5 Things Every SUP Paddler Needs to Know:
Updated: Aug 12, 2021
Hello everyone I’m Ashley! I'm a registered Maine Sea Kayak and Recreational Guide, certified by the ACA to instruct SUP and kayaking, and a local expert in the state of Maine for 5 years! Paddling is my favorite way to explore the state. Whether you are an experienced paddler or someone who might be thinking about trying it for the first time, here are a few fundamental things I think every paddler needs to know before going on the water on a Standup Paddleboard (SUP) so you can have a successful, fun, and safe trip. You can follow me on Instagram @tallashley
5 Things Every SUP Paddler Needs to Know:
Safety First – make a float plan.
Adjust paddle length for you
How to Launch Your SUP
Basic SUP Techniques
Safety on the water
1. Safety First – make a float plan. This means your trip preparation starts before heading to the water. Three rules I follow for a successful paddling trip:
a) Leave a float plan. Always let someone know (a family member, a friend, a co-worker) where you are going and when you will be back. A Float Plan should include, at the very least, your destination, general route, and time expected back. You can also include the description of your vessel, how many people you will be paddling with, and important contact information. This will give authorities a head start should something happen to you while you are out. Safety first!
b) Plan everything. Plan your route, your gear, your food and water (especially if you are planning an overnight or multi-day trip), and most importantly, check the three Ws: Wind, Waves, Weather, and Tides. It’s simple to check all of these from a point forecast for your location on the Nautical Eye mobile app. I use the Nautical Eye app every time I’m going to be on the water or in the woods!
c) Entertainment. Whether it’s a relaxing sunset paddle, time on the water with friends, a badass girls trip it is most important to have fun! For overnights I recommend a book, a notepad, or a musical instrument, because no adventure is complete without an activity to occupy your downtime.
2. Adjust paddle length for you.
Sizing your SUP paddle is a fundamental step in helping you be in control and feel more comfortable on the water. Checkout my video for a quick demonstration! I also include a write up :)
First you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the parts of the paddle (blade, shaft, T-grip, adjustment lock) and then follow these easy steps and you’ll be good to go!
• Unlock the adjustment lock near the handle of the paddle
• Hold the paddle upright, with the blade at your toes so it is in line with your body
• Reach one arm up, keep a very soft bend in your elbow, and let your wrist go limp
• Adjust the paddle to have the T-grip come up to meet your wrist, just under your
• Lock it in!
This is generally a good length for the paddle for your everyday paddling. Feel free to
adjust the height as needed and find what fits you best.
3. How to Launch Your SUP.
Launching your paddleboard from a shore line or a boat launch. It’s important to protect your SUP’s fins when entering the water. The fins help the board track properly and some SUPs don’t have replaceable fins. When launching your SUP, be sure to put the board in the water tail end first, so that the nose of the board is on the shore or boat launch, and the fins are out in the deeper water. SUP fins poke below the surface of the water, much lower than the bottom of the board does.
After you’ve gotten your board in the water, climb onto the board on your knees with your belly button over the handle of the board and a nice wide legged stance, facing the nose of the board. Paddle away from the shore line and any rocks. I put my paddle down into the water to check the depth, and feel comfortable standing in 3 feet of water. I’ve included a video demonstration to help!
4) Basic SUP Techniques.
Here are some basic standup paddle boarding techniques to get you moving on the water!
Stance. Whether you’re kneeling or standing, you’ll want to have a nice wide legged stance on your SUP. Stand facing the nose of the board, with your feet parallel to the rails, and your belly button in line with the carry handle. This will give you optimal balance.
Forward stroke. The most essential paddle stroke. A good paddle stroke is generated from your core, not your arms. Bend at the waist, reach the paddle as far forward to the nose of the board as you can while still holding it up straight, bury the blade into the water, and use your core to pull the paddle back along the side of the board. Remove the blade from the water at your toes and start again. This is called Nose to Toes.
Sweep Strokes - will turn your board. A sweep stroke is essentially a long, C shaped paddle stroke. For this stroke, you can have your paddle shaft more parallel to the board. Bend your knees. Hold the paddle with your right hand on the T-Grip and your left hand on the shaft. Put the blade in the water at the left side of the nose, and create a wide C shaped stroke reaching out away from the board and all the way back to the tail. This will turn you to your right. Switch hand positions and put the paddle in on the other side to turn to the left!
Keep your paddle in the water! Believe or not when the water gets choppy (unexpected boat wake comes your way) you are in a more stable position when your paddle is in contact with the water -- It provides another point of contact and will help to keep you on your board.
5. Safety on the water.
Water safety is my number one priority! Before I head out for a paddle, the Nautical Eye app is essential for up-to-date information on the three Ws: Wind, Weather, Waves and Tides. Knowing the wind speed and direction really gives me a leg up on my paddling trip. I keep an eye on the weather patterns during and after my planned trip. I know weather can change in an instant here in Maine and I can get a better idea of what’s ahead by checking the Nautical Eye app pretty frequently. Wave height can affect my SUP adventure pretty significantly. Being on a board means I’m more liable to fall off if the predicted wave height is higher than I’m used to.
If I do fall off the board, I make sure to fall bottom first (“butt first”) into the water to lessen my chances of injuring my head or feet on something below the surface. Easiest way to get back on is to swim over to the side of the board, grab onto the carry handle, and kick my feet until I’ve swam up onto the board and stabilized myself.
SUPs are generally hard for motor boaters to see. I keep my head on a swivel when I’m paddling and always give motor boats the right of way. Carrying a VHF with you and calling out your position when making large crossings or paddling in foggy weather is the optimal way to avoid unwanted interactions with motor boaters. Lastly, especially in the summer months here in Maine I use Nautical Eye’s location based lightning notifications product when I'm out paddling to keep me informed of the changing weather around me.