Is Paddle Boarding Hard to Learn?

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You’ve probably seen those people out on the water, looking like they’re having the times of their lives just paddling away. While it may look serene and a great way to enjoy nature (and it is), you may be hesitant because you’re not sure how hard it is.

This is a common question for absolute newbies, though not simply a yes or no answer. We’ll go through the various aspects of paddle boarding, its challenges, and the easy stuff so you can decide if paddle boarding is right for you!


Overall, paddle boarding is considered an easy water sport. Of course, we’re saying “easy” when comparing it to other water sports such as water skiing, wakeboarding, surfing, and so on – all of which could be considered extreme sports. If you crave being out on the water but don’t want to take the risk with those or simply don’t currently have the athletic prowess, stand up paddle boarding is probably right for you.

No matter what your age, size, or physical fitness level is, you’re likely to be able to paddle board. Of course, you shouldn’t expect to just jump right into it and be a pro. It does take time and practice to get used to it, but it’s relatively safe, will get you some fresh air, and an excellent full-body workout.

The Basics

So, what exactly does paddle boarding consist of and what can you expect? The most basic function is simply balancing and remaining stable on your stand up paddleboard (often referred to as a SUP). If you’ve tried surfing before, you can rest assured standing up on a SUP is much easier than a surfboard. However, you’ll want to take a similar approach in keeping your knees slightly bent and your feet in a stance wide enough to offer a strong foundation.

Instead of going from your knees to feet as fast as possible, like with surfing, the upside is that you can take your time here with paddle boarding. It’s all a matter of practice, and you’ll feel more and more comfortable just after a few trips out on the water.

Weather and Water Conditions

When you’re first starting out, you really want to pay attention to weather and water conditions. Well, you should be doing this every time but pay special attention to your first few times. Make sure to check online what the weather conditions will be all day long so you don’t get surprised by rain or wind.

Choosing calmer waters or even floating along a lazy river will allow you to get your bearings and get your form down while still having a great time in the water. It’s not a bad idea to pick out a place far away from the crowds so you don’t feel nervous trying to keep your balance or falling in the water. Also try to ensure it’s away from boat traffic as they can really kick up some waves and cause you some extra challenges you won’t want to deal with.

Of course, over time you’ll be able to have a greater pick of places, and even take on longer distances, big surf, and more.

The Board

Make sure you have the right size and type of paddle board for the kind of SUPing you want to do, and your individual body type. Consider your height and your weight to ensure the length, width, and weight limit are suitable for your needs.

Usually boards which are 10 to 12 feet long are the norm, but if you’re particularly short or you’re purchasing for a child you can get one under 10 feet. Shorter boards are easier to maneuver than longer ones, making them ideal for surfing waves.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you plan on paddling for long distances, you’ll want a longer displacement-hull board which are up to 16 feet in length.

Wider boards are easier to balance on and you get more room as well to move around and get your footing. However, getting a board that’s too wide for you will also create more difficulties as you may struggle with paddling efficiently.

Inflatable boards are easier to stow away and are more lightweight, making them easier to carry around. However, hard boards offer greater momentum and are ideal for longer distances as they cut through water easier.

Beginner’s Tips

Here are a few tips that are smart to remember when you’re first starting out.

  1. The greater momentum, the more stability you’ll have. You probably remember learning how to roller blade or ride a bike. You probably remember how when you’d travel slow and start to get all wobbly but when you picked up speed it was smooth sailing and easier to maneuver.
  2. Keep your knees slightly bent and your core engaged. Try to maintain proper posture and your feet shoulder width apart for the most efficient paddling and better balance.
  3. Never look down while traveling. Instead, look at the horizon/where you want to travel. This may feel unnatural at first but it will help you keep your balance.
  4. Always hold your paddle with one hand on the end of it and the other on the shaft. For many, it feels more intuitive to hold it like a broom, but this is much less efficient.


Now that you’ve read all through our guide, do you understand a bit more about the difficulty level of paddle boarding? Overall, it’s actually quite an easy sport to do, and will only get easier over time. It’s a great workout, improves core strength, and is a wonderful way to get outdoors and transport yourself from place to place. We hope our guide has been able to help you get more acquainted with SUPing and that you feel more prepared to get out on the water. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you again soon!

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Shayanne Weeks

Shayanne is a freelance writer and marketer based in LA, California. Describing herself as a nomad, she has lived in Boise, Idaho and Seattle, Washington as well as Guadalajara, Mexico. As an extremely active person, she loves to snowboard, skateboard, and ski. She enjoys sharing her love for active sports with others through her “how to” sports guides and sports equipment reviews. Shyanne is addicted to the adrenaline rush she experiences during her outdoor pursuits, from ziplining in Mexico to snowboarding in Idaho.

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