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The Comprehensive Guide to Paddle Boarding for Beginners

If you want to appear like a seasoned pro and avoid being the beginner struggling to stay upright on their paddleboard, this video is perfect for you! Today Ethan will be sharing valuable equipment advice, paddle tips, and much more to help you become an expert paddler. So let’s dive right in and get started.

Safety should always be your top priority when paddleboarding. Consider factors such as water conditions, the environment, the gear you’re using, and your personal abilities. First and foremost, you should be able to swim and feel comfortable in the water. If your swimming skills aren’t strong, avoid paddleboarding altogether, or take a one-on-one lesson with a certified instructor.

Next, consider wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Depending on where you live, laws and regulations may require the use of a PFD. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, wearing a PFD can provide extra support. However, don’t rely solely on the PFD to save your life, as it’s not designed to keep your head above water in extreme situations.

Another essential piece of equipment is a quality leash. Attach it to your ankle or leg and the paddleboard to ensure your board doesn’t float away if you fall off. This is particularly important in areas with wind or currents.

Before every session, check your local weather for factors such as wind strength, storms, tidal changes, and currents. Knowing the conditions you’ll be facing can prevent you from getting stuck in a dangerous situation.

Perform a risk assessment of your location before paddleboarding, regardless of whether you’re at a beach, lake, or river. Look out for hazards in the water or on the shore, as well as heavy boat traffic or swimmers.


Now let’s discuss the paddleboard gear, which includes the paddleboard, paddle, and leash. As a beginner, choose a paddleboard that’s at least 10 feet 6 inches long and 32 inches wide for added stability. Make sure the board has the right volume (measured in liters) to accommodate your weight. In general, add 100 to your weight in kilograms to determine the minimum volume needed.

All-around paddleboards are ideal for beginners due to their wider and more stable design. When selecting a paddle, consider using a two-piece adjustable paddle to find the perfect height for you. The stiffness of the shaft and the blade size also play a role in choosing the right paddle. Larger individuals require a stiffer shaft and larger blade, while smaller individuals should opt for a more flexible shaft and smaller blade.

Lastly, choose the correct leash for your paddleboarding activities. Coil leashes are suitable for flat water conditions, while straight leashes are better for paddleboard surfing. As your skills advance, consider exploring different leash types for specific environments like rivers.


Now that we’ve covered safety and gear, let’s discuss some techniques and tips for a fun time on the water. Attach the leash to one of your ankles, and remember that the leash’s attachment point at the back of the board is the rear. The center part of the paddleboard has a handle, and the front is called the nose. Be cautious of the fin below the paddleboard, as it helps you track straighter while paddling.

Once you have completed your safety check, performed a risk assessment of the area, and prepared your paddleboard for the day, you are ready to enter the water. Attach the leash to your ankle, hold your paddle, and ensure you are wearing all the necessary gear. To enter the water, carry the paddleboard on one side of your body, such as your right side, and reach across to grab the handle with your right hand. Lift the paddleboard using your legs and walk into the water.

A common mistake beginner paddleboarders make is placing the paddleboard in water that is too shallow. This can cause the fin to get stuck on the ground or beach. To avoid this, walk into the water until it reaches your knees, ensuring sufficient depth for the fin. Once the water is knee-deep, place your paddleboard in the water and prepare to begin your paddleboarding experience.

There are two ways to start paddling on your paddleboard before standing up. The first, and most stable method, is to lay in a prone position on the paddleboard, especially if you need to go through choppy water or small waves. Place your paddle near the front of the paddleboard and lay on top of it like a surfer on a surfboard. Position the paddle blade below your chest and the shaft extending in front of you. Paddle into deeper water with your arms on both sides of the paddleboard, keeping your hands close to the board for straighter paddling.

The second method, suitable for flat water conditions without waves or chop, is to start on your knees. Place your paddle across the paddleboard and position your knees on either side of the carry handle. Regardless of whether you are sitting or standing, always straddle the handle, which indicates the center and most stable part of the paddleboard. If the handle is too far in front or behind you, the board will be less stable.

Once you are seated on your knees or feet, or even sitting cross-legged on the paddleboard, ensure the handle is always beneath you. For this lesson, we will focus on the kneeling position to explain tips and techniques.

