5 Simple Steps To Master Stand-up Paddleboarding

Are you new to stand up paddleboarding? If you’re looking to pick up a new sport, stand up paddleboarding is a relatively easy one to master in very little time, and can be ideal for people of all ages, sizes, and physical conditions. Paddle boarding can give you the fun you need in life while keeping you fit and steadily making you stronger. It clears the head and gives you a place to be physically active but retreat back to the tranquility of the outdoors for a time.

If you have more experience paddle boarding than just being a beginner, but you want to know how you can get better at the sport and truly master the art of SUP, this can be accomplished as well! With this simple, step-by-step guide, you can find ways to optimize and train yourself to become great at stand up paddleboarding, whether you start out as a total SUP beginner or you already have a good amount of experience.

At Paddle Sesh, we want to be your go-to resource for paddle boarding, surfing sports, and gear. We have helpful tips you may check out in addition to this page to offer on beginning to paddle board, finding the right paddle board for you, and even taking on other fun activities as you paddleboard such as yoga, fishing, or bringing along the family. If you are ready to take your stand-up paddleboarding game to an advanced level, these first steps can get you there.

1. Get a Big Enough Board

“The very best thing you can do when you begin stand-up paddleboarding is make sure you get on a big enough paddle board,” states Kai Lenny, a Maui-born pro surfer and paddleboarder. There are videos of some of the amazing different paddleboard and surf sports Lenny has done, and if you check out one of these videos, they may inspire you to want to give it a try and learn the sport for yourself for the first time.

Why Bigger Boards Make it Easier

Unsurprisingly, larger individuals need bigger boards (you can get one up to 14-feet). In general, Lenny recommends a 10-foot paddle board that’s 32 inches large, which can typically double as a surfboard, particularly if you are a beginner and still starting out. Larger paddle boards make it easier for beginners to get stable, sure, and comfortable on the water because they provide stability with more space for your feet to stand on, which allows them to focus on paddling and building up strength right away.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding with a Narrower Board

As you advance and improve greatly in your ability to balance your body, you can go narrower for more speed or even think about tandem and group boards. Having a narrower paddle board can have its advantages, but it can be extremely difficult to learn on for first-timers and those who are less experienced with paddle boarding. You should make sure you are using your current board right, your position is stable and gives you the best balance, and that you have the ability to move up before you start using a narrow board. Be willing to go back and use a larger board as needed if you find you need more practice.

2. Examine Your Balance

Lenny is positive anyone can paddleboard, from a young child to a grandpa: “It’s the bike of the ocean,” he states, “if a bike were easy to ride your very first time getting on it.” The great thing about paddleboarding is that you don’t need to know anything beforehand to get started on the water and building up strength. Developing your ability to balance well starts right away, and beginners can progress surprisingly quickly as they get the hang of it, gaining confidence and agility whether they practice on flat water like a lake or even on the ocean.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding and Balance

The most significant barrier to entry when it comes to SUP is balance, so if you are nervous about your very first paddling flight, think about a little dry-land training. Lenny also suggests you start flat and use someplace calm, like a pond, bay, or lake. When you develop some confidence, then you can strike the killer swells and use the significantly more feisty ocean.

Don’t Be Afraid of Falling

With paddleboarding, you’ll find that you can get to a place where you can handle most situations and challenges you’ll face on your SUP paddle board, and even if you do fall, a fall is almost never severe. If you lose your balance several times, don’t worry about it! Get back on your SUP board, back on your feet, and keep trying your best as long as you have the energy. You are going to fall while standing on your paddle board sometimes, and that is always part of the learning process.

3. Make Certain You Can Float

If you’re going out alone or on open-water, consider the option to use a wet suit – specifically if you don’t have the luxury of SUP paddling in warm Hawaiian seas. Here are a few tips for you to make sure you will be able to handle any sort of fall you might take while out in the water.

