How to Paddle on a Stand-Up Paddle Board


Paddling a stand-up paddle board sounds like a simple task but the reality is much different. Beginners have an easy time propelling the board on calm surfaces but the ability to control the board and move in different currents requires special strokes. Wind is also a major factor for controlling the board and the paddler must compensate weight to remain balanced and in control. Paddling is awkward at first and the boarder must practice movements while maintaining a stable body position.

Things You'll Need

  • Paddle board
  • Paddle

Paddling on Flat Water

  • Walk the board into shallow, calm water. Use an area with no current and no exposed rocks to begin.

  • Climb on the board, sitting on your knees. Position yourself on the center of the board to gain balance. Place the paddle on the board as well. Wait until you are comfortable and slowly stand while holding the paddle. Some boards have a handle in the center to help you stand. Wait for a few seconds to gain your balance and build confidence. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and on the inner edge of the board.

  • Grip the top handle on your paddle with your left hand and the center of the paddle with your right hand. Dip the blade in the water on the right side but keep it shallow. Keep the stem out of the water for maximum control. Push with your left hand while pulling with your right hand to propel the board. Make a second stroke to gain speed.

  • Switch hands and make two strokes on the left side using the same amount of force. Continue alternating to continue the forward motion.

  • Drag the paddle on the right side and make a backwards stroke to make a right turn. Make multiple strokes until you reach the desired direction. Resume the forward strokes to propel in the new direction.

Paddling in Wind

  • Assume the standing position on your board and immediately face either directly into the wind or with the wind directly at your back. Avoid facing with the wind at your side because it is an unstable position.

  • Grip the paddle and reach to make a deep stroke when facing into the wind. Alternate every other stroke and use maximum power to push through waves and current. Maintain momentum to fight the wind.

  • Drag the paddle on either side to maintain your direction with the wind at your back. Make short forward strokes to propel the board and let the current push you to gain speed with little effort.

Paddling in Rivers

  • Mount the board in the slowest moving water available. Paddle into the current using a perpendicular direction. The nose will catch the current and turn in a downstream direction.

  • Paddle hard on the upstream side to follow the nose into the current and move the board farther off the bank. Drag the paddle on the downstream side to slowly even your position directly downstream.

  • Ride the current and drag the paddle on either side of the board to maintain your position. Position into a 45-degree angle and paddle forward on both sides to maneuver in lateral directions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Controlling the board with advanced strokes requires muscle memory. Practice is the only method of improving your strokes. Spend as much time on the water as possible and practice your strokes at home on an elevated platform to build muscle memory.
  • Wear a life jacket for paddling in fast currents and dangerous waters. Although the board floats, it may slip out of reach if your leash fails.

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