Stand Up Paddleboarding Tips for Balance and Control


Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUPing) has been around for a long time. In its current form, it can be
traced back to the Hawaii of the 1900s – but it’s actually a lot older. Records of earlier forms of the
sport have been found dating from as early as 1000 BC. The modern version hit California in the early 2000s and has been exploding ever since. These days, it’s among the fastest-growing sports in the USA and UK, and it’s diversified into racing, touring, fishing, and even yoga.

If you’ve tried any other board-related sports like snowboarding or skateboarding you’re in a great
position to start SUPing as it draws on many of the same principles. But even if you’re not
experienced in other board sports you can work on your strokes and achieve that all-important
control and balance.

Paddling techniques in SUPing can be divided into standing up, falling and getting back on, and
balancing as you stand. The strokes you need to master are the Forward, Reverse, and Sweep, and
the Pivot Turn is also very useful. Helpful tips on all these elements are listed below.

stand up paddleboarding
Standing Up

● Stand alongside your board, in knee-deep water. Hold it by the edges and work your way onto
the top, in a kneeling position.
● Your knees should be in the sweet spot, just behind the board’s center, which is easy to find if
there’s a carry handle.
● Stabilize the board by keeping your hands on either side of it, and move one foot and then the
other to the position that your knees were in.
● Don’t stand up in a single motion. Raise your chest with your knees bent and extend your legs
only when your chest is vertical.

Falling and Getting Back On

● Falling is inevitable and is part of how you learn to balance. Expect to keep falling; it even
happens to pros from time to time!
● Angle your body to the side, so you fall in the water rather than on the board.
● Hold onto your paddle as you fall. If you lose it, get back onto your board first and then use your
hands to move through the water and get to your paddle.
● To get out of the water and back onto your board, position yourself near the middle, and grab
the handle with one hand. Let your legs float up behind you and then kick them as you pull on
the handle, sliding yourself onto your board.


● Keep your feet parallel, shoulder-width apart, and equidistant from both edges of your board.
● Point your toes forward, keep your knees slightly bent, and hold your back straight.
● Hold your head and shoulders upright and steady.
● Shift your weight, as your board goes over the water surface, by moving your hips.

● Level your gaze at the horizon, or spot at a specific object if it’s easier. The idea is to avoid
staring downwards.

PC: Joshua Currie

Forward Stroke

● The Forward Stroke is the most basic movement and the first you’ll learn when you start SUPing.
This stroke helps you to propel your board forward through the water.
● Reach about two feet forward and push the paddle blade all the way below the surface. This is
called planting the paddle.
● Move the paddle back through the water towards your ankle, and then lift it up out of the
● Twist from your torso to paddle and keep your arms straight.
● Push down on the paddle’s grip using your top hand – don’t use your lower arm to pull the
paddle back.
● Alternate three or four strokes on either side, to go in a straight line.
● Keep your paddle as vertical as possible, to go as straight as possible.

Reverse Stroke

● Use the Reverse Stroke for slowing down, turning, and stopping.
● Basically, this is the opposite action to the Forward Stroke.
● Reach back behind you to plant the paddle near your board’s tail. Remember, the blade must be
completely submerged.
● Keep your arms straight and avoid pulling with your arms; twist from your torso to move the
paddle as with the Forward Stroke.
● Remember to alternate sides; the Reverse Stroke on the right and left sides will make your
board’s nose turn right and left respectively.

Sweep Stroke

● Use the Sweep Stroke to turn your board while you are upright, either standing still or moving.
● Rotate your shoulders so your right or left (depending on whether you are paddling on the right
or left side) comes forward.
● Reach forward to plant your paddle, submerging the entire blade in the water.
● Sweep your paddle away from your board, in a large arcing motion, moving from the nose to the
tail. Use the leverage of your hips and legs, while rotating your torso, to do this.
● The Sweep Stroke on the left side will turn your board to the right, and vice versa.

Pivot Turn

● Pivot Turns are helpful when you want to turn and catch a wave. A good way to think of them
is as ultra-effective Sweep Strokes.
● For paddleboards 17 feet long or less, stand in the middle. On longer boards, walk back further to get
the nose out.
● Stand in the middle of the board, with both of your feet facing forwards.

● Place your paddle alongside your board, with the power face up, to provide stability. This
position is called a Brace.
● With the blade flat on the water by your side, slide one foot about six inches behind you.
● Slide your other foot back, so that it’s parallel to the first.
● Repeat the sliding motion on both feet and notice your board’s nose rising out of the water.
● Keep your knees slightly bent and turn your board forward with a Sweep Stroke. Brace your
paddle near the catch or nose of the board as you turn 360 degrees.

General Advice

SUPing is possible wherever there’s a body of water, including rivers, coastlines, and lakes. From
California’s Lake Tahoe to Anchorage in Alaska, there are pristine SUPing spots all around the

1. Always paddle using your entire body, engaging your core and back muscles.
2. The scoop of the paddle should always face away from you and towards the nose of your board.
3. When you paddle on the right side of the board your left hand will rest on the T-grip with your
right hand a few feet lower on the shaft. When you switch sides, you need to reverse your hand
Mastering these pro stroke tips will help you stay on your board and can help you to tackle all types
of water with complete confidence.


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The mission of Outdoor Sports Guide Magazine is to inspire and educate endurance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts in the Mountain West through well-written content on adventure, travel, gear, health, fitness, nutrition, industry news, profiles, and ski resort information.

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