One of the most awesome things about stand up paddle boarding is its built-in cross training flexibility. Whether your fave water sport is surfing, yoga, fishing, kayaking or straight-up SUP, all you need is your iROCKER, a paddle and a bit of gear to get your blood pumping. If you’re new at this or thinking of upping your SUP with some cross training, we’re here with our top paddling techniques for every kind of stand up paddle boarding.

First Things First -- Why a Great SUP Paddle Matters

First, let’s talk for a moment about paddle engineering because all paddles are not created equal. We’re biased in favor of our paddles for some important reasons we want you to know about:

  1. Our paddles are lightweight. You’ll notice the difference in a full-carbon paddle vs. a heavy old-fashioned paddle. Ours weighs 30 ounces. Compare that to a 2+ pound fiberglