Woman Stand Up Paddle Board, How To Stand Up Paddle Board Guide

How to Stand Up Paddle Board: Standing Positions and everything about the SUP Paddle Technique

The 1st part of our Paddle Technique Series: Learn everything you need to know about how to hold a Paddle correctly, how to determine the correct paddle length and how to stand on the SUP board correctly.

How to Stand Up Paddle Board – the first part of our complete Paddle Board Technique Guide.

Find out the most important things you need to know as a beginner about SUP Paddle Technique.

In this article we show you everything about correct paddle usage in SUP:

Plus: don’t miss the extra tip. We’ll show you how to avoid falling.

Do not miss to have a look at our full SUP Technique Guide. In part 2 for instance we show you how to get up on a Stand Up Paddle Board.

Woman Stand Up Paddle Board, How To Stand Up Paddle Board Guide

In this first part we focus on the basics of the Paddle Board Technique you will need to know as a beginner, and we’ll give you the most important tips.

If you are looking for other information and tips on Stand Up Paddle Boarding,  take a look at our full Paddle Board Technique rubric. There is a good chance that you will find a good guide to your question.

In our stand up paddle instructions, we assume that you own or rent the required material. If not, check out our overview of SUP boards and the Buyer Guide!
As always, the “Safety Disclaimer” applies: stand up paddling is a water sport! You should therefore always adhere to the most important safety rules. If you know them yet, check them out quickly here.

The basic tips for a good paddle board technique.

Paddle position: How to hold the SUP paddle correctly

Picture showing the correct Paddle Position in Stand Up Paddle Boarding, SUP Paddle Position Graphic

The paddle blade is angled by 10° – 13° degrees in relation to the shaft [1].

It is important to hold the paddle in such a way that the angle between the blade and the shaft is in the direction of travel.

The curve and position of the paddle increases the pulling distance and thus its efficiency.
The extension of the paddle stroke seems exaggerated at first glance, but if you calculate the increase in the length of the paddle stroke on a longer distance, you can well imagine how many strokes and thus how much power can be saved.

Picture showing how to hold a SUP Paddle correctly in Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Picture explaining why a SUP Paddle is angled. Important knowledge about hot to stand up paddle board

Another advantage of this paddle position becomes clear at the end of the paddle stroke [2].

This usually ends at the height of the feet of the standing position. Thanks to the angle between the paddle shaft and the paddle blade, the blade is approximately perpendicular to the water surface in this position.
If the paddle were held differently or if it were not bent, the blade would already “aim” towards the water surface, which would slow down propulsion.

SUP Paddle length: How to determine the right length for your paddle

The length of the paddle is just as important as, for instance, the length of a ski or the size of a bicycle frame.

From our point of view, the simplest measurement or adjustment method is as follows:

  1. Place the paddle upright with the handle on the floor.
  2. In a Race SUP Paddle, the transition from shaft to paddle should be approximately at eye level.
  3. A Wave SUP Paddle is usually about 5 to 10 cm or 2 to 4 inch shorter.
  4. A SUP Paddle for beginners is about 10 to 15 cm or 4 to 6 inch shorter.

In general, we recommend a Vario paddle for beginners, i.e., a paddle adjustable in length, so that you can set the right length yourself after a few strokes.

Key take-aways for paddle position, paddle length and paddle posture

Here you can find the summarized and simple overview of what you should know and remember regarding paddle position and posture.

Holding the paddle

The paddle must be held in such a way that the angle between the blade and the shaft always points in the direction of travel

Paddle Length

Race paddle:
the transition between shaft and blade should be approximately at eye level.

Wave paddle:
should be about 5 – 10 cm shorter

Beginner paddle:
about 10 – 15 cm shorter

Type of Paddle

For beginners, it is worth purchasing a Vario paddle, which allows you to experiment with the length until you have found the ideal size for you.

Standing position: How do you actually stand on the SUP board properly?

You should be familiar with the following stances for Stand Up Paddling

  • The parallel stance
  • The staggered stance
  • The surf stance

It is important that you stand in the area of the so-called sweet spot (i.e., the center of gravity of the SUP board) and squatting slightly, in all stances.

This helps you keep the board in a good sliding position and keep your balance, even with small waves. Advanced Stand Up Paddlers also learn to stand in front of or behind the sweet spot depending on the situation and thus control the sliding position (e.g., to sprint or ride a wave).

As a beginner, however, you should definitely make sure that you are not standing too far forward or to the rear, so that neither stern nor bow lifts out of the water.

But how do the different stances work?

The Parallel Stance

Man on a Stand Up Paddle Board using the Parallel Stance Position. Photo by OURAWESOMEPLANET PHILS 1 FOOD AND TRAVEL BLOG

The parallel stance is the basic position on the SUP board [3].

Your legs should be about shoulder-width apart at the sweet spot. This parallel stance at the sweet spot, especially when starting, is the position to stay in when going straight ahead.

How do I find out where the sweet spot is on my board?

It’s simple: the sweet spot of the board is the center of gravity, i.e., roughly where the stand up paddle board can be balanced. Usually this can be found near the handles.

The reason is just as obvious:
the handles are usually mounted there so that the board is easy to carry and is balanced “in itself” when carried. A typical all-round board or an entry-level board usually has enough capacity and width in the area of the sweet spot, so the board can be easily controlled and stabilized.

