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A lot of people are taking up stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). It is fun, provides a good workout, you can do it with friends or family, and it gives you a great view of the water and the horizon because you are standing up.
If you’re just starting out, it is important that you understand where you should stand on a paddleboard, and which stance you should adopt. You don’t want to develop bad habits early on, because they’ll be harder to correct later. But don’t worry, we’re here to share some insights.
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If you’re still learning, then it’s extra important that you have some safety equipment like a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) and a leash. A PFD helps you stay afloat should you bump into anything and fall off your paddleboard.
The leash is probably one of your best friends if you’re still trying to figure out where you should stand on a paddleboard. You’ll be falling a lot, and the leash keeps the board close to you at all times, which prevents you from having to run or swim after it.
For more information on PFDs, leashes and other important gear, you can also check our article on what to wear for SUP.
For your first few times practicing, you’ll want to choose a location with favorable conditions, because you’ll have a hard enough time trying to keep balanced. Look for places where the water is calm, with no waves.
It should also be deep enough so that you don’t hit the ground if you fall, to prevent you from getting hurt.
Wind is your enemy, so days with no wind are best. Also, try to pick a site with little to no boating activity, because they will create waves and stir the water, making your task more difficult.
Getting on Your Paddleboard
After arriving at the scene, it’s time to get your paddleboard into the water. We’re assuming you’re in an area where the water level is low, so be careful not to smash your paddleboard’s fin into the ground when dropping it in the water.
Continue walking into the water until it is about knee-deep. Now it’s time to try to get onto your paddleboard. If it is your first time, we recommend adopting a kneeling stance first.
Spend some time getting used to the board and working on your balance. You should do some paddling on your knees first to get a feel of it, and only then try standing up.
Your goal will be to have your feet on both sides of your paddleboard’s handle and at the center of the board. You may need to adjust them slightly forward or backward, but we’ll get to that.
Getting on Your Knees
So, to get on your knees, and starting from the beginning:
- Walk into the water until it is knee-deep. Hold the paddleboard in front of you, with its nose to your left.
- Place your paddle across the board, about one foot above the handle (toward the front). Keep your hands on top of the paddle, with the fingers spread, on each side of the handle, about shoulder-length apart.
- Supported by your hands, place your right knee on the far side of the handle, slightly below your right hand.
- Place your left knee on the near side of the handle, below your left hand.
- Grab the paddle, take your hands off the paddleboard, and raise your chest.
There are a few things to pay attention to
Keep looking at the horizon. While learning where to stand on a paddleboard, you should always look in the direction of where you want to go. It is like learning to ride a bike; you never look at the ground.
Practice paddling on your knees. This allows you to get accustomed to your paddleboard. When paddling on your knees, you don’t hold the paddle like you normally would, with a hand on the shaft and the other on top. Instead, both hands should hold the shaft such that only the paddle blade enters the water.
Don’t be afraid to fall. This is a watersport, so it will inevitably happen. It’s also important that you learn how to fall. If you try too hard to stay on the board, you may hit it before hitting the water, which is the recipe for injuries.
Own the fall, choose a side of the board and throw yourself safely into the water. This is more important when standing up than kneeling, because you will be falling from a greater height.
It’s now time to try standing up.
- Perform steps 1 to 5 above to get on your knees. You should now be kneeling on the paddleboard, with your hands on top of the paddle and above the handle, fingers spread.
- Tuck your toes under your feet.
- Looking at the horizon, and with the support of your hands, place your right foot where your right knee is.
- Do the same thing with your left foot. You should now be crouching with your head straight and looking forward.
- Always looking forward, raise your body to a standing position.
Congratulations! You are now standing up on your paddleboard!
There are things that you should keep in mind
Keep your feet spread. Your feet should be wide enough to give you balance, but not so wide that they are almost at the edge of the board.
Keep your knees bent. This gives you more balance and support, especially during bumps and oscillations.
Staggered Foot Stance
There is another important aspect to mention in this guide. Remember, this is not surfing, so your feet should both face the tip of your board, and not the side.
However, some people like to place one foot slightly to the front and the other to the back, instead of being completely parallel, because they feel this gives them more balance. This is called the staggered stance, and is another possible way to stand on a paddleboard.
The answer to where you stand on a paddleboard is generally the center. However, you may need to move forward or backward to optimize the contact of your paddleboard with the surface of the water. This is called trimming.
If the tip or the tail of your board are sinking too much into the water, we say that it is out of trim. You should move forward to raise the tail, and backward to raise the nose.
To do this, place the blade of your paddle on the paddleboard and make sure it gives you firm support. Then, take a step forward or backward with both feet.
Readjust your support with the paddle if needed. The ideal position is where your paddleboard is completely level with the water.
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I’m an Colorado native, who learned to surf in the Pacific Northwest, and SW Canada. I live inland near the mountains now, and love to get out on my SUP. It’s weird, but I love windy, choppy days as no-one is out and I like the challenge.