Learn to Stand Up Paddle Board in Under 5 Minutes

This quick start guide will walk you through the basics so you can confidently take your first steps on the water.

Have you ever watched someone gracefully gliding across the water on a paddle board and thought, "I wish I could do that"? The good news is, you can! Learning to stand up paddle board (SUP) is easier than you might think, and with the right approach, you can be up and paddling in under 5 minutes. This quick start guide will walk you through the basics so you can confidently take your first steps on the water.

standing on a paddle board

Step 1: Choose the Right Gear

Before you hit the water, make sure you have the right equipment. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Paddle Board: For beginners, a wider and longer board provides more stability. An inflatable paddle board is a great option due to its portability and durability.
  2. Paddle: The paddle should be about 6-10 inches taller than you. Adjustable paddles are ideal for beginners.
  3. Leash: Attach a leash to your ankle and the board to ensure you don’t get separated from your board if you fall.
  4. Life Jacket: Safety first! Always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD).

Step 2: Start on Calm Water

Find a calm, shallow area to begin. This could be a lake, pond, or bay with minimal waves and wind. Starting in calm water will make balancing easier and give you more confidence.

Step 3: Get on Your Board

  1. Position the Board: Place your board in the water with the fin facing down. Ensure it's in a spot where you can stand comfortably in shallow water.
  2. Mount the Board: Stand beside your board, near the center. Hold the board with both hands and place one knee on the board, then the other knee, so you're kneeling in the center.
  3. Balance and Stand Up: Keep your hands on the sides of the board for stability. Slowly stand up one foot at a time, positioning your feet where your knees were. Keep your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart.

Step 4: Find Your Balance

Once you're standing, it's important to find your balance. Here are a few tips:

  1. Stay Low: Keep your knees slightly bent and your body low at first to maintain a lower center of gravity.
  2. Look Forward: Don’t look down at your feet. Keep your eyes on the horizon or an object in front of you to help maintain balance.
  3. Engage Your Core: Use your core muscles to help stabilize yourself on the board.

Step 5: Start Paddling

With your balance established, it’s time to start paddling:

  1. Hold the Paddle Correctly: Hold the top of the paddle with one hand and place the other hand about halfway down the shaft. The blade should angle forward.
  2. Paddle Stroke: Place the paddle in the water a few feet in front of you, then pull it back towards your ankle in a smooth, straight line. Switch sides every few strokes to keep moving straight.
  3. Keep Your Core Engaged: Use your core muscles rather than just your arms to paddle. This will give you more power and reduce fatigue.

Step 6: Turning the Board

To turn the board, use the following techniques:

  1. Sweep Stroke: For a simple turn, use a wide, sweeping stroke. Place the paddle in the water on the side opposite the direction you want to turn, and sweep it away from the board in a wide arc.
  2. Reverse Stroke: For a sharper turn, perform a reverse stroke by placing the paddle in the water behind you and pulling it towards the front of the board.

Step 7: Practice Falling and Getting Back On

Falling is part of the learning process, so don’t worry if you take a dip. Here’s how to get back on your board:

  1. Climb Back On: Position yourself at the center of the board, grab the handle or sides, and kick your legs to help lift yourself onto the board. Slide your body back onto the board and resume your kneeling position before standing up again.
    woman kneeling on a stand up paddle board


Learning to stand up paddle board doesn’t have to be a long and complicated process. With the right gear, a calm water spot, and these simple steps, you can be up and paddling in under 5 minutes. Remember to stay relaxed, keep your knees bent, and use your core for stability. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the experience of gliding across the water on your paddle board.