The Staggered or Step Stance

The parallel stance can feel uncomfortable, especially during longer journeys. Often this is due to the less dynamic position of your feet.

If this is the case, you can switch to the so-called Staggered or Step Stance [4]:

Man Stand Up Paddling on a lake using the Staggered or Step Stance position on the SUP Board. Photo by widiwici

To do this, you shift from the parallel stance into an easy stepping position. One foot is positioned slightly in front of the sweet spot, the other foot slightly behind the sweet spot.

It is important for the rear foot to be on the side on which you’re actually paddling, and the tips of your feet should point slightly towards the paddle.

Consequently, when you switch the side on which you paddle, you have to shift your stance accordingly. This gives you an easier dynamic in your legs and does not keep them in the same position for too long.

The Surf Stance

Definitely the goal, but why should the surf stance [5] be important for a beginner?

Stand Up Paddles riding a wave and using the Surf Stance on the SUP Board. Photo by by Elixirboardco

The following can be said about that:
stand up paddling in shallow water is relatively easy to learn.
It is therefore often surprising how quickly even beginners try out maneuvers when basic paddling.

And when negotiating a fast curve or dynamically circumnavigating a buoy: steering becomes a lot easier with the surf stance.

Unlike the parallel stance, where the feet point in the direction of travel, the surf stance is about 90° to the direction of travel.

In the end, just like wave surfers do it.

Either the left foot is in front (so-called natural or regular stance) or the right foot (so-called goofy stance).

Which foot should be in front is purely based on individual preference. You can determine this easily as follows:

Stand loosely in a parallel stance and let yourself be pushed lightly from behind without warning. You will find that you always instinctively catch yourself with the same foot. This is also the foot which will normally be in front in the surf stance. In the surf stance, you stand a little more than shoulder-width with the “strong” foot in the middle of the board. This position then allows you to control the board with slight weight shifts, similar to snowboarding or skateboarding.

Key take-aways for Stand Positions on a SUP Board

Here you will find a summarized and simple overview of what you should pay attention to regarding stances on your next Stand Up Paddling tours.

Parallel Stance

Basic position. You stand at about shoulder width at the sweet spot and your feet are aligned in the direction of travel

Staggered Stance

The more dynamic position than the Parallel Stance, also suitable for going straight ahead.
One foot is slightly in front, one slightly behind the sweet spot, and the feet point towards the paddle side.

Surf Stance

The surf stances is used with widening waves, also for dynamic maneuvers. Natural stance has the left foot in front, goofy stance the right.

Important for all SUP Standing Positions

The knees are slightly bent and the upper body is upright in all stances.

Hand and arm posture and grip

One of the most important things about handling the paddle is that you hold it as loosely as possible and with relaxed wrists.

No more grip force should be used than to avoid losing control of the paddle. However, a cramped posture is definitely not necessary.

In most SUP paddling techniques, the arms are stretched out [6]. The stretched arm position allows you to work with the stronger core muscles instead of the smaller muscle groups of the arms and shoulders.

Man on a Stand Up Paddle Board showing how to hold the SUP Paddle correctly. Photo AIO Race gonflable by widiwici

Equally important for a correct paddle stroke is optimal grip width. You can determine the correct grip width easily using the “box trick.”

The paddle is held horizontally over the head and forms a 90° angle with the lower and upper arms, so that a rectangle forms between the paddle and the arms. The position of the hands on the paddle now corresponds approximately to the optimal grip range.
Finally, it is important for you to vary the position of the shaft hand (i.e., the lower hand) until you feel comfortable. In particular, care must be taken not to tighten up, as this will make your power stroke more difficult.

Key Take-aways on how to hold the SUP Paddle

Again, below is a quick and clear summary of how you should grip the SUP paddle and what you have to pay attention to so that you do not lose power.

Where you hold the paddle…

Always hold the paddle with one hand on the handle and one on the shaft

How firmly you have to hold the paddle…

Hold the paddle loosely and with relaxed wrists. The lower hand should grip more firmly only with stronger strokes.

Where does the strength come from…

Strength comes from the torso and not mainly from the upper arms and shoulders. Thus the arms are stretched out and the upper body upright in SUP.

What you should avoid…

Do not grip the paddle too tightly, as this will reduce the power of your stroke.

And now, as promised, one of our bonus tips within our SUP paddling technique guide.

Bonus – SUP – Tip: Paddle support, or how to avoid falls

A good tip, especially for beginners, is “If you are in trouble, then paddle into the water!”

Even if you are already badly in trouble, you can easily take advantage of water resistance.
Simply press the flat of the paddle blade (whether front or back does not matter) into the water:

this allows you to support yourself on the paddle for a short time and save yourself from falling. Falling into the water is anything but bad and on hot days even reviving, but it is also a good experience if you can avoid falling at the beginning with the paddle support.

how to stand up paddle board: Where you can find more about paddle board technique

We hope that this overview of the basics of SUP technology will help you with your first excursions on the water.

And remember: Practice is key and even fun with SUP!

So off to the water and get wet! If you still want to know more on How to Paddle Board and SUP paddle techniques, take a deeper look at the other tips in our SUP guide.

Stand Up Paddle Boarder falling from the SUP Board into the water


On Key

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