SUP Skills Breakdown by Emre Bosut SWELL EDUCATION

April 19th, 2019

Before all trips introduce yourself. Ask for names, paddling experience, where people are from and if there are any severe allergies or medical conditions.

Establish paddle and hand signals in order to communicate  to group non-verbally. Signals include: positive directions, group up (paddle straight in air), stop where you are (paddle horizontal above your head).

Life Jackets

  1. loosen side straps.
  2. put on PFD over head like a sweater. Buckle is at the front.
  3. tighten side straps. and check to make sure PFD doesn’t easily lift up when pulled on the shoulder straps.

Holding Paddle and Adjusting

  1. Paddles are roughly the length of your arm upto your wrist. Adjust and check for each group member.
  2. Hand placement: one hand on the T-grip. Other hand about 1/3 to 1/2 way down the paddle shaft. (Paddle at your wrist when arm stretched in the air).
  3. bend in the blade is facing forward when holding the paddle.


Paddle and standing demo on land

While you have groups attention on land quickly describe:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, feet pointing forward, knees bent, back straight.
  2. Paddle from the tip of your board to your feet (not further) with your paddle as close beside the board as possible.
  3. Paddle straight (vertical) you go straight. Paddle (horizontal) across your body, you will turn.








  1. Put on leash around either ankle. Do so while standing in the water with one leg (the one the leash is going on) on the middle of the SUP and attach Velcro of leash. For beach launching this can be done on shore.
  2. Leave paddle across the board in front of standing area, concentrate weight over center of the board, and put one knee on the board.
  3. Bring other knee onto the board and kneel down. This is a great starting position and people have the ability to paddle around from this position.

Standing up

  1. Put down paddle across the board in front of where you are kneeling.
  2. Put hands down flat in front of kneeling position and bring weight over your hands.
  3. Slide one foot forward so that you can put weight on the ball of your foot.
  4. Slide second foot forward. Now you are in the crouching position.
  5. From crouching position, stand up remembering to keep knees bent and feet shoulder width (the wider the better without slipping off).

Falling in

  1. When falling in, just let yourself go. You can hold on to the paddle and fall flat in the water, remember there are very shallow areas.
  2. You are attached to the board with your leash, you can use it to get back to your board by swimming or pulling on the leash. You can let go of your paddle it floats.
  3. Place paddle across the front of your board. Position yourself in contact with the center of the board.
  4. Reach across the center of your board and slide chest and PFD onto the board.
  5. Reach further across the center of your board and slide more of your body on to the board. Bring one knee onto the board.
  6. Stay low swing the second leg onto the board and resume the kneeling position.


Paddling Forward

  1. Stroke begins toward the tip of the board.
  2. Paddle blade remains in water (almost reaching under the board). Paddle shaft slides along beside the board (touching the board).
  3. Paddle stroke ends by your feet .

(consistency not length of paddle strokes are important for beginners – good pace, shorter strokes.)

Stopping/Slowing Down

  1. At the end of a forward stroke let your paddle rest in the water and continue to glide toward the tail of the board.
  2. Put pressure on the paddle by pressing down on the hand placed in the center of the paddle shaft. This will create resistance in the water.
  3. You can control the direction of the board as you slow momentum by twisting the paddle with your top hand (the one on the t-grip) therefore using the paddle as a rudder.

Turning – Forward Sweep

  1. Get low for better reach. Paddle enters water at the tip of the board.
  2. Long paddle stroke reaching as far away from the board as possible (drawing the letter “C”).
  3. Paddle stroke ends at the tail of the board. (The success in this stroke often comes from completing the stroke to the very tail of the board and an effective reach out from the board).

Turning – Reverse Sweep

The reverse sweet is the same as the forward sweep with the steps done backwards: Start stroke at the tail of the board and paddle to the front.

additional instructing tips: Demonstrate how this stroke is less stable because it slows your momentum.  Discus effective use of this stroke; faster turn, but not as useful if trying to maintain momentum.

Moving around the Board

Moving around on the board is the first step to more advanced paddle board skills. It improves your balance and comfort on a paddle board. But most of all, it’s fun!

  1. Show the two methods. “ka-in hop” or shuffle (ka-in is Tla-o-qui-aht for crow).
  2. Keeping paddle in the water/near the water improves balance and bracing ability.
  3. Show “drop knee” for recovery by lowering center of gravity.

