Is it time to start introducing your friends to SUP? Paddleboarding with friends can be so much fun! While SUP is a great solo activity, it’s also nice to have company out on the water. If you know people who have expressed interest in trying out SUP and you’d like to take them out for their first excursion, this article is for you!

As a certified SUP instructor, I’ve taken many people out for their first time on a paddleboard. Everyone is different; some people get it right away, while others need a bit of time, guidance, and patience. But generally, it is an easy sport to learn and most people get the basics after an hour or two. It just requires a bit of balance, a willingness to try something new, and a good friend to get them standing and paddling. Here are my tips on introducing your friends to SUP! 

Two people holding Thurso Surf SUP boards near the shoreline

Grab a friend, a couple of boards, and hit the water! 

Introducing Friends to SUP: Tips & Tricks

Safety First

When introducing friends to SUP, you need to make sure they are safe and comfortable in the water. This means being able to swim. They don’t have to have advanced swim skills, just a basic knowledge of how to tread water. A lifejacket is also a great way to up their comfort and safety levels while out on the water. Most regions require you to have a lifejacket on your board, but I highly recommend wearing it. In fact, I require all my students to wear a lifejacket or PFD during a lesson. 

Easy Does It

For someone’s first SUP outing, you want to be realistic and manage expectations. Don’t plan for a two hour excursion miles from shore. Pick a temperate day with little-to-no wind. Choose a location that is relatively quiet, where you can stay close to shore and won’t encounter too many boaters and swimmers. Plan to be on the water for no more than an hour at a time and take breaks when needed. It should be fun and casual; save the epic adventures for future paddle dates.  

Three people on stand up paddleboards in the water

Calm, flat water is perfect for introducing friends to SUP

Begin with an On-Shore Intro

Before getting on the water, give your friend a quick introduction on land. Have them adjust their paddle to the correct height and show them how to take a paddle stroke and turn with the blade facing the right way (beginners usually get this wrong). Demonstrate how to carry the board and attach the leash. Share any tips that helped you when you first learned how to paddleboard. 

Give Them the Biggest Board

When choosing a board for your new SUP friend, you’ll want to set them up for success. Generally, the wider the board, the more stable it will be. They should be using the board with the most volume, especially if they are a heavier rider. This way, they’ll feel stable and comfortable. All-around boards with rounded noses and a three-fin setup, like our Waterwalker series, or even the Max are a good bet. 

Start Out Kneeling

The most stable position on a paddleboard is kneeling. When you launch, you should be in a kneeling position to minimize the chance of falling in shallow water. Get them paddling on their knees to start and encourage them to stay in that position as they get used to the board and paddle. If kneeling is not possible, or they need a break, they can also sit on the board. Once they are feeling calm and confident, and are in deeper water, they can try to stand. 

Two people sitting on paddleboards while passing a paddle

Make sure your friend is comfortable before they stand

Tap Into Their Existing Skills

Just because someone hasn’t paddleboarded before doesn’t mean that they are starting from scratch. Tapping into their existing skill set and previous experience is a great way to guide them into the world of SUP. Someone who practices yoga or goes skating can apply their balancing techniques. If they enjoy meditation, their breathing exercises can prove useful to calm any shakes or nervousness. Anyone who has kayaked, canoed, or surfed will have a basic understanding of paddling a vessel in the water. Help them use their existing skills to their advantage.

Fall and Get Back On

It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the most useful things for a beginner to learn is to fall and get back on. When people start out paddleboarding, their hesitation usually stems from a fear of falling off the board. Get them over that hump by showing them how to fall safely (starfish backwards, away from the board). After a beginner falls off the first time, they see that it is nothing to be afraid of and have the confidence to try new moves. 

Be Supportive

Words of encouragement can go a long way! Boost their confidence by complementing anything they are doing right. Are they fearless when it comes to standing up? Do they turn the board with ease? Positive feedback lets them know they are on the right track. Plus they’ll be more receptive to constructive criticism if you mix it with sincere compliments. Teachers refer to this as the “compliment sandwich”; start with a positive, introduce an area that needs improvement, and end with another positive. 

Two people walking into the water while carrying stand up paddleboards

Paddling with friends is so fun!

Paddleboarding with Friends is the Best! 

Introducing friends to SUP is so much fun and expands your group of paddle pals. There is always safety and good times in numbers, especially when you are exploring beyond! Have you taken your friends out paddleboarding? Let us know in the comments below and a share photo of you and your favourite SUP buddy with us on Instagram by using the hashtag #thursosurf. See you out on the water! 




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About the Author: Jordan-na

Jordan-na Belle-Isle is a Toronto-based SUP instructor, lake surfer, and writer. Born in Montreal, she has been sporty her whole life and discovered stand-up paddleboarding in 2013. Since then, she has been active in the SUP scene, paddling and surfing the Great Lakes year-round. Jordan-na is a patient and encouraging instructor. She obtained her first SUP instructor certification in 2017 and has been teaching ever since. She has worked with Surf the Greats and Toronto Island SUP, running everything from group classes, to one-on-one training, to winter SUP safety clinics, to team-building events for clients and partners such as Google, Brown Girl Outdoor World, L’Oreal, Swim Drink Fish, and Ryerson University. She currently holds an Advanced SUP Instructor certification with Paddle Canada and is Bronze Cross certified with the Ontario Lifesaving Society. A recognizable face in the Great Lakes SUP and surf scene, her image has been used in a national campaign for Tourism Canada and she has been interviewed by several media outlets such as SUP Connect, Breakfast Television, Daily Hive News, and the Toronto Star. She was also the subject of a short documentary film titled ‘In Winter.’ A skilled writer with a masters degree from the University of Toronto, her work has appeared in Explore Magazine and she is a regular contributor to the Thurso Surf blog and Surf the Greats Journal. She is a co-organizer for Lake Surfistas, a grassroots group that connects, empowers, and educates women who surf and SUP the Great Lakes year-round.

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