Stand Up Paddle Boarding 101 – Everything You Need to Know

Springtime is upon us with plenty of sunshine and a plethora of summertime activities to choose from. Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is becoming an extremely popular sport and is available to try practically anywhere. Stand up paddle boarding is more than just an activity to add to your repertoire of aquatic activities, it is also great cross training for activities ranging from surfing to mountain biking. Its relatively quick learning curve, versatility of equipment, and adaptability to global aquatic environments has lead it to be one of the fastest growing outdoor sports to date. This is a sport for the masses; you can choose anything from leisurely touring on your board to getting a great endurance workout with fitness paddling.

Stand up paddling is for anyone who loves to spend time outside. Whether you’re motivated by a great workout or simply an afternoon in the sunshine, stand up paddle boarding could be your next great adventure

Stand up paddle boarding is an incredible sport and a lot of fun! I personally love it for the use of yoga on the water or touring gorgeous lakes with beautiful scenic views. Listed below will be more elaborate breakdown of what to consider before stand up paddle boarding. Ultimately, this is a quick rundown of everything you need to know about stand up paddle boarding so that you feel inspired to get out on the water for some summer fun!

What to Consider

Stand up paddling is a relatively new aquatic activity that can be facilitated on lakes, rivers, bays and open oceans. Because of its versatility, there are many choices to take into account before stand up paddle boarding. From who to bring, where to go, what board to choose, and how to keep yourself safe, your choices are limitless.

Let’s take a closer look at what to consider before stand up paddling.


Number of People

Stand up paddling is a great opportunity to get outside with friends and family of all ages and abilities. While stand up paddling is considered more or less a “solo” activity, it’s best to head out on the water in a group. Groups tend to max out at about 15, Depending on the board you choose, there are opportunities to share a board with a friend, dog, or even a group. Most SUP’s will accommodate at least two people while some boards like the Isle Megaladon allow you to paddle with upwards of 10 people. Make sure that you stay close together when paddling and communicate regularly about destinations, currents, and safety considerations.


Where to SUP

You can take your stand up paddle board just about anywhere there’s water. For beginners, it’s important to choose a location with flat water; the smaller the waves, the easier it will be to stay balanced and create forward momentum. Flat sections of rivers, bays, and lakes are great places to start.

If you choose to SUP in the ocean, you may want to find a location with an easy put-in and take-out location such as channels and calmer beaches. Stand up paddling is rather self-explanatory in that the goal is to stand up while paddling. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to start in a sitting position or kneeling position.

It’s wise to ease into stand up paddling, so take it slow and stay within your limits. If the conditions look too tough for paddling, take a break, observe, and find the best place to start your adventure.

For most places, a personal floatation device (PFD) or life jacket is required for stand up paddling. This isn’t always necessary for SUP surfing or paddling on the open ocean. Before choosing a location to SUP, make sure that you have the necessary permission and equipment. Some areas may require a permit for paddling such as protected areas or locations of concern. Depending on the location you choose, you may need to take into consideration different types of equipment. Later in this article, we go over the different types of SUP equipment to choose from.


Ways to SUP

There’s many different ways to stand up paddle. Depending on your ability, comfort in the water, and sense of adventure, you may want to consider different styles of paddling. Some of these various ways of paddling include using a paddle board for touring, yoga, fishing, white water rafting, ocean kayaking, fitness paddling or surfing.

A Closer Look at Ways to SUP

Let’s take a closer look at the different ways you can use your stand up paddle board!

SUP Surfing

SUP surfing is how stand-up paddling got started. Using a longer board, surfers were able to get a better vantage point for reading waves as they approached shore. When traditional surfing, or prone paddling, you are limited in your ability to read the ocean for prospective waves by your height and the buoyancy of your board. In addition, your paddle strokes are limited by your strength, endurance, and again; board buoyancy.

While stand up paddle surfing, you have a greater vantage point of the horizon. In addition, a longer paddle allows your strokes to be stronger which in turn help you to catch waves more easily and earlier than you would while traditional surfing. For SUP surfing, consider using a solid, planning hull board. There are a number of fin set-ups that can be used, but for beginning SUP surfing, consider using a single fin or trifin set-up. As you progress, you may choose to use a smaller board and change the shape of your board for better maneuverability on waves.

