Photo: JP Van Swae

Photo: JP Van Swae

Skills: Standing Up

Standup paddling's rewards are many, from seeing the coastline to playing on your local river to surfing breaks only accessible with a paddle in hand. But before you can paddle, you have to stand. Good news: it's pretty simple. The two most important elements to getting up on your board? First, make sure you're on a stable SUP, at least 30 inches wide and 10 feet long for your first try. Second, just have fun. That's what this sport is about.


Keep it calm. Find a section of flat water protected from wind or chop. Or go out in the morning before the afternoon winds come up. Walk the board into knee-deep water, which will prevent the fin from hitting the bottom.

Climb on the horse. Get on the board, knees on the deckpad, paddle resting across the front of the board, perpendicular to your chest. Make sure you're in the middle of the board, with your mid-section over the handle. Get your hands evenly spaced under your shoulders on the paddle as it rests on your board. Feel the board for a second. Take a couple of deep breaths. You're on the water.

Get on up. Slowly put one foot on the board, then the other, keeping your knees bent in an athletic position with one foot on either side of the hand-hold. Your dogs should be shoulder-width apart. Breathe and relax. You're up.

Get moving. As your standup board planes it becomes more stable. If you're feeling wobbly, take a couple of strokes while on your knees to get some momentum and help the board plane. Then try standing. Or, as soon as you stand, get a few strokes in to get going and stabilize your ride. Again, if you feel wobbly, the best brace is the forward stroke. Your knees are your shock absorbers so stay athletic and loose. Try a few flatwater paddling sessions before moving to water with current or exposure to wind or waves. Most importantly, just have fun. Your life has just been changed. Go get it.

Rob Casey contributed to this write-up, which originally ran in our 2013 Beginner’s Guide.

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