Common Paddle Boarding FAQ's

We answer the questions: What is paddle boarding? Is learning to paddle board hard? Do you have to be strong to paddle board?

Common Paddle Boarding FAQ's


paddle boarding sup requires proper clothing

Since Glide started back in 2010, we've gotten quite a few questions related to stand up paddle boards. We gathered our team together and have created this FAQ page to answer most to them. 

What is Paddle Boarding?

sup surfing with carbon fiber inflatable paddle board

Stand up paddle boarding is a combination between kayaking and surfing as it presents the balance challenges that a surfboard offers with an even better paddling workout than kayaking offers. Paddle boarding has been the fastest growing water sport over the past decade.

Early SUP paddles were modified from Outriggers

inflatable sup board forward

Stand up paddle boarding was brought to us by Hawaiian surfers who used longboards and outrigger paddles when they weren't catching waves because of flat conditions. They found that paddle boarding gave them a great workout and became a paddling lifestyle in it's own right.

Paddle board paddles allow you to propel paddle boards forward

inflatable paddle boards on calm water

Whether they were using a outrigger or canoe paddle, these surfers realized that they could cover long distances in the open ocean when the surf conditions wouldn't allow them to catch waves. They also realized that paddle boarding gave them a full body workout.

Before long they had added a traction pad to their SUP boards which was easier on the feet as these early paddle boarders started paddling long distances. As the sport of stand up paddle boarding progress, these early shorter boards were often replaced by touring boards that allowed the paddle boarder to easily cover long distances. In the blink of an eye, the new water sport became accessible to the masses.

Is Learning to Paddle Board Hard?

stand up paddleboard with displacement hull and sup leash

We get this question quite a bit. It's actually quite easy if you start on flat water on a day that isn't windy.

This article gives a nice overview on the best ways to learn to paddle board but we'll give you the basics here.

Start in knee high water

all around sup yoga board with cargo nets

Once they have practiced standing on land for a bit, beginner paddlers will be ready to try paddle boarding on calm water. Stand next to your paddle board in water that is deep enough to make sure your fin doesn't hit any obstacles.

Knee paddle to gain speed

sup boards for paddle surfing use a coast guard approved personal flotation device

Climb onto the stand up paddle board, and straddle the center point where the handle is with your knees. While on your knees use your SUP paddle to paddle out to deeper water to get a little momentum.

Once your board gets up to speed, you will notice that it tends to get a more stable feel. Once you are ready, lay your SUP paddle on the deck pad in front of you and get on all fours.

Stand in a fluid motion

paddle board past one foot

Push up slightly with your arms and your fingers spread wide as you put your feet down on the paddle board. Then push yourself up with your knees in one fluid motion until you are standing with your knees slightly bent.

Reach down and pick up your paddle. You will feel unstable as you do this so doing it quickly is advisable.

Time to stand up and paddle!

paddle boarding sup outing

Once you have stood back up with your paddle, put your left hand on the top paddle handle and the other mid-way down the paddle shaft. SUP paddles aren't all that different from a canoe paddle except they are longer and the blade angles forward from the paddle shaft.

Beginner paddlers should use lighter paddles with a straight shaft that are designed for recreational paddling for their SUP outing.

Put the paddle blade in the water on the right side of the paddle board up towards the nose with the part of the blade that's angled up from the shaft facing the sky. Paddle board paddles are a bit counter intuitive in this regard as it would seem more natural to use the other side of the paddle to "scoop the water". Reach forward with your paddle as far as you can.

Keep your arms fairly straight to engage your core and pull the paddle down the side of your stand up paddle board. Once the paddle reaches your feet or is a few inches past them, pull the paddle blade out of the water and repeat the process.

Once your board stops to track in a straight line than it was at the beginning of your paddle board stroke, it's time to switch sides - meaning you need to move the paddle the paddle to the other side of your paddle board. Once you've pulled the paddle out of the water, switch your hand positions while you hold the paddle above the middle of your stand up paddle board. Put the paddle blade up towards to nose of the board on the left side and commence paddling.

Turning your stand up paddle board

carbon fiber paddle surfing board

This article gives in depth instructions on turning your SUP board while paddle boarding. However, the easiest way to turn your board the first time out, is to paddle on the side of the board that is opposite of the direction you want to turn and sweep the paddle blade out a foot or two away from the paddle board.

When you feel comfortable with turning this way while flat water paddling, you can attempt the reverse stroke that we discuss in the article.

You are now a paddle boarder. Does stand up paddle boarding sound hard to you?

Do You Have to be Strong to Paddle Board?

sup yoga stand up paddle boarding

The short answer to this oft asked query is "not really". Although paddle boarding will definitely make you quite a bit stronger no matter what your fitness level is than you were before you started because stand up paddleboarding is truly a full body workout.

In this post, we explain all the various muscles that you use on a paddle board. Then we back up these claims with some hard science.

Arm paddling on stand up paddle boards should be a crime

sup boards for stand up paddle boarding

No matter how strong you are, you want to make sure not to "arm paddle". You can easily spot the paddlers that are guilty of arm paddling. Typically, their arms are bent and they aren't propelling their paddle board very far with each stroke. They actually make paddle boarding harder than it needs to be.

No matter how much you workout with weights, the muscles in your arms tend to be fairly small in comparison with the rest of your body. You can and should engage the larger muscles in your body like the legs and core when stand up paddle boarding.

Paddle boarding with the core

stand up paddle boards give a great workout

You hear the expression: "use your core" in a lot of sports and it is absolutely critical in paddle boarding. To execute a proper SUP paddle stroke, you should be engaging all of the muscles in your core: back, chest, shoulder and abdominal muscles all play an important role when paddle boarding. Paddle boarding builds tremendous core strength as your core muscles are absolutely critical in paddle boarding.

The key to using your core more than your arms is to keep your arms fairly straight during the SUP stroke. This way, instead of using your biceps and triceps to move you forward, your arms are acting as a fulcrum for your back and chest muscles to do the heavy lifting. As you twist your body to complete the stroke, your abdominal muscles assist the back and chest muscles generate even more power.

Paddle boards work the leg muscles too

stand up paddle boards give a great workout

Most people are shocked when we tell them that they will be using their legs to assist them while paddle boarding. Not only are you using leg muscles to help you balance on your paddle board but you should also be using them to leverage power in your SUP stroke.

By pushing down against the board with your legs during the paddle stroke, you will find that you are able to pull the paddle through the water harder than you would if you were just standing lightly on your paddle board and not focusing on the role of your legs. The reason for this is that by pushing against the paddle board, you are transferring some of the power from the upper body to the large muscles in the legs.

Technique is more important than strength

sup yoga on carbon fiber touring boards

To hit a homerun in baseball or a long drive in golf, you don't need to be the strongest person playing if you have proper technique. The same rules apply in paddling inflatable paddle boards or hard SUPs. A weak person with a great technique will typically paddle faster than a strong person with lousy technique.


good paddle boarder using stand up paddle boards

Hopefully we have brought you the answers you were looking for to the questions we get the most hear at Glide: What is paddle boarding? Is learning to paddle board hard? and Do you have to be strong to paddle board? If you have any other questions, feel free to drop us a line.