Stand up paddle boards (SUP) offer a fun, relaxing way to play on the water. With a minimum of gear, you can paddle ocean surf or placid lakes and rivers.
Paddle boarding delivers a full-body workout and thus has become a popular cross-training activity. And since you stand at your full height, you can enjoy unique views of everything from sea creatures to what’s on the horizon.
To get started, you just need some basic SUP gear and techniques.
Good news: You need just a few key pieces of equipment to enjoy SUP.
Stand up paddle board: This is by far your most significant gear investment. Your board choice is determined by a combination of paddler weight and skill, your intended use and the local conditions.
Paddle: Stand up paddles have an angle or “elbow” in the shaft for maximum efficiency. Choose a paddle that’s roughly 6″ to 8″ taller than you are (note: some manufacturers recommend an 8″ to 10″ differential).
PFD (Personal Flotation Device): The U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand up paddleboards as vessels, so always wear a PFD. (You should also carry a safety whistle and use a light if you are paddling after sunset).
Proper clothing: For cool conditions where hypothermia is a concern, wear a wetsuit or dry suit. In milder conditions, wear shorts and a T-shirt or bathing suit—something that moves with you and can get wet.
Leash: Typically sold separately, a leash tethers your SUP to you, keeping it close by if you fall off. Your SUP is a large flotation device, so being attached to it can be important for your safety. There are leashes designed specifically for surf, flatwater and rivers; be sure to purchase the correct one for your intended use.
Sun protection: Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
Transporting Your Stand Up Paddle Board
How do you transport a SUP board (or boards) on your vehicle? Our video gives you the basics.
Carrying Your SUP to the Water
Most SUPs have a built-in handle. Just lean the board on its rail (edge), reach for the handle (a grip in the middle of the board) and tuck the board under one arm. Carry the paddle with your other hand.
For longer distances—or if your board has no handle—carry your paddle board on your head. Here’s how:
- Stand the board on its tail (end) with the deck (top of the board) facing you.
- Lay your paddle on the ground within easy reach.
- Grasp the rails (the edges of the board) with both hands.
- Walk yourself under the board so that your head is about midway between the nose (front) and the tail.
- Stand upright with the board overhead, still holding it by its rails.
- Bend down to pick up your paddle and head for the water.
SUP Techniques on the Water
Standing Up on Your SUP
When you’re new to the sport, it’s best to start out in flat, calm water that’s free of obstacles like boats and buoys.
At first, you may find it easier to kneel on the board rather than to stand upright. Here are the steps to get you started: