How Hard Is Paddleboarding for Beginners?

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There are many different water sports and activities that provide a chance to do something more than splash around in the water. You can go surfing, skimboarding , wakeboarding, and even paddleboarding.

Paddleboarding is an activity that I always wanted to try. However, without any experience, I was terrified that I’d spend the entire time flailing around in the water.

So, how hard is paddleboarding for beginners? It may not be as difficult as you think. Here are a few tips and pieces of information to help you stay on top of the board the first time you take a paddleboard into the waters.

What Is a Paddleboard?

​Paddleboarding is not hard for beginners. In fact, I think it’s much easier than surfing.

How is a paddleboard different from a surfboard? A paddleboard is typically wider and thicker than a surfboard, which creates more volume. With more volume, the board floats easier, providing more stability compared to a surfboard.

The boards are separated into three classes based on the length of the board:

  • Stock boards (12 feet long)
  • 14-foot boards (14 feet long)
  • Unlimited boards (17 to 18 feet long)

A stock board is 12 feet long and intended for paddlers weighing up to 180 pounds. The shorter length offers more control and acceleration compared to the other classes.

​The 14-foot boards are often considered the most universal board. They are great for beginners and are still used by professional paddlers. If you want speed, the unlimited board offers the fastest speeds and the least control. There are even boards which work well for out on the water yoga!

types paddleboards

What Is Paddleboarding?

Paddleboarding is an interesting activity and one of many water sports that has its origins stemming from surfing I wasn’t sure if paddleboarding was the one where you lay down on the board, kneel, or stand up. It turns out that you can use a paddleboard in any of those three positions.

The earliest examples of paddleboarding involved paddlers laying down on the boards and paddling with their arms. However, in the 1990s, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) started to become a popular water sport. When someone talks about paddleboarding, they are usually talking about SUP.

When you ride on an SUP, you use a long paddle to paddle your way through the water. This allows for more speed and control, compared to laying down on the board.

Essential Gear for Paddleboarding

You do not need a lot of gear for paddleboarding. First, there is the paddleboard itself. For beginners, I suggest either the stock board or the 14-foot board. If you are on the small side, I suggest the smaller stock board. For larger individuals, the 14-foot board may be more stable.

Along with the board, you need a paddle, a leash, a safety whistle, and a flotation device. The leash connects you to the board. As the board floats, the leash ensures that you can reach the board if you fall off. The safety whistle is an added precaution in case you need help while the flotation device is required in some areas.

The paddle looks like a canoe paddle, but with a tear-drop blade. It also has a slight angle to help you pull more water when you paddle.

paddleboarding gear

How Hard Is Paddleboarding? Not Hard with These Tips

After you gather the necessary gear, you’re ready to start practicing. Paddleboarding is not hard, especially when you practice the basic techniques and follow these simple tips:

  • Start in a calm body of water
  • Go boarding on a day without a lot of wind
  • Practice for at least one hour
  • Paddle with a friend
  • Consider kneeling to start

Most beginners can get in the water and start paddling within an hour of practicing. However, if you struggle to learn the basics of standing up and controlling the board, you can try kneeling. Kneeling provides more stability, by lowering your center of gravity and maybe a good starting point and a little easier for beginners.

Now, having established that for most beginners you will quickly pick up the basics and be able to enjoy a day on the water with your paddleboard, it’s important to understand that you can make this sport as challenging as you desire.  Paddleboarding has and continues to evolve to include Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) yoga, surfing, SUP racing and touring, as well as a way to get a great full-body-workout.   

In addition to the evolution of the sport, is the fact that paddleboarding is a perfect fit for individuals of all ages, body types and skill levels.  The uniqueness, size and design of a paddleboard allows you to bring along a friend, a young child or even your dog. A paddleboard provides an easy and enjoyable means to freely explore a variety of water and nature areas.  

The popularity of paddleboarding continues to grow, in large part, because it is so easy to experience success, even as a beginner, while allowing for much more challenging and exciting experiences as your skills, abilities and confidence grows.  

Falling off a paddleboard

Practice Standing up and Falling Back

You should start by practicing standing up on the paddleboard. Wade out into the knee-deep water. The water should be deep enough that the fins do not touch the bottom.

Hold the board with both hands and slowly climb on top. Try to achieve a kneeling position, with your knees just behind the center of the board. When adjusting your position, hold the board with both hands.

Keep your knees bent and slowly lift your chest. From there, you can attempt to slowly stand up by extending your legs.

Standing is just the first challenge. You also need to balance. Keep your feet about hip-width apart. You should also keep your knees slightly bent and adjust your weight with your hips.

You should also practice falling. Trust me, you will fall while practicing. When you fall, fall back or to the side and hold onto the paddle.

When getting back on the board, grab the handle with one hand. Bring your legs to the side of the board and then kick them up while pulling your body with the arm holding the handle.

Practicing Your SUP Strokes 

After you get used to standing up and balancing on the board, you should begin practicing your strokes. When you place the paddle in the water, place it about two feet into the water. Use your arms to pull the paddle through the water toward your ankle. When you pass your ankle, bring the paddle out of the water.

When traveling straight, you will likely need to switch sides frequently. However, you do not need to alternate with each stroke. Try completing three strokes on one side before switching to the other side. Practice traveling around shallow waters until you can handle the basic SUP strokes.

​Final Thoughts on Paddleboarding for Beginners

Paddleboarding is an incredibly fun activity for people of all skill levels. You don’t need to be an athlete to enjoy paddling around on a board. However, you should practice the basics before heading out to  the deeper water and away from shore.

Always practice in shallow water until you grasp the basics of standing up, falling back, and maneuvering with the paddleboard. I also suggest that you paddle with a friend so that you can keep an eye on each other.

If you have taken up paddleboarding or are giving it a try for the first time, let us know in the comments section how your first time out went and any tips or suggestions you have for beginners.