Alrighty, you’ve ordered your first paddle board, it’s at your doorstep, and you’re ready to head out to your favorite body of water. There’s just one problem. You have no idea what you’re doing, and you’re a bit intimidated. 

Don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal. 

We’re going to give you a quick rundown of how to paddleboard safely and effectively; that way, you can stay out of the water and on your board instead of dealing with what most beginners have to deal with. 

Let’s get started. 

Getting Started

First things first, let’s talk about the very basic stuff such as your clothing, getting familiar with your board, etc. 

For clothing, you’re going to want to dress appropriately for swimming. Yes, your goal is to stay on top of the water, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re new to paddleboarding and likely won’t stay above the surface for more than a few minutes at a time at first. Expect a lot of falls. 

Your normal swimming trunks or bathing suit is perfectly fine. It’s also good to go barefoot. You’ll have an easier time swimming, and the tops of SUPs are textured to keep you from slipping. 

We recommend a life vest, too. Even if you’re a good swimmer, getting tossed off the board can be disorienting. 

Beyond clothing, always tether yourself to the board before you get on. The tether is the long string attached to the board, and it ties to your ankle or wrist. This keeps the board from floating away when you fall off; giving you something to keep yourself afloat with, and also protecting your investment. 

1: Getting On

Getting on a paddle board isn’t too difficult, but you should expect to mess up once or twice on the first try. First, get your paddleboard to the water and lay it on the surface. This is easier in shallow water, but it can also make falling off a little more painful. Now, if it’s shallow enough, just step on it while placing your body weight over the board. If the water is deeper, place both hands on the board, push your weight up, and roll your body onto the board sideways. Now, just stand up. 

2: Paddling 

Once you’re standing, you’re basically ready to go. All you need to do is grab your paddle, which should be on the board before you climb on, and start using it to “scoop” through the water. 

The way you paddle determines your movements. To go straight, alternate from side to side with each stroke. To turn, paddle only on the side in the direction you want to turn. If you want to reverse, paddle backward. 

This can be tiring at first, but it’s a good form of exercise, and you’ll build upper body strength quickly. 

3: Recovering from Falls

Finally, getting off when you want to is the same as getting on. Just step off the board. However, it’s a little more complicated when your exit isn’t exactly planned. 

If you fall, don’t panic. Take a moment, get yourself oriented, and swim back to the surface. If you’re tethered, simply use the arm life method we described earlier to get back on your board.