What is paddle boarding? 2023 Update

what is paddle boarding

Last Updated on 2 March 2023 by Sarah Dunes

Paddle Boarding or Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is a popular water sport and recreational activity which is usually done in the ocean and other open waterways. 

Paddle boarding has become increasingly popular during the pandemic, and is only set to get more popular in the coming years. Many retailers have struggled to keep up with demand, and it’s not surprising when you consider that there’s around 1M searches for Paddle Boards on Google per month, during summer months in the UK!

Many paddle for recreational purposes, but it is also a super fun sport, with fanatics all over the world meeting up to race against each other. However, learning how to paddle board is easier than most sports and can be a great hobby. If you have any questions about paddle boarding, read on to get them answered!

How hard is it to paddle board

In general, basic paddle boarding is not difficult at all, once you’ve picked up the basics. It’s a pretty easy water sport to learn. A couple of hours is usually all you need with your SUP to get to grips with the basics, and even less with a good instructor. People choose to paddle board for various reasons, whether just for fun, socialising or for fitness. It’s a full-body workout. Some variations such as SUP yoga may require more experience though. If you want to learn more, we’ve listed down why paddle boarding can be a great workout here if you’re looking to do it as a sport. In terms of difficulty, its relative to the type of paddling youre doing. If youre just cruising around the lake, its relatively easy and enjoyable. However, if youre looking to do something more challenging such as whitewater paddling or racing, theres a lot more to learn and youll need to have a higher level of skill and experience.


Paddle boarding tips for beginners

Paddle boarding is incredibly fun, but it can be dangerous if you are not fully equipped, especially if you’ll be paddle boarding on open water. There are many factors to take into account when you’re planning on paddle boarding. Even those with the most advanced skill level make sure to take safety precautions in case they need to paddle board in uncontrollable environments. So to help prepare you, here are some things you need to know even before you get into the water on your paddle board:

paddle boarding tips for beginners

What to bring paddle boarding? 

You need to plan ahead when it comes to setting a paddle boarding trip. Some locations may offer a more safe environment for water sports, but some may have harsh weather depending on the season. It is best to take note of those places, check on weather updates, and determine whether it’s appropriate for you to paddle board on days when the conditions are not favourable. If it is safe to do so, you need to bring gear and equipment accordingly. We have a more extensive guide here on what to where depending on seasons and temperatures, but here are the most basic items you need to bring:

  • Lifejacket (IMPORTANT!)
  • Paddle
  • Swimsuit
  • Rash Guard
  • Wetsuit

Some places with warmer weather conditions and calmer waters may allow you to wear less, so make sure to do your research. You also need to know what items you need to bring on your trip. There are managed facilities you can take advantage of. These are typically a safer way to get started, and should have all the right safety equipment on site. However, paddle boarding in open waters without any instructors or lifeguards to watch over the area may be dangerous, especially if you’re still learning the basics. 

We have a full guide on must-bring equipment, but here’s a quick list of items to help you while in the water or on stand by on land in case you encounter any difficulties:

  • Personal flotation device (PFD)
  • SUP Leash
  • Hand Pump
  • Head Lamp
  • Safety Whistle and First Aid Kit
  • Water Bottle
  • Suncream
  • Warm clothing
falling standing balancing

Falling, Standing, and Balancing

Once you’re geared up and ready to paddle board, you need to learn a few things before going into deep open water. You need to learn basic techniques on falling, standing, and balancing so you don’t hurt yourself. 


  • Avoid falling on the board because you are more likely to get injured when you hit it. Instead, aim for the side and fall into the water.
  • Once you fall into the water, hold on to your paddle like a floatie. It’s important to recover your board if it gets separated from you. If it floats away from you, swim to it as soon as you can and retrieve it.

Getting back on your board:

  • Situate yourself next to the board, close to the center
  • Hold on to the handle near the center of your board
  • Keep on kicking your legs and pull the board towards you, so you can slide yourself over and on the board. 


Standing and Balancing

  • Stand with your paddleboard, in around knee-deep water. 
  • Hold on to the edges and get on it, starting in a kneeling position. 
  • Put your hands on either side of the board to keep it stable as you move one leg at a time to stand. Don’t rush. Maintain your balance by raising your chest first before extending your legs.
  • Once you’re standing up, keep your balance by keeping your feet parallel, with toes pointed forward and knees slightly bent. Keep your back straight and control your weight by moving your hips.
  • Keep your gaze forward and try not to look down at your feet too much, as it may disrupt your balance.


You can get more paddle boarding tips on our full guide here.

History of paddle boarding

Modern paddle boarding started when two Maui surfers – Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton – used paddles to launch their longboards for a photoshoot. However, it is believed that stand up paddle boarding has been practiced in Peruvian culture long before this. Fishermen from ancient times would use boats made of reeds and a makeshift paddle to venture across the ocean. Their boats called “Caballito de Totora” were long and narrow. 

Other cultures have a somewhat similar practice, such as the gondolas of Venice and Hasake surfing of Israel. They also use a paddle-like tool to propel their vessels through the water, making it difficult to exactly pin down its exact origin. One thing we do know is that paddle boarding as we know it has become super popular in recent years, especially with the introduction of inflatable paddle boards, such as our best selling EZ Board range.


How to choose a paddle board

Choosing a paddle board may be overwhelming, especially for first-time buyers. It is advisable to choose one based on the user’s stature, using weight and height to get an optimally stable board. However, some do choose their boards depending on the activity and the kind of water they plan on paddle boarding. Some intermediate paddle boarders would choose a wider board if they plan on doing SUP yoga, while some would opt for a shorter board if they plan on ocean or river surfing.

You may want to choose your first paddle board based on this thorough guide that has a chart based on your height, along with other tips to help you out.

how to choose a paddle board

What is the appeal of paddle boarding?

The main appeal of paddle boarding is that it’s a fun, easily accessible hobby which has many health benefits. Many tourist spots offer paddle boarding as an activity to explore the vicinity, which can be a great way to see a destination from a different perspective. Some also turn to paddle boarding as a way to exercise, get fit, and live a healthier lifestyle. Immersing yourself in scenic environments can also have a relaxing effect, which is good for overall wellness.  

But one of the greatest things about SUP is that it helps you bond with other people. Paddle boarding with your family, friends, and loved ones allows you to socialise as well as enjoy nature together. 


What is the point of paddle boarding?

Paddle boarding is a fun recreational activity that can be done for fitness, wellness, socialisation, or simply as a hobby. It can also be an interactive way to immerse yourself in nature.

Is paddle boarding dangerous?

It depends on weather conditions and preparation. It is safe if you plan and prepare properly. There are also controlled paddle boarding facilities which may be preferable for beginners.

What is the difference between a paddle board and a surfboard?

Paddle boarding involves using a paddle to propel and maneuver yourself through the water. Surf boards are typically solid, whereas many paddle boards are inflatable and not suited to the forces which are present when surfing. 

Can you just paddle board anywhere?

You may paddle board in any body of water as long as it’s deep enough and there’s no local restrictions.