Staggered stance! (some call this the 3/4 stance)

This stance allows you to imitate a tripod when you incorporate use of the paddle. This stance is great for more advance skills such as paddling over surf or swell, stability in chop and whitewater.

  1. Move one foot back, ideally the inside (toward the paddle) foot.
  2. Bend Knees.
  3. Practice using this stance to move wait forward back and side to side.


  1. Pressure on “shaft hand”
  2. Feather with “t-grip hand”

Pivot Turn

A fancy and fast turn. Very useful in increasing the maneuverability of your board and getting comfortable shifting weight which allows us to use the full extent of the board.  A fundemental stepping stone to SUP’ing in dynamic environments such as surf and white water. Plus its fun!

  1. Shift weight backwards. on the board.
  2. Use forward sweep /back sweep to turn board.
  3. Shift weight forward on the board, use brace and “drop knee” for balance.

Draw Stroke

This will allow you to move your board directly sideways. Great for checking out something on shore, getting close to a friend, posing for photos, and it’s used in the controlled forward stroke.

  1. Twist your body to the side you want to move toward. Point your “laser beam nipples” (courtesy of JF Marlo) in that direction.
  2. Reach out directly beside your board. Put the paddle in the water and pull toward the paddle.
  3. Try to keep the paddle board flat on the water. Or for more advanced, tilt away from the paddle to avoid resistance against the rail.


Just like in a kayak or canoe. Tilt plays an fundamental role in SUP. Tilting the board can add control to the boards direction. Your board veers in the direction it tilts if you have momentum.

  1. Use brace play around with sinking one rail then the other.
  2. Various levels of tilt. rail above water line. Rail under water line.
  3. On touring boards, an extra level of tilt can be introduced as the rails sit much higher in the water.

Paddle forward with more POWER

This will focus on using your whole body in paddling. Focusing on the core.

  1. Straighten arms and paddle forward like a robot.
  2. Concentrate on pushing down with your “t-grip” hand like your pushing down on a lever. The hand on the shaft doesn’t pull the paddle, instead is stays stationary as a pivot point.
  3. The hand on the shaft doesn’t pull the paddle, instead is stays stationary as a pivot point.

**New more advanced level of forward stroke: your hip and your bottom hand move together. Bottom hand comes forward for a stroke, so does the hip (this is the wind up). Paddle is placed in the water, and body unwinds (hand back and hip back).

Controlled forward stroke

Under calm paddling conditions you should be able to have full control of your paddle board from paddling simply on one side. These tips will allow you to continue to control your forward stroke to maintain an effective forward paddle without having to alternate sides.

  1. Number one is always, VERTICAL PADDLE. Reach TOP HAND OVER WATER which forces the blade under your SUP.
  2. Tilt toward you paddle stroke. This is a minor tilt. This technique needs momentum, and its full usefulness is under review as on certain SUPs such as touring SUP models, you can better glide toward the pull of your paddle if you tilt a very little bit away from it.
  3. Draw toward the tip of our board. This corrects the offset that paddling on one side creates. Similarly to the “J stroke” in canoeing. This is a very minute stroke. I add it to every paddle stroke rather than one major correction. I overemphasize during the demonstration, but then demonstrate what the regular stroke looks like.

Cross Tip (cross bow) Draw

The fanciest of the basic strokes. This stroke is great way to use your momentum initiate your turn. When combined with the sweep stroke it turns into a very effective turn.

  1. Twist your body to the opposite side from the side you’re paddling on.
  2. Reach across the tip of your board with the “shaft hand”
  3. Bend knees and place blade into the water around 1 or 2 o’clock on your paddle radius.
  4. Maintain resistance on the paddle using the “shaft hand.” Doing so you will control the direction of your board.
  5. Draw toward the tip of the board, release paddle from the water and continue sweeping motion into a sweep stroke on the paddling side.


This brings us through basics of Stand up paddle boarding. In addition there are other fun skills and games that will improve balance and comfort on a SUP.

Additional Skills:

– Two person braceoff

– Backwards Paddle

– Flatwater Nose Ride

– Back to front Paddle board. Paddling a sup from the tip, fins in the air.

– One foot balance.

– What’s your favorite yoga pose?

– Dance off. Copy dance move and pass it on. 🙂

– SUP relay course.

– Tandem paddle board races.

– SUP polo.

– SUP tag. Frozen tag is super fun. Use paddle and touch board to tag participant.

– Swimming Race. Tow your paddle board to safety.