is cold.

In an Emergency, always stay with your board!

•Never leave your board in open-water.

•Always stay with your floatation.

•If in trouble use “distress signal”, raise and lower outstretched arms repeatedly. •If necessary assume the “safe position”.

•Drop to knees, paddle between knees, down on elbows.

•If you lose your paddle, utilize “prone paddle / surf paddle” technique to recover.

•Have a cell phone with you in a dry pack.

•If you are going in open-water out of cell phone range make sure to let someone know where you are headed.

Other Watercraft

•Know your local Boating and Waterways Rules and Regulations.

•Paddlers should avoid areas with heavy boat traffic.

•It is always safest to travel close to shore or inside a boating line.

•Never assume that you have the right-of-way as a paddler on the water.

Mounting the board

Start in knee deep water, place hands and paddle across deck of board just forward of hand hole, place one knee at a time to either side of the hand hole.

•Place one knee at a time to either side of the hand hole, sit up to kneeling position.

•Knee paddle into deeper water before standing up.

Dismounting the board

•Proper dismount for the beginner paddler is achieved by carrying slight speed to the shore.

•Drop to hands and knees and drag one foot off the board into the water to touch bottom.

•Transfer your weight and stand safely in water at least knee deep.

•Be sure to dismount your board before the board’s fin touches bottom.

Mounting the board safely when leaving from a dock

•Always leave the dock from your knees.

•Never step onto the board from a standing position.

•Position the board so it’s parallel with the dock.

•Kneel on the dock and place paddle across the traction pad just ahead of the board’s handle.

•From kneeling position, place your hands on the traction pad just above and on either side of the handle, followed by your kness which should be just below the handle.

•Push off and paddle away from dock while kneeling.

Desmounting the board safely when returning to a dock

•Always approach the dock in a kneeling position.

•Maneuver the board so it is parallel with the dock.

•Place the paddle up on the dock first.

•From kneeling position, place hands on the dock and shift your bottom over to the dock.

Knee paddling and prone paddling

•Use knee paddling to gain momentum before you standup.

•Also, knee paddling and prone paddling are effective when paddling into the wind.


•Athletic stance, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, back straight.

•Use “Heal-Toe” foot movement to adjust your stance without un-weighting either side of the board.

•Stay loose in the hips, weight slightly forward.

•Once standing, keep head up and eyes forward.

•If you lose balance or if you are about to fall, fall forward or go down to all-fours.

•Never fall backwards if possible!

•Move to Safety Position if you are tired or off balance.

•Safety Position – from standing move to all-fours then sit back on heels.

How to fall off of your board correctly

•Shallow water falling, flat/belly flop, arms out.

•Never dive head first.

•Always protect your head and with your hands and arms extended when falling head first into the water. Watch out for “shooting boards”.

How to get back on your board in deep water

•Approach the paddleboard from the side.

•Reach up on top of the deck of the board, lift your torso up and onto the board, followed by your legs and feet.

•Move forward or back on knees and elbows until at the center of the board. Kneel or stand up.

•If wind is blowing, position board down wind. Approach board from rear, reach forward grabbing each rail and pull your torso up onto rear of board. Move forward on knees and elbows until at the center of the board. Kneel or stand up.

Correct Hand positioning on paddle

•Place hand on the grip, rest the paddle on your head and position both arms to form a 90 degree bend at elbows.

•Keep a loose grip on the paddle to avoid fatigue and injury.

Forward Stroke

•Used 90% of time. 3 phases Catch, Power, Release (Exit by your ankles. Sometimes called the Recovery phase.)

  • Catch – reach forward with lower arm and submerge blade. Ensure shaft is vertical to keep board straight. Hands should be one over the other, arms should be straight. Wind up your torso and lead with your hip.
  • Power – transfer of body power to water. Use large “core” muscles vs. smaller arm muscles. “Un-wind” body, push down top hand, pull with bottom.
  • Release/Recovery – take paddle out of water just past ankle, drop top hand, push forward with lower hand back to catch.
  • Keep a loose grip to avoid fatigue and injury.
  • Torso & Hip – wind and undwind your hips and torso during the 3 phases of the forward stroke.

Changing sides

•Keeps board running straight.

•Change as often as required. Remove top hand and place below bottom hand, sliding bottom hand up to grip, change.

•Remove top hand and place below bottom hand, sliding bottom hand up to grip, change.

Backward / Reverse Sweep Stroke

•Used for turning and “Braking”. Twist torso backwards and plant blade in water as near to tail of board as possible.

•Bend knees and “sweep” in an arching motion to nose of board. Keep top hand low, shaft angle closer to water.

•Keep top hand low, shaft angle closer to water.

Forward Sweep Stroke

•Exact opposite from back sweep. Used for turning, maneuvering, and maintaining momentum.

•Reach towards the nose of the board, bend knees into a squat position.

•Lower paddle angle / top hand and “sweep” in an arching motion towards tail of board.