In this article you’ll not only get the answer to whether or not stand up paddle boarding is difficult to learn, you’ll get insights into how you can get out on the water quickly, even as a beginner. We all have to start somewhere, so don’t let your inexperience hold you back. Stand up paddle boarding isn’t hard. It’s a blast to learn and most people are able to get the hang of it on their first time out.

We’re going to take you through a method to help you improve at paddle boarding in a few easy steps. This involves analyzing what your strengths are and building an environment to help you succeed. You’ll be surprised how fast you can pick up this sport with our paddle board tips. For many, it will come quite naturally, but paying attention to a few key factors will have you riding like an experienced paddle boarder in no time.


Is it hard to learn to stand up paddle boarding?

The Answer to SUP Difficulties

Stand up paddle boarding is an incredibly easy water sport to learn. Although it may look a bit intimidating, if you’re reading this post, you’re already off to a good start.

boy learning on Thurso Surf Prodigy junior SUP answering if stand up paddlboarding is difficult to learn

We all have to start somewhere.

Why is SUP considered an easy water sport?

Stand up paddle boarding is considered ‘easy’ because paddlers of all shapes, sizes and ages can learn enough to start having fun in no time with just a little bit of effort. Of course, perfecting your technique takes time and practice, but most people are able to stand up on flat water, paddle, and turn on their first time out in calm conditions without spending much time in the water.  It’s a great way to spend some time outside, get a full-body workout, and enjoy the both the scenery and the wildlife from a different perspective.

So, why is it easy? All of our paddle boards are designed to give most people a stable platform to stand on. It’s much more stable and easy to balance on than a typical surfboard and you can take all the time you need to get to your feet instead of ‘popping up’ at just the right moment to catch a wave.

From a standing position, it’s just about keeping your knees slightly bent, your weight slightly forward, and taking your first stroke. Because you don’t have to learn to read the waves and time your pop up in a precisely coordinated movement, it’s much easier to catch and ride a wave on a stand up paddle board.

Of course, just because it is easy to learn doesn’t mean it is easy to master. Standing and paddling is the start, but more advanced riders can learn to ride the SUP board in all sorts of conditions. And of course, the more you ride, the better your cardio becomes and the further you can paddle.

attaching fins on Expedition SUP answering if stand up paddle boarding is difficult to learn

Getting ready to head out for a paddle

Building On The Basics Of Paddleboarding

After a few times out, you’ll have the basics mastered. Then it’s up to you how challenging you want to make each session on yourself. You can quickly build a solid foundation with just a bit of practice and pick up more advanced techniques as you go along.

You can dial in the physical challenge by picking calmer waters and paddling shorter distances or even floating along with a lazy river current. It’s up to you how serious you want to get. You can have a blast just splashing around with friends and family, or you can train seriously, build up your skills and endurance, and tackle ultra-distance, big surf, or whitewater paddling.

RELATED: How to SUP: A Quick Start Paddleboarding Cheatsheet

How To Make SUP Less Difficult

So, how can you make it easier on yourself? Follow these simple steps and stand up paddle boarding won’t seem difficult at all.

First, make sure you get yourself the right size and type of board.

We covered everything you need to know in two previous articles “How to Choose the Best SUP Shape” and “What’s the Best SUP Size for You?“, so have a read! If you’re still unsure ask the experts! Drop us a line at contactthursosurfcom or hit us up on social with questions anytime.

Also, if you’re a beginner who isn’t a strong swimmer, don’t forget a life jacket!

dog carries SUP paddle to owner in water on beach

Don’t hesitate to bring a friend along when you do go.

Second, choose your waterway wisely.

For a beginner it’s best to start on calm, sheltered waters. That way you won’t have to fight the wind, waves, and current just yet. Once you’re more confident in your skills it won’t be a struggle, you’ll be riding waves with the wind at your back. Check out “How to Paddleboard Oceans, Lakes, and Rivers” for a more detailed description of your options.
Generally speaking, the calmest water you can find will be on lakes. Typically, lakes won’t have the strong currents, large waves, or fast water of rivers and oceans. Of course, there is still the potential for high winds and frigid temperatures. For this reason, you need to make it a habit to check the weather forecast before you go out paddling.
If in doubt, ask a local about the conditions before you go on your first paddle. Someone who paddles the water often will know what to look out for, and this information is very valuable for a beginner. Try asking a local expert, or someone at the paddle board rental shop.