It can be tough to get started SUP surfing, even for experienced surfers, so don’t discouraged and have some fun!

SUP Yoga

SUP Yoga has become a very popular sport. It’s a great way to take your practice on the water to learn more balance and stability exercises. As you can imagine, SUP yoga is generally practiced on flatwater such as lakes, rivers, and bays. A solid or inflatable board can be used for SUP yoga.

A solid board creates more of a stable, firmer feel beneath you. On the other hand, an inflatable board can be a little more forgiving in the water and be more comfortable to stand, lay or fall on while practicing. At the end of the day, the type of board you choose is a matter of preference and your personal expertise in the sport.

SUP Touring

SUP touring or recreational paddling is a great leisure activity. Touring can take place on flatwater or on the open ocean. You can use either a solid or inflatable board for this sport as well. It’s a great way to enjoy the sun and water while soaking in the scenic views of your location. In my expertise with SUP touring, I prefer choosing lakes or reservoirs where there isn’t much boat traffic. It’s nice to tour without having to balance through the wake of boats or jet skis, especially for beginners. However, if balance isn’t an issue, go where your heart desires!

Touring can be a great activity for groups or for bringing your dog onboard as well. If you plan on having more than one individual on your paddle board at a time, consider using a multi-person stand up paddle board. Extra weight means a need for extra balance and buoyancy so don’t forget to take these things into account.

SUP Fishing

Fishing requires some specifics for stand up paddle boards. With fishing on SUPs, take shape, length and width into consideration. A displacement hull will help glide through the water for a quiet, fast approach over fishing spots. Some of the accessories to take into consideration for this sport would be fishing poles, a cooler and tackle rack. Don’t forget to bungee down your equipment!


Downwinding is the closest to SUP surfing out of the various SUP activities you can choose from. There are two basic kinds of waves: groundswell and windswell.

Groundswell is formed as waves approach shore and the energy beneath the water creates drag in shallow water. This causes the wave to stand-up and eventually becomes top heavy and breaks. The point where the wave breaks, or the curl, is the sweet spot used for traditional and SUP surfing

Downwinding is specific to riding windswell. Windswell is created as wind whips along the surface of the water and creates bumps or whitecaps. These smaller waves can be ridden using an SUP board. Downwinding is rising in popularity and new boards are being designed specifically for this sport. Consider using a solid displacement hull board for your next downwinding adventure.

The best way to learn is to get out and do it so give it a shot!

What you Need for Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand up paddling obviously requires a board and a paddle, but there are many different things to bring along on your next paddle adventure. It’s always good to have a backpack for carrying your gear and a safe place to leave your gear behind. Water, food, sunscreen, a first-aid kit, and a PFD or wet suit should join you on every trip. Here’s some basics on what to bring with you for your next trip.

Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP)

This is the most essential part in getting a start on your adventure. The type of board you choose will be determined by the paddler’s weight, the sport you’re using it for and the weather conditions where you’re located.

There is a lot to consider before choosing a stand up paddle board such as the weight, length, the type of hull, solid or inflatable and the gear needed. All of these factors listed help determine how stable the board will feel, maneuver, and paddle. The more stable you feel, the more comfortable the sport will feel.

Here are a few things to consider while picking out a SUP.

  • HULL TYPE: There are two types of hulls for paddle boards. One is a planing hull and the other is a displacement hull. A planing hull is flat and more rounded at the top. Planing hulls maneuver easier on the water and provide a comfortable ride. They’re used for sports such as recreational paddling, SUP yoga, downwinding and surfing.
  • TYPE OF BOARD: When it comes to choosing a paddle board, there is either the option of an inflatable board or a solid board. With an inflatable board, there are a lot of benefits. Inflatable boards tend to be less expensive, much easier to travel with, requires less storage space and great for specific sports such as whitewater rafting and SUP yoga. They can create more of a comfortable feel and can be easier to maneuver in the water.

A solid board is a good choice if you’re wanting a more stable feel. Solid boards normally have a core of foam encased in fiberglass layers. Since they’re thicker and solid, they tend to drag less in the water leaving more room for speed and creating better balance. As long as you have space in your home and a vehicle to transport it, a solid SUP is a great investment.

  • OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: The board you choose will be heavily influenced by how you choose to engage in stand up paddle boarding. Those interested in recreational paddling, yoga and surfing will feel better on a thicker and longer board. Length and volume of the board creates more stability. Sports such as racing, fishing or fitness paddling lean more toward a lighter and narrow board for speed and efficiency.
  • While, at a glance, storage might not cross you mind when choosing a paddle board, it’s important to think about the amount of storage your paddle board will need between use. If you’re limited on space, an inflatable paddleboard is easy to store, easy to travel with and easy to maneuver in water. However, in windy conditions, inflatable boards can be difficult to manage and have a tendency to “go with the flow” a little more than traditional boards. If space and transportation isn’t an issue in choosing a board, a solid paddle board can feel much more stable in the water, especially in windy environments.


Most paddles are angled to help with the efficiency of paddling. It’s important to purchase a paddle six to eight inches taller than your personal height. Many beginner paddles are adjustable and good for sharing with friends and family. To check if your paddle is the correct height, hold your arm out at a right angle from your shoulder, if your hand is resting on the handle of the paddle at this angle, the paddle is the right height for you. You want your paddle a bit longer than your own height so you will be able to get a longer stroke out on the water.

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

As you may have noticed, there’s a few acronyms in Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP). PFD stands for Personal flotation device or life jacket. Since the U.S. Coast Guard recognizes SUPs as a vessel, having a personal flotation device on you or your board will serve as a safety precaution. Depending on your location, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs to be worn while paddling. A bungee cord can be a great tool for keeping your PFD attached to your board while paddling. If you’re a novice paddler, or you’re taking your SUP out on a river or lake, I would recommend wearing your PFD while paddling, regardless of the tan-lines it may cause.

Other SUP Gear

You may be wondering what else you’ll need before you get out on the water. While a board, paddle, and PFD (pending location) are necessary, and there’s a few other things to take into consideration.

Your first priority before heading out paddling should be the board to choose. Depending on the style of paddling you’re interested in, there are a number of different boards to choose from. Be sure to take a look at the different kinds of boards to choose from before taking off in the water.

Leashes are sometimes sold separately, however, they’re important to have so your board stays attached to you at all times.

Bungee cords are also a nice accessory to have if you’re going on fishing or touring trips to help keep your gear dry and secure.

If you’re choosing a solid board, a car rack is something to consider purchasing for transportation purposes.

One last thing to think of with gear is the climate and weather conditions. A dry suit or wet suit may be needed for warmth.

Below is a more in-depth explanation of other SUP gear to ensure you have the proper gear in place before heading out for your adventure on the water!


It’s always important to be aware of the climate and weather conditions where you plan to paddle so you have proper attire to stay warm, dry, and comfortable. In colder climates where hypothermia is a possibility, a wet suit or a dry suit would be a wise investment. It’s important to remember, a wet suit will not keep you dry, hence the term “wet.” Wet suits come in various neoprene thickness that are suited for the water temperature where you plan to paddle. A dry suit however, will keep you dry. As a result, warmer layers can be worn underneath to ensure that you are comfortable in the water. For warmer conditions, shorts, a t-shirt, or a bathing suit is appropriate.

Board Leash

This is an important piece of gear as it keeps the board attached to you at all times. Leashes are sold separately and there are different types depending on what sport you’re using the board for.

Sun Protection

Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are great accessories to shield you from the sun while paddling. You’ll be surprised how much sun exposure you can get on an SUP, even on a cloudy day. UVA and UVB rays reflect off the surface of the water where you’re paddling and can double the effects of sun exposure while paddling so don’t forget to cover up!


Stand up paddle boarding is a great way to build strength, balance, and simply have fun out on the water. You can stand up paddle just about anywhere there’s water from oceans, lakes, rivers, bays, and harbors.

Before you take your first paddle stroke out on the water, make sure that you research the board that’s most suited to your interest; think about who you want to paddle with, where you want to paddle, and how you want to paddle. Don’t forget to check weather conditions, rules and regulations, and group size before taking off.

Most importantly, have fun! Stand up paddle boarding can be great for people of all ages and abilities so grab your child, your dog or your grandma and get out on the water!

Bonus: Infographic!