Using a Floatation Device

A flotation device is likewise a good idea; it’s what Lenny does when he’s surfing mega-waves. Being a strong swimmer is also a plus. Safety should be a priority, and as long as you are able to stay afloat and swim well, you will not have to worry about taking on all kinds of different challenges on the water as you paddleboard. Get back up if this happens, and as you use your board more, you’ll gain confidence.

Workouts and Training for Riding your Paddleboard Better

A great way to work out and build up strength and endurance for riding your paddleboard better is with a swimming pool. You can bring your paddle to stroke and row around for a certain amount of time, and you can swim to build up your endurance and your ability to swim (which also makes you safer). Try a few of these pool exercises prior to you getting on your SUP paddleboard if you need an additional workout to use for training.


Row at a stroke rate around 26-stroke-per-minute for a sprint of a full minute, resting for the following minute, and repeat this repetition five times. Rest for two minutes afterwards, and repeat for two more sets.

Two Swimming Laps:

In a front crawl, make two 50-yard laps in a pool, take a brief rest, and continue with 200 yards, followed by another rest. Take four swimming laps, 100 yards each, with a 30 second rest between each one. Finally, front crawl 200 yards, resting afterwards.


Repeat the warm-up by rowing at 26-stroke-per-minute for a minute and resting a minute for five repetitions (three sets in total with two minutes rest between each). Make sure to stretch as needed to prevent soreness or stiffness in your muscles after these different workouts.


Running on the beach is another great way to build endurance. Run on a long section of the beach, where you can go for 35-45 minutes without having to turn around. Wet, compact sand is better to run on for your muscles.

woman standing paddle boarding in the blue

4. Prepare to Get HIIT

In your head, it may seem like paddleboard sports are just a fun activity and not intense to the same degree that working out or physically training specifically to build endurance might be. Don’t be mislead, riding a stand-up paddleboard around will wear you out and push your body extremely hard! This is a high intensity form of training, and knowing how to divide up your time between working out and paddling is important to optimizing your strength and endurance building. Pushing too hard without realizing it because you workout and then gear up to spend tons of time on the water with your paddle board can be a danger.

Not Pushing Your Body Too Hard

You may choose to workout in the pool separate from your regular paddleboard adventures. It’s important to keep in mind though, stand up paddle board trips and sports in and of themselves are a pretty intense workout. If you plan to do both, pay attention to your body and remember not to push yourself too hard or your ability to build strength and endurance for SUP could actually suffer. You do not want to try to kill yourself with your physical activity.

Balancing your Workouts and Practice

Lenny goes to the gym three times a week, mostly to prehab his knees, shoulders, and hips, his favorite training routine is SUP paddleboarding. Because you’re standing, paddling, and utilizing your core for balance, the sport is a full-body exercise that likewise fills up your lungs. Finding a combination of working out and taking your SUP paddleboard on the water regularly will give you the complete, all-around training you need to really master the sport of SUP.

5. Head for the Open Water

Not only does it take strength and stamina, but likewise a cool head and an excellent eye. Balancing and keeping all your muscles engaged continuously paddling on the water while remaining alert and working to catch waves, especially large waves out on the ocean, is an incredible skill! Don’t be discouraged if it takes a lot of time to develop this SUP ability, it will come with time, practice on your paddle board, and a lot of hard work.

Value of Being on the Water Often

It’s important to always make your SUP time on the water a priority. Even if you aren’t always able to work out separately, getting on the water with your SUP board will always do a lot towards bettering your strength, endurance, balance, and overall abilities. Don’t underestimate the value of this time spent practicing, and you must keep space in your schedule for it if you intend to grow significantly in your SUP paddling skill level.

The Challenge of Paddleboard Racing

“You’re riding these open ocean swells, and you’re sprinting your heart out to assault them,” says Lenny. He loves to race, and because of his extensive involvement in surf and SUP water sports of all kinds, he prioritizes the ones that truly challenge him to the best of his ability. One of his favorites, the Molokai 2 Oahu involves having to outline a course while his heart’s beating out of his chest and his shoulders are blazing, ending with an all-out sprint. “So you ride these open-ocean swells into this large bay called Portlock Hawaii Kay, and the last mile is straight upwind” Lenny states.