Third, get comfortable balancing on your board.

You don’t have to start on your feet. In fact, you can lay, sit, kneel or stand up to paddle. For your first time out we recommend a comfortable kneeling position to get started. Then, once you feel stable paddling from your knees, you can give it a go standing up.
The most important determining factor in how quickly you can pick up stand up paddling is how adept you are at balancing. If you are comfortable standing in an unstable environment, you will likely take to this sport quite fast.
General exercises can be done to improve your balance, which would be beneficial to both beginner and advanced paddlers. Typically speaking, core exercises help with your balance most. Core muscles support many aspects of any activity. They are known as stabilizer muscles for a reason. Great exercises include squats, deadlifts, and ab exercises.
stand up paddleboarding is not difficult to learn as these kids show - Kids playing on Prodigy SUPs - is stand up paddle boarding difficult article

Paddling from your knees can allow you to get the hang of it before standing up.

Fourth, now that you’re on your feet pay attention to your posture and stance.

These two elements will help you build an effective and efficient stroke all of which adds up to you becoming a better paddler. Generally speaking, you want to keep your knees slightly bent, with your feet apart. This gives you a strong base with which to maintain your balance. Lean a bit forward as you start to paddle, as this helps you to absorb the momentum during the SUP tour.
For a full run-down of the best paddle stroke for beginners, head here.

From SUP Difficulties to Simple Steps

Pretty simple right? By step two you’re already on the water and by step four you’re off cruising freely, enjoying what the sport has to offer. There’s certainly more to dig into, but if your goal is simply to get out there on the water and give it a try then you already know everything you need to start.
And, don’t worry about falling off. It doesn’t hurt and depending on what time of year you’re paddling, it can be quite refreshing. If you’re worried about losing your board, attach a leash to your foot. Heading out to snorkel or just dip from your board is all part of the fun. We’ve certainly seen our fair share of dives, cannonballs and even flips from the deck of a SUP.
swimming with branded Thurso Surf hat - is stand up paddle boarding difficult article

Don’t be afraid to fall off, swimming from your board is an added bonus.

Other Tips for Beginners

If you’re really nervous about picking up this sport, or want a few more tips just to be safe and secure, there are a few ways to make it even easier on yourself. As we stated above, most anyone can pretty much pick up a board and get started. But for those who want that extra push, here’s some options you can consider:

Take a SUP Lesson

If you’re really unsure about your SUP skills, there’s always the option to take a lesson before you get started. Do a quick Google search for lessons in your area, or head to the SUP rental shop and ask about lessons. Typically, lessons are either offered as a private lesson or a group lesson. Private lessons are more personal but also tend to be more expensive. We recommend a group lesson if you want to take a lesson at all.
But as we said, most people can pick up and go! A lesson is only necessary if you are really unsure of your skills.

Find the Calmest Water

While lessons will help you, they are expensive, and often unnecessary. A more realistic tip for a nervous beginner is just to find the calmest water possible. This is typically found in lakes, as they do not have the strong currents or big waves of oceans and rivers. Of course, you need to check the forecast as well, in case there are any strong winds or frigid temperatures to look out for.
When in doubt, ask someone. Any body of water will have its share of experienced riders, so ask them if there’s anything special you should look out for, like currents, waves, shallow water, or anything similar.

Final Thoughts on the Difficulty of SUP

Stand up paddle boarding isn’t difficult and it’s an incredibly versatile sport. That means, as a beginner, you have countless options ahead of you. You can paddle lakes, rivers, or oceans; you can try SUP surfing, cruise, or paddle whitewater; and you can do it solo or with others (tandem on one board or each to your own board). Get out there and give it a try!

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About the Author: Matt G.

Matt Gelgota is a traveler and all around digital marketing guy. His greatest adventure to date was the Mongol Rally, a 10,000 mile unsupported on and off-road saga from Sweden to Mongolia. He has visited more than 50 countries and has been paddling a Thurso Surf Expedition since 2018. Since then he’s had a chance to paddle board in Nepal, Thailand, Japan, and the US. When he’s not on the road he divides his time between Tokyo and Atlanta, Georgia.

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