What’s SUP? Tips for Beginners

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A bit of history: Did you know?

“…stand up paddling in some form or another has been around for thousands of years. Ancient cultures from Africa to South America used boards, canoes, and other watercraft propelled with a long stick to fish, travel, make war, and even ride waves. Warriors in parts of Africa stood up in dugout canoes and used their spears as paddles to move silently into enemy territory. For nearly 3,000 years, Peruvian fisherman used a craft called a “Caballitos de Totora”, a small craft made of reeds that is so called because its instability made it like riding a horse. They used a long bamboo shaft somewhat like an elongated kayak paddle, and after a day’s fishing they would surf the waves in just for fun. In fact, it’s quite possible that this is the true roots of all surfing, let alone stand up surfing.” (SUPworldmag.com)

Thinking about trying a Stand Up Paddle board? Check out our helpful tips for first timers: 

Image Shane Chalker

Image Shane Chalker


These need to be attached before you hit the water. Use an allen key to secure either at home or by the water. If travelling with the fins on, be sure to tie the board face down (fins up). Read the instructions or check online for demonstration videos. 



Most of us understand the basic concept of paddling and can instinctively move forward, backwards, side to side, and turn around completely. But it remains an art that must be learned. If you are not sure watch a few videos first, stay in the shallows or practise in a pool until you are comfortable. Check that the paddle is adjusted and at the right length for you. 


Weather and Water Conditions

Just like surfing and most other water sports, your experience, and level of enjoyment, will depend on suitable weather conditions. Keep track of the forecast and ideally aim for no wind. If there is a breeze, make sure it’s gentle and try to stay in protected waters. Rivers, lakes, estuaries are ideal. Unless you are in a calm bay it is advisable to avoid the beach on your first attempt as swell can make it very challenging for beginners. If the coast is your only option then consider sunrise on a calm day when there is no wind.



Roof racks or a trailer and straps are best. It helps to have a buddy with you the first few time to assist with the lifting and tie/strap down, but with a bit of practice you will soon feel confident and capable to do it yourself. Learning to do it solo gives you the freedom to hit the water whenever you like and will help you to build your upper body strength (the Alexa Molokai SUP board by Rays is 14.5kgs and 10’4” long). 

Try to park or drop off close to the paddle location. The board can be cumbersome to carry until you get used to it. Make sure you lock away straps and be mindful of security if you are leaving the board for long periods. 

Carrying the SUP

Hold the board to the side of your body with your arm over and grip the middle cut out handle section (this is the easiest way unless you have a cover with an arm strap).


Stay in the Shallows

Don’t venture out too deep the first time. Ensure you are confident in your ability at that point in time, at that location, under those conditions before going further. The tide can take you out very quickly and it can be difficult to paddle back in. 

Falling is Inevitable: Be Brave

Be prepared to fall in the first few times. The more experienced and confident you become the less chance you will fall in. You’ll learn to read the conditions, your balance will improve each time and before you know it you will be a breeze. 


Cooler weather is ideal for long adventures so layer up with bathers, wetsuit, long rashy or just light weight long sleeve top and pants. 

Standing Up: Finding Your Balance

Start in shallow water on your knees for at least 15 minutes. This allows you to feel safe and acclimatise. Slowly make your way up to standing and ensure your feet are equally positioned over the middle of the left and right sides of the board. Use your paddle in the water to help with balance. Always remember you can go down to your knees (or your bum) at any time, particularly for longer paddles, when another vessel passes, there is a bit of swell or when you feel nervous or tired. (Note that it is easier to balance if you stick to the recommended weight for the board).

Wiggle your Feet & Toes

If you are paddling for a while your feet and toes can get locked into position while you try to balance. Over time they can cramp and ache so don’t forget to move them now and again. If they start to hurt, drop to your knees and paddle like you are in a kayak or canoe for a little while to give them a rest. 

Wash Away the Salt

Once you are happy and exhausted, make sure you give all your gear a good rinse in fresh water and dry before storing. 

Wash down.JPG


  • Be sure to tie down the board securely before transporting and keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t move. If it does. Stop and secure it again. 

  • Be careful moving the board including on and off your vehicle. It is long and can easily knock a small child out or damage a nearby car or the board itself. 

  • Keep the paddle away from heads. It really does hurt being smacked in the face with a paddle. Ouch! Be especially careful if you’re taking a young child for a ride.

  • Stick to the recommended weight for the type of board.

  • Never take children out unless you are confident in everyone’s ability to manage in those conditions. Always make sure children are supervised and stay in the shallows. Life vests are a good idea.

  • Always have your leg rope attached.

  • Tell someone your plans and paddle with a buddy when you can, especially if you are planning a longer adventure. 

  • Be prepared. There are fantastic accessories available including waterproof vests/packs that hold water, keys, sunscreen, money and your smartphone. Booties, sandals and gloves can make the ride more bearable for your hands and feet.

Why we love the SUP

  • Almost anyone can try it. 

  • It doesn’t take long to master.

  • It’s can be very peaceful and relaxing. 

  • You have the best vantage point for views and to hear the lapping of the waves, spot marine life, and breathe in the fresh salty air. 

  • You can share the experience with friends and family. 

  • It’s hours of entertainment, especially in the right conditions.

  • Great overall body (mostly gentle) workout. Particularly good for the core, upper body strength and balance. You can increase the workout with longer distances and faster paddling.

Images: Rays & Port Stephens Outdoor Adventure Mums

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