Finding a Great SUP Paddle Board to get you Started

If you are an SUP beginner looking for your first stand-up paddle board to begin the sport, we can guide you to the perfect paddle board for you! Getting a paddle board that is the right size, a good quality, and whether or not it is a solid material or an inflatable paddle board are all factors you’re going to want to consider carefully.

Three of the best expert-tested surfboards and SUP paddle boards for catching waves and paddling on the water available out there are the ISLE Classic Stand-Up Paddle Board, the iRocker Triple Layer Military Grade Inflatable Paddle Board, and the California Board Company Stand Up Paddle Board.

Helpful Paddleboard Guides for a Beginner

If you are looking for a great board to start surfing or paddleboarding this year, let us help you find one, and we can be your resource for surf and water sports! We can offer paddling guides and helpful tips on learning to paddle board, how to size and choose your paddle board and gear like a leash or bungee straps, and other activities you can participate in with your new SUP paddle board.

Owning Multiple Kinds of Boards

If you have been using your paddle board for a while, and you like the activity, but you want to try switching up your SUP, now is the perfect time to try a new one! As mentioned before, having a narrower paddle board can allow you to go faster than having a large paddle board. You can also manuver a solid paddle board differently from an inflatable paddle board. Having different kinds of boards to learn on can increase skill level, and people may find they like certain boards better for paddleboarding in a certain way while finding others easier for paddleboarding a different way. Check out what we have to offer, and let us know how we can help!

Get the Equipment you need to be Safe

Whether you’re experienced or a beginner, remember to be safe when going out on the water with your board, especially if you go alone often. Bring a floatation device or life jacket, a leash to keep your board near you (you can find equipment like a leash or life jacket from some of the top paddle board brands we offer) to avoid losing your board. If you fall, make sure you are able to still get back on your knees and feet, position yourself again, and continue on.

References and Sources:

Bicycling. Beginner Cycling Tips – Cycling For Beginners https://www.bicycling.com/skills-tips/a20003829/9-bike-beginner-mistakes-to-avoid/

First 15. God Speaks in Solitude – Experiencing God https://www.first15.org/03/31/god-speaks-in-solitude/

Fit Day. 7 Unique Ways to Get a Full Body Workout https://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/health/7-unique-ways-to-get-a-full-body-workout.html

Gear Patrol. Stay in Summer Shape Year-Round https://www.gearpatrol.com/outdoors/a270662/workouts-kai-lenny-waterman/

Goosehill. Top 6 Lakes in North America You Should Go Paddle Boarding On https://goosehillsport.com/blogs/stand-up-paddleboarding-spots/top-6-lakes-in-north-america-you-should-go-paddle-boarding-on

Inflatable Boarder. SUP Racing 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide https://www.inflatableboarder.com/sup-racing-guide/

IRocker. https://www.irockersup.com/

ISLE. https://www.islesurfandsup.com/

ISLE. What is SUP Yoga? https://www.islesurfandsup.com/what-is-sup-yoga/

Keeper Sports Products. https://keepersportsproducts.com/

Neck Base. Dealing With Chronic Back Pain https://neckbase.com/dealing-with-chronic-back-pain/

Paddling. SUP Surfing for Beginners https://paddling.com/learn/sup-surfing-for-beginners/

REI Co-op. How to Choose a Stand Up Paddleboard https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/how-to-choose-a-stand-up-paddleboard.html

REI Co-op. Stand Up Paddle Boarding for Beginners https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/paddleboarding.html

Sports Illustrated. Kai Lenny on SUP Workout Training for Water Sports https://www.si.com/edge/2016/07/15/kai-lenny-surfing-paddeboarding-sup-water-sports-training

Yale Environment 360. Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health https://e360.yale.edu/features/ecopsychology-how-immersion-in-nature-benefits-your-health

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