How Difficult is Standup Paddleboarding?

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) may seem daunting with standing on a floating device on-top the potentially cold water but it’s actually quite a bit easier than it looks if you set yourself up for success. Once you experience SUP you won't want to do anything else.

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) may look daunting but it’s actually quite a bit easier than it looks if you set yourself up for success. Once you’ve figured it out, you will find that paddling a SUP can be one of the most relaxing, fun, full-body workouts imaginable.

Your best opportunity for immediate success is to start on a calm lake (preferably one without boat wakes) on a windless day. If you need some ideas check out our breakdown of state lakes!


Walk your SUP out until you are in waist deep water. Lay your paddle perpendicular to the paddleboard. Lie flat on the SUP and then rise up to your knees as you grab the paddle.

Start by paddling on your knees as this lowers your center of gravity and will allow you to get a feel for the movement of the paddleboard.

Remember how you needed to get your momentum up the first time you rode a bike? The same concept holds here, momentum will help you stabilize yourself.

Once you’ve gotten up to a comfortable speed, put your paddle on the board perpendicularly again and put both hands in front of you and shift from your knees to your feet so that you are in a crouch with your feet and hands all working together as touch-points to stabilize you.

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Now, in one quick motion, grab your paddle and rise to your feet and put your paddle blade back in the water as having the paddle as a point of contact, will help stabilize you.

To become comfortable with the process of rising to your feet, get back down on your knees again and practice pushing up again. Try it several times until it’s second nature.

If you're interested in learning how to improve your paddling you can do so here or a even deeper dive into understanding SUP basics you can also read that here.


Things to think about as you start paddling your SUP:

  • Make sure you are facing the front of the board and your feet are shoulder’s width apart.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent and adopt an athletic posture.
  • Be certain to place your SUP paddle’s blade completely in the water with the logo facing away and in-front of you.
  • By keeping your lower arm on the paddle as straight as possible, you will be able to "reach" further as you start the paddle stroke.
  • Pull the paddle back towards your feet utilizing your traps and obliques rather than simply pulling with your arms as relying on your bigger muscles will keep you from tiring quickly.
  • Release your paddle from the water once it’s gotten to the back of your feet.

There are a couple of ways for beginners to turn their SUP:

  • Paddle on one side to turn the opposite direction. This will allow you to make a gradual turn.
  • As your balance improves, dip the logo’ed portion of the paddle in the water behind your feet in the direction that you want to turn and paddle backwards. This will allow you to turn your SUP quicker – especially if you still have a little forward momentum as you start the maneuver.

Once you are more experienced, you can speed up your turns by stepping one foot back on the tail of the board to lift the SUP’s nose as you turn your body sideways and paddle backwards.

 paddle board

A few other “pro tips” to consider on your maiden standup paddleboard voyage:

  • Never paddle out with the wind at your back as your body will act as a human sail and the paddle out will be incredibly easy but the paddle back will be really brutal!
  • The wider the board, the easier it will be to balance on. At least a 32” width is recommended.
  • If you are planning to learn to SUP on your next trip to Hawaii, you could end up sorely disappointed as you will typically be battling waves and chop as well as trade winds. You will be far better off if you learn on a calm lake at home so that you are a confident paddler when it’s time to face the other variables that the ocean presents.
  • Don’t look down at your feet for extended periods as it will throw your balance off.


Follow these simple tips and you will be a professional paddle boarder in no time. Now get out there!


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