The Guide to Paddle Boarding for Beginners

Guide to paddle boarding for beginners

Curious about this crazy new sport of stand up paddle boarding? Not really sure where to start or even how to start? We’re pretty sure you might be hooked once you give it a try, but first you need to understand the fundamentals important to paddle boarding for beginners.

Let’s go through our favorite paddle boarding tips for beginners and get you out on the water!

Find a Friend in Love with SUP

The easiest entry to the world of SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) is to find a friend who has a few boards and is willing to take you out on the water to try it out. This way you’ll have a chance to give paddling a try before committing to any purchases. Plus your friend is likely to be able to show you the ropes of the local waters should you get hooked.

How to Prepare for Paddle Boarding

Like with any new sport or activity, there are certain skills you need to practice. With the added element of water and ocean safety, there are also some precautionary measures you need to think about.

So once you’re hooked on SUP, start practicing and implementing these skills:  

Practice Makes Perfect-Perfect The Fall

The most important thing to practice early on in your paddling is the one activity most people try to avoid–falling. You’ve done your Googling for paddle boarding tips, you’ve bought your stand up paddle board for beginners, and you’ve driven out to the nearest body of water. The last thing you want to be doing is falling over and over again, but this is an important step that you can’t afford to skip! 

We practice falling so that we can practice getting back up again.  Seems simple, we know, but when you accidentally fall while out paddle boarding you might not feel so calm and comfortable. Especially if you are in deeper water or less than calm conditions.

Paddle out to deep water (you don’t want to hit the bottom when you are practicing), and fall off of your beginner paddle board over and over again until you feel confident that you can always get back up again. Be sure to use a leash on your SUP for beginners to connect your board to your ankle so when you fall, your board doesn’t scoot out of your reach. 

Safety First

One of the best ways to stay safe is to understand your relationship with your environment. 

Wind and Storms

Always check the wind and current reports before you head out paddling, and keep an eye on the clouds when you are out on the water. If the wind picks up or clouds begin to gather, a storm might be forming and it is time to go home. 

When you are first starting out, we’d recommend going out on days with minimal wind or wave activity. It is much easier to learn to balance on your board without too much wave disturbance. 

The Current and Tides

Does your paddling area have a strong current or is it heavily influenced by tides? If so, leave shore and paddle upstream first. This way when it is time to turn around and you are feeling a little tired, you will be paddling downstream.

If you are just beginning paddle boarding and you are out in the ocean, never underestimate the waves. Waves can knock you down (but you’ve practiced falling, right?!) and rip currents can pull you out to sea very quickly. 

If you are ever pulled out in a rip tide, paddle parallel to the beach, slowly making your way towards land. Don’t try to head straight back to the beach, it can often be too difficult and the exhaustion can increase your likelihood of panicking or getting seriously hurt. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a great Tides & Currents page that includes Tide Predictions and Coastal Conditions Forecasts. These can help you stay up to date on the weather and environmental conditions that will affect your paddle boarding experience. 

Personal Safety

Before beginning paddle boarding and heading out into the water, be sure to let someone you trust know where you are and how long you will be gone. We’d also highly recommend using a dry bag for your belongings–don’t assume your keys will stay in your pocket!  Most paddle boards have bungees or other ways to clip in a dry bag easily to your board.

Curious about other fun paddle boarding accessories? We’ve outlined our favorites here.

paddle boarding tips

Where to Buy Beginner Paddle Boards

When looking for the right gear for beginning paddle boarding, there are a few things to consider. It is best to start with an all around SUP that is thick and wide and can easily keep balance on both wavy and flat water. Also, be sure to choose a paddle that is the right length or is adjustable. This helps you to avoid stooping or bending over, which can cause you to lose your balance or to tire out quicker. 

We breakdown all of your options choosing a paddle board here.

Online Purchases

Craigslist

There are a lot of great options for used beginner paddle boards on Craigslist. When buying used beginner paddle boards, be sure to check over the hull for major dings and cuts, and make sure the fins are straight. It is important that the paddle still adjusts and it feels strong and firm. It is often a good idea to consider buying a backup paddle if you are buying a used beginner paddle board. 

Surf Companies

Companies like Thurso, Serenelife, and Roc offer beginner inflatable paddle boards in adult and junior sizes and with a variety of accessories. If you are already involved in other water sports like surfing or diving, go to your favorite company’s online store and explore their selection of beginner paddle boarding gear. There are also beginner paddle board reviews and product descriptions online to help you find the paddle board that is best for you! 

In-Person Options

Costco

In their online store, Costco offers beginner paddle boards ranging from $399 to $749. These can be ordered online, but they are also often available in your local Costco warehouse, so if you are more comfortable purchasing your inflatable paddle board for beginners in person, Costco can be a great option. 

The Local Surf Shop

You can spend all day searching for beginner paddle board reviews online, but one resource that shouldn’t be overlooked is your local surf shop. If you live on the coast, there is probably a surf shop somewhere nearby full of people who know their water sports. Don’t be afraid to walk in and ask them for help in choosing a beginner stand up paddle board. 

Try Before Buying

Renting

If you are going on vacation to the beach or a lake, you can rent an SUP for beginners as a part of your vacation activities. If you are looking to save money on your rental, I’d suggest checking Groupon for deals. 

In-Person Classes

If you are interested in taking a paddle boarding for beginners class, then there are a few great options for you. REI, LL Bean, and Red Paddle Co. all offer classes for people interested in learning how to paddle board. This can be a great opportunity for you to learn the basics of paddle boarding such as correct paddling technique and how to engage your core to maintain balance. 

And  while you are learning, you are also getting the opportunity to experience the beginner stand up paddle boards that different brands offer. 

So Let’s Get Out on the Water! 

Paddle boarding is a great activity for people of all ages. If you are interested in learning more about specific brands and models of beginner paddle boards and gear, check out our Paddle Board Buy Guide for an in-depth look at what factors affect the quality of a stand up paddle board and what brands to check out on your search for your new beginner paddle board. 

About the Author Manda J.

Hey, I'm Manda - one of the contributing authors at Watercraft Watch. I've always been drawn to the water in many different types of water sports, and those sports have helped me travel throughout the world. For many years in high school and college I was a competitive rower, and escaped to the backcountry for canoe and kayak trips each summer. Now you can find me mostly on a paddle board or outrigger canoe. When not on the water myself, you can find me assisting with my kids' sailing team or hiking the trails. I hope you find my articles useful and inspiring to both you and your families!

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