Common Paddle Board Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Up your stand up paddle board game by avoiding these common mistakes.


stand paddle board

Paddle boarding has become a popular water sport in recent years, with many people discovering the joy of gliding across the water on a stand up paddle board (SUP). However, there are several common mistakes that can lead to frustration, inefficiency, and even accidents. In this article, we'll examine the most common paddle board mistakes and provide advice on how to prevent them, ensuring that your time on the water is as enjoyable and safe as possible.

Choosing the Wrong Paddle Board

stand up paddle boards

A frequently made mistake by paddle boarders is picking an unsuitable paddle board. There are different types of SUP boards designed for specific activities, skill levels, and water conditions. Choosing a board that's not suitable for your needs or ability can make it challenging to maintain balance and control, leading to discouragement for beginners or accidents for more experienced paddlers.

To avoid this mistake, research the various types of paddle boards, including inflatable paddle boards and solid paddle boards, and select one that aligns with your intended use, skill level, and the water conditions in which you'll be paddling.

Inappropriate Paddle Sizing

inflatable paddle board

Using a paddle that is too long or too short can lead to inefficient paddling, fatigue, and discomfort. A paddle that's too long can cause you to reach too far, putting strain on your back and shoulders, while a short paddle can lead to hunching and poor posture.

To ensure you're using the correct paddle length, stand the paddle vertically next to you, and extend your arm overhead. The T-grip handle should rest comfortably in your palm. If it's too high or too low, adjust the paddle length accordingly.

Holding the Paddle Incorrectly

inflatable boards

Holding the paddle incorrectly is another common mistake that can lead to inefficient strokes and unnecessary fatigue. Many beginners hold the paddle with the blade angled backward, which can actually push the board in the opposite direction.

To hold the paddle correctly, make sure the blade is angled forward, away from you. Your top hand should grip the T-handle, while your bottom hand grips the shaft, roughly shoulder-width apart. Remember to keep your arms straight and use your core and torso to power your strokes.

Poor Stance and Balance

stand up paddleboards

Maintaining proper stance and balance on a stand up paddle board is crucial for stability and efficient paddling. Many beginners stand with their feet too close together, which can cause instability and make it difficult to maintain balance.

To improve your stance, position your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel to each other. Keep your knees slightly bent and your back straight, maintaining a relaxed and upright posture. Distribute your weight evenly between your feet and keep your gaze forward, rather than looking down at your feet.

Inefficient Stroke Technique

inflatable boards

An inefficient stroke technique can make paddling more challenging and tiring than it needs to be. Many beginners use short, choppy strokes, which can cause the board to zigzag and require more energy to maintain forward momentum.

To improve your stroke technique, focus on long, smooth strokes that engage your core and torso. Reach forward with the paddle and submerge the entire blade into the water before pulling it back toward you. As you near the end of your stroke, lift the paddle out of the water and repeat the process.

Not Dressing Appropriately

touring board design and inflatable sups

Wearing the wrong attire can make your paddle boarding experience uncomfortable, and in some cases, even dangerous. Cotton clothing, for example, retains water and can weigh you down, while lack of sun protection can lead to sunburn and dehydration.

Dress for the water temperature and conditions, opting for moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabrics like synthetic materials or wool. Wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD), and consider additional safety gear such as a whistle or a leash, depending on the environment. Don't forget to apply waterproof sunscreen and wear a hat or sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.

Ignoring Weather and Water Conditions

perfect stand up paddle board

Neglecting to check weather and water conditions before heading out is a common mistake that can lead to dangerous situations. Strong winds, currents, or large waves can make paddle boarding challenging, especially for beginners.

To avoid this mistake, always check the weather forecast and water conditions before you go paddle boarding. Be prepared to change your plans or reschedule your outing if conditions are unfavorable or beyond your skill level.

Overestimating Your Abilities

displacement hull on a solid sup board

Overconfidence and overestimating your abilities can lead to accidents and injuries. Many beginners attempt to tackle challenging water conditions, long distances, or advanced maneuvers before they're ready, which can result in exhaustion, accidents, or even the need for rescue.

Be honest with yourself about your skill level and experience, and progress gradually. Start with calm waters and short distances, gradually working your way up to more challenging conditions as you gain confidence and improve your skills.

Not Knowing Basic Safety Rules and Etiquette

inflatable sup board

Failure to follow basic safety rules and etiquette can lead to conflicts with other water users, accidents, or even fines. Many paddle boarders are unaware of local regulations, right-of-way rules, or the proper way to interact with other watercraft, swimmers, and wildlife.

Before hitting the water, familiarize yourself with local laws and guidelines, as well as general safety rules and right-of-way regulations. Be courteous and respectful to other water users, and always maintain a safe distance from swimmers, boats, and wildlife.

Neglecting Proper Maintenance and Storage

inflatable paddle board

Paddle boards require regular maintenance and proper storage to ensure their longevity and performance. Many paddle boarders make the mistake of not rinsing their board and paddle after use, which can lead to saltwater corrosion and damage.

To keep your paddle board in good condition, rinse it thoroughly with fresh water after each use, and allow it to dry completely before storing. Store your board in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, to prevent UV damage and warping.


race board

By being aware of these common stand up paddle board mistakes and taking steps to avoid them, you can enjoy a safer, more enjoyable experience on the water. As with any sport, practice and experience will help you improve your skills and become a more proficient paddle boarder. So, take your time, be patient, and always prioritize safety – and you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of paddle boarding.