Alright, now that you’re on your knees in the water, you’re prepared to start paddling into deeper water where you can stand up. For now, we’ll be on our knees.

To paddle more easily while sitting, position one hand in the middle and one hand towards the paddle blade. This will help you maintain a more vertical paddle and make your paddle stroke more manageable while sitting. As you paddle out, reach forward, put your paddle blade next to your paddleboard, and pull it back to your legs in the water. Do this two or three times, then switch sides. To switch sides, slide your bottom hand up towards the middle of the shaft, let go of the top hand, and grab the lower part of the shaft with the other hand. Now you can paddle on the other side of your paddleboard just as easily.

To turn while seated on your paddleboard, the easiest and most basic method is a sweeping stroke. To do this, make a big circle in the water with your paddle by moving your hands to the top part of the paddle shaft, one hand at the top of the paddle, and the other in the middle of the shaft. This will allow you to reach towards the nose of your paddleboard with your blade to make a large sweeping stroke.

Standing Up

Once you’ve paddled out into deeper water while sitting and feel confident, it’s time to stand up. To do this, place your paddle with both hands in the middle of the shaft in front of your knees, look up, and keep your eyes on the horizon. Step up one foot at a time on either side of the handle, about shoulder-width apart, and come up into a standing position. As you come up, slide your top hand towards the handle, and the bottom hand towards the middle of the shaft. Paddle into the water immediately for additional stability.

When standing on your paddleboard, remember the three P’s: posture, position, and paddle stroke. Stand with relaxed legs, chest upright, and eyes on the horizon. Position your feet on either side of the handle, shoulder-width apart. For the basic paddle stroke, enter the water towards the front of your paddleboard with your blade, bury the blade entirely in the water, and pull yourself to the paddle blade all the way back to your feet.

To turn while standing, use the same sweeping stroke as when seated. Reach towards the nose of your paddleboard with your blade at a slight angle, bury the blade in the water, and make a sweeping stroke all the way to the back of the board. The bigger the stroke, the more you’ll turn.


Now, when the time comes for you to fall into the water from your paddleboard, there is actually a proper way to do it. The best approach is to fall out and away from your paddleboard if you feel like you’re going to fall. Trying to fall and grab your paddleboard as you go down can be risky because it may lead to hitting your shoulder or hand in an awkward position, causing harm to your body. Therefore, the safest thing to do is ensure that you fall out and away from your paddleboard to avoid the risk of injury. Remember, you should always have your leash attached to you, so you don’t need to worry about your paddleboard drifting away. Simply hold onto your paddle and swim back to your board. Now, it’s time to get back on the paddle board.

There are two methods I teach for getting back on your paddleboard. The first one is from the center part of the board. Here’s what you need to do: place your paddle on top of the board, then place one hand on the center handle like this. Reach across with your other hand to the opposite side of your paddleboard and use it to pull yourself back onto your stomach on top of the board. Once you’re on the board, move back to the center and you can sit up on your knees or stand up if you’re ready. Return to the center part of your paddleboard and start paddling while on your knees, or if you’re comfortable, you can go back to standing as we discussed earlier.

Sometimes, getting on from the side of your paddleboard can be challenging, especially if you’re using a wide board and you have a short arm span. If this is the case for you, there’s another way to get back on top of your paddleboard, and that is from the back side. Here’s what you do: place your paddle back on top of your board, then swim to the back of the board. Once you’re there, use both hands to push on the back of the paddleboard, causing it to sink into the water. Once it has sunk, position yourself on your stomach on top of the back of the board and grab both sides to gradually pull yourself up towards the center of the board. Move towards the center part until you reach it, and then you can return to your knees or stand up, depending on your readiness. Remember, this class is just the beginning of your paddleboard journey. There is so much more to learn when it comes to technique.


Now, this class marks the beginning of your paddle boarding journey. It’s important to remember that there is a lot more to learn when it comes to technique. This additional knowledge will not only enhance your enjoyment but also help you paddle faster and more efficiently in the water. By starting with this class, my sincere hope is that you have gained the confidence and acquired the necessary skills for a more enjoyable and enduring paddleboarding experience.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.