How to stand-up paddle (sup)?

Do you want to "walk on water" and go off on a stand-up paddle (SUP) to discover the world as seen from the water? Follow our guide and you will see that it's actually pretty easy to get started and is great fun from the outset!

As you can see, stand-up paddle boarding offers a multitude of possibilities, discoveries and experiences. Welcome, step onto the water, you will be quickly won over by this water sport that is accessible to all!

What type of equipment is best for stand-up paddle beginners?

At first, you will go out on occasional short trips on a calm body of water (lake, river or sea). You will therefore need stability. The best thing for you is a wide and thick stand-up paddle board (also called a "SUP"). For easy transportation, you can choose an inflatable board. This type of board fits in a large backpack that can easily fit in the boot of the car. The inflatable technology called "dropstitch" gives excellent stiffness to the board when inflated to the indicated pressure. It is also very shock resistant and does not cause injury if you fall onto the SUP. For your own safety, always use the leash (the cord that permanently connects you to the board), even on flat water.

For the paddle, a height-adjustable model (for the whole family) made from aluminium (durable) will be perfectly suitable. If you choose a split paddle, it will fit in the inflatable SUP's bag.

Finally, don't forget to wear a buoyancy aid if you are not at ease in the water.

stand up paddle beginner

How to start stand-up paddle boarding

Ready to get in the water? First you have to adjust the adjustable paddle to your height. Unlock the adjustment system, extend your arm over your head and adjust the variable part so that the paddle grip reaches your wrist. Lock the clamping system and you're good to go.

Then, it is best to start by kneeling on the board, especially if the launch point is close to a jetty, to avoid falling onto it. Start paddling on your knees and then as soon as you feel comfortable, stand up with your shoulders facing the front of the board, pushing up on the paddle laid flat on the board in front of you. Keep your knees bent and feet wide apart for good balance. Put one hand on the grip at the top of the paddle, the other on the shaft and start paddling by turning the blade of your paddle so that it is open towards the front of the board. Try to drive the blade into the water by reaching as far out in front as possible and pulling it out of the water when it is level with your feet. And that's it, now you know how to SUP!


How to turn with a stand-up paddle board

There are several stand-up paddle turning techniques. As you progress, you'll see that it's fun to change up your technique to be able to turn faster, especially if you then want to race or simply go faster than your friends on the water.

The simplest technique is to paddle on the opposite side of the way you want to turn the board (paddle on the left to turn right). The more you paddle towards the back of your SUP, the faster you will turn. This technique is not suitable for long touring boards because it takes a long time to turn them like this, a reverse sweep will work much better. Or a pivot turn, which consists of stepping right back to force the tail into the water and pivoting it with a powerful paddle stroke.

How to stand-up paddle safely

Stand-up paddle boarding at sea is usually done within 300m of land. In this case, the minimum safety equipment is a leash and a mobile phone that you can slip into a waterproof pouch. Consider adding a bottle of water to keep you hydrated throughout your trip. You can put the dry bag under the elastic straps at the front of your board or attach it to the straps at the back if your SUP has them.

Then, knowing the weather conditions of the day is important because they can change very quickly. Wind is a SUP paddler's main enemy, especially when there is a strong headwind. In this case, it could prevent you from returning to your starting point.

Don't forget to check the tide times, since a rising spring tide can be as dangerous as wind.

Finally, sailors say that it is always colder on the water than on land. So bring some warmer clothes depending on the season, which you can remove during the session if you get too hot. And beware of the reflection of the sun on the water. Sunscreen, a cap and sunglasses will give you the protection you need. 

Also wear a buoyancy aid to be extra safe. Especially since some models inflate on demand using a gas cartridge, so you can forget you are even wearing one with their shape that leaves the shoulders free to move. Some feature a water bladder to help you easily stay hydrated.

stand up paddle equipment

How can i go stand-up paddle boarding with the kids?

There's nothing better than sharing an activity with your kids, right? And for stand-up paddle boarding, it's pretty simple. Your child must be able to swim and should be wearing a buoyancy aid and a shorty wetsuit because there is a chance they will be getting in and out of the water several times!

Ideally, you should use a large inflatable board (it is softer to fall on). You can put your child at the front while you paddle. With this gentle approach, your little one will be able to quickly enjoy the feeling of gliding along and try to stand on the board by your side. Your child could even wear a mask and have fun observing the seabed.

Don't be surprised if they then want to do it alone like a grown-up! In this case, adjust your paddle to its minimum length to suit your child's height, give them the tips that you have followed yourself to get started... and you'll be amazed by the speed at which they will get to grips with the sport!


discover stand up paddle



Decathlon team editor (itiwit image & content leader)

I first got into stand-up paddling 10 years ago and ever since I have been lucky enough to do it every day at racing speed on flat water or in the waves in Hendaye right next to my office with Itiwit equipment.

All in all, I am a lucky man, and I remind myself every time I go on the water....


Check out our selection of advice guides

How To Choose Your Stand Up Paddle Board?

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Check our expert advice to help you choosing the most adapted buoyancy vest!

How To Choose Your Kayaking & SUP Clothing?

How To Choose Your Kayaking & SUP Clothing?

Check our expert advice on how to choose your Kayaking & SUP clothing!