Stand up paddling for beginners is actually incredibly easy as the girls in this picture can testify. If you're in the LA area I highly recommend paddle boarding in Marina del Rey!

SUP for Beginners – Do It With Love

Stand up paddle boarding also known as SUP might be one of the most fun sea activities that has popped up and grown like crazy in recent years. Whether you’re paddling on oceans, lakes, or rivers, it can be a physical work out or a fun relaxing ride, or both!

It works your entire body and thus become a real training activity. Then of course, being on the ocean and standing staring at the end of the world or into the depths of the sea obviously makes it a truly remarkable experience.

But today our focus is going to be on helping you getting started with this awesome activity! Read what I say, pay attention, but don’t forget, the best way to take some stand up paddle board lessons.

SUP equipment

  • Clothing: It gets cold and windy very quickly on the water so make sure you are well insulated depending on where you’re paddling. Most paddle boarders don’t fall in the water but make sure you have proper gear for all situations. You can wear a wetsuit or a dry suit or if you’re going for a relaxing ride swim trunks and t-shirt are fine (this is the case in my favorite spot in LA’s Marina del Rey).
  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD): It is both law and basic safety practice to always wear a PFD. The Coast Guard stats that paddle boards are considered vessels unlike surf boards so you should always be wearing one. Additionally having a whistle and a light especially when paddling in the evening or at night are useful tools to have.
  • Paddle: You wouldn’t go far without one 😉 The paddle needs to be 6 to 8 inches taller than you and all of them have an “elbow” (slight angle) in the shaft area to improve power and steadiness in the water.
  • Leash: Attach your board to yourself. There are different types of leashes for oceans vs. marina paddling but make sure to get a good quality leash for the conditions you’re looking for to avoid losing your board.
  • SUP Board: Grab a board and go! It’s actually a bit more complicated than that but indeed the most important item you need is the board and it’s also the most expensive. Pick it based on your level, your size, and of course what kind of paddling you want to do.

Getting into the water

All stand up paddles have a handle in the center of the board (also used when on the water to easily identify the board’s center of gravity). You’ll need to lean over the board, pick it up at the handle and tuck it under your arm while your other hand carries the paddle safely.

If your board somehow doesn’t have a handle, if it’s too heavy, or if you’re walking for longer distances just plop it on your head and walk!

Standing up on your waterbound paddle board

As beginners you’ll definitely want to stand on flat calm waters free of any type of obstruction (OR boat). We always encourage first-timers to start learning basic paddle techniques while kneeling on the board rather than standing. This helps with stabilization and balance until you’re ready to get up.

  • Stand next to your board in the water and lay your paddle on top of the board using it for balance with the blade resting on top of the water.
  • Hold the board securely on the sides without letting go of the paddle.
  • Get on the board kneeling (one knee then the other) just behind the center of the board which may be determined by where the handle is.
  • You’ll get a sense of how it feels like so take a moment to get accustomed to the balance.
  • Keep your hands on the rails of the board to maintain stability.
  • Once you’re feeling comfortable with everything you can try to stand by putting one foot flat next to the handle and shooting up with your other foot placing them exactly where your knees were.
  • Congrats on getting up!

Stance or the art of looking badass on the water

Keeping your balance is the most important part of paddle boarding while standing on the board. It’s a little bit like riding a bike the faster you go forward the more balanced you’ll be! Always keep your feet parallel to each other hip to shoulder width apart and nicely centered on the board. Your feet should always be pointing forward with your knees slightly bend and your core straight and strong. Don’t forget that your hips are doing the balancing work not your chest or head. Make sure to always be staring in front of you looking into the horizon and not down at your board.

Stroking the water with your paddle

When you’re solid on the board in flat water and you want to get somewhere you’ll need to start paddling. Your stroke should be as follows:

  • For right paddling, your right hand should be on the paddle shaft and low while your left hand will be holding the paddle at the top where the grip is
  • The angle of the paddle should be facing the opposite direction from you which may feel a little strange at first
  • Push down with your left hand to put the paddle in the water.
  • The blade should be all the way into the water and then you pull in back towards your heels and out of the water.
  • Short strokes will suffice at first and start paddling by doing 3 or 4 strokes on one side before switching to the other — make sure to invert your hand positions when you move the paddle to your left side.

Turning could be useful…

There are three real motions that you need to master. The sidestroke which is basically paddling on one side until the front of the paddle faces the direction you want to go towards if you’re looking to turn right just paddle left and vice versa. Backpadling is a faster way to change directions and all you need to do is push back your paddle into the water in an inverse sidestroke on whichever side you want. The final motion is called the sweep strong where you put your paddle at the front of the board and draw a semi circle in the water all the way to the back of the paddle so that your board turns in the opposite direction from the side you’re stroking on.

Falling like a boss

If you fall — don’t worry about it, it happens to everyone at one stage or another and especially when you’re trying new things. If you ever lose your balance and fall in just aim to fall on the side of the water and not on the board because those things are hard. Make sure to always grab your board first and then your paddle if your paddle fell away from you.

Those are some of the basic skills to learn! I hope this has been useful and told you a little bit about how to get started. If you’re looking for some awesome paddle boarding in Marina del Rey or in Malibu check out the Lyvly SUP pages to paddle with seals or over the sunset!


Pictures by Lyvly Ambassador: Gabs W.