11 Things They Never Tell You About Paddleboarding

A man paddleboarding at sunset holding the paddle correctly

Paddleboarding has been around since the 1940s. Its popularity has grown a lot over the last few years. It seems like everywhere you look there’s a place to rent paddle boards or a SUP-yoga class to attend or a new paddle board accessory to buy. The thing is, people never tell you the important things. Let us explain.

You go on Instagram and see people smiling, paddle boarding on a beautiful lake or out in the crystal clear ocean, making it all look so easy. But what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling? How do those people make it look so simple?

We’re here to let you in on a few secrets, give you a few tips and tricks that people never tell you about paddleboarding.

How to hold a SUP paddle correctly

This might seem funny, but there is a correct way to hold a paddle board paddle! It helps you keep your balance, gives you a more efficient stroke, and helps conserve energy. 

Start by holding the paddle, is it sloping towards you or away from you? If it’s sloping away, you’re holding it correctly. A lot of SUP beginners have the instinct to have the paddle slope towards them, but that actually creates drag by scooping water up while you paddle. It will slow you down and drain your energy reserves. Instead, hold the paddle board paddle so it slopes away from you, which pushes water down, allowing you to glide smoothly across the water.

A diagram showing you how to hold a sup paddle correctly.
Correct way to hold a SUP paddle
Picture courtesy of iRocker SUP

Next, you’ll want to position your hands in the correct spots. Both hands shouldn’t be on the shaft of the paddle at the same time. If you’re paddling on your left side, your left hand will be on the shaft and if you’re paddling on the right, your right hand will be on the shaft. Your other hand should sit on top of the paddle, where the T-like shape is. This hand positioning allows you to get a longer stroke, easily guide your paddle, and evenly distribute the stress of the stroke on your body.

How to paddle on a paddleboard correctly

Now that you know how to hold the paddle, what’s the best way to actually use it? There is a certain technique to paddling a SUP that is efficient, helps you glide seamlessly across the water, and makes it look like you put in zero effort. 

The best technique is called the “J-stroke”. If you are familiar with canoeing, you may already know how to perform this stroke. Hold the paddle like mentioned in the previous section, reach your arms forward, towards the side you’re paddling on first. Place the paddle in the water and guide it through the water, parallel to your paddle board. Here is where the “J” part comes in. Instead of just taking the paddle out of the water, which guides the water into your board and causes a slight turn, twist the paddle slightly away from you as it exits the water, creating a “J” shape with your stroke. 

Depending on the current, you might take your next stroke on the same side or switch the positioning of your hands so you can paddle on the other side of the board.

Over time, you’ll get the hang of it, especially learning to paddle with the current so your paddle board goes straight.

Carrying a paddle board can be really awkward

A woman holding a paddle board using the SUP-now paddle board carrier strap. The strap has a place to hold the paddle board paddle too.
SUP-now paddle board strap

You never really know how large a paddleboard is until you have to carry it, especially when it’s windy. No one ever talks about the trek from the house to the car or the car to the water. The average paddle board is between 11′ and 12’, which is almost twice as long as the average human. Carrying something a lot larger than you can be tough, and it seems like no one tells you this when you go to transport a paddle board.

The reason SUP-now started was to make a strap that really helps with carrying a board twice your size, no matter how tall you are. It also allows you to attach the paddle to the strap, which is one less thing to carry and maneuver from point A to point B.

You don’t need to stand up

A woman paddleboarding on her knees in the ocean. It's okay to stay on your knees while paddleboarding instead of standing up.
Kneeling is okay

Yes, it’s called a STAND up paddle board, but guess what? You don’t have to stand up. If you’re just beginning, you can stay on your knees. This allows you to get the hang of it all – the way to hold the paddle, the technique of the most efficient stroke, and just the overall feel of being on a paddle board – before attempting to stand up and apply all of that new knowledge.

On windy days, it is especially hard to make any progress while paddling standing up. Don’t feel like you have to stand up, even if everyone around you is doing it.

A leash can be for your paddle board too

A leash can be your best friend out on the water, they’re not just for when you’re walking your four-legged buddy. Similar to surfing, you may fall off your board and you don’t want it to get away from you, especially on water with a current. Boards can easily be swept away from you, which can be dangerous. If you have a leash, the board will stay connected to you, making it easy for you to get back to the board and right back on it.

Check the weather report

Always check the weather report before heading out, especially how fast the wind is blowing. Windy days are not good for paddleboarding. The water will be choppier, paddling will be much harder, and the whole experience will not be enjoyable. Make sure to check if any severe weather, like a thunderstorm, is in the forecast as well. The last thing you want is to be a mile off shore, racing to get back before a storm rolls in on you.

Start paddling upstream or upwind

If there’s a current or wind, you’ll want to start going against them. It’ll be more work, but it’s better to do the work when you first get on the water, you’ll have a lot of energy, be more excited, and will mentally be ready to take on a challenge. When you’re ready to head back to where you started, you won’t have to do as much paddling, you may even be able to relax and ride the current back.

There is an art to falling off a paddle board

A young person falling off a paddle board into a lake. He's falling away from the board, which is safer than trying to fall on the paddle board.
The art of falling

There is an art to falling off your paddle board, even if you don’t want to. You might not fall off your board when you’re out on the water, but most beginner’s fall at least once. In order to not hurt yourself, you want to fall away from your board. The instinct may be to try and catch your board or fall onto it, but try your best not to. It’ll be a lot less painful falling into the water versus landing partially on your paddle board.

Don’t forget to sunscreen your feet!

Before going out on the water, you’ll probably put sunscreen on (read more from our previous post on why you should), but don’t forget your feet! They’ll get the most sun exposure, besides your shoulders, and no one really thinks about them when putting sunscreen on, but they’ll thank you after a long day of paddleboarding.

A life jacket will, literally, save your life

Life jackets aren’t the most stylish summer accessory to wear, but they’ll save your life. According to the federal Navigation Rules, you are required to have a USCG-approved life jacket on board for each person since paddle boards are classified as “vessels”. So make sure you bring one out on the water, for legal reasons, but also, for life saving reasons.

Don’t forget a pouch for your personal belongings

When you’re heading out on the water, you never really think about what you’re going to do with your clothes or phone while you’re out there, you just head to the water dressed, then you get there and realize you can leave your items on the beach, risking them getting stolen, or bring them with you somehow. The best option: a pouch that suction cups to your board.

You’ll be able to have all your items with you without worrying about them getting stolen if left on dry land, plus, you can use a waterproof carrying case for your phone (don’t want to miss out on those key moments for your Instagram, right?). Here’s a SUP-now product we created for this exact situation:

A woman on a paddle board pulling her phone out of the SUP-now paddle board pouch with waterproof insert.
SUP-now pouch with waterproof insert

You may have already known some of these secrets, but hopefully we were able to give you insight into something you didn’t know before. Try some of these things next time you’re out on the water. If you’ve never paddle boarded before, now’s a great time to take the leap and get out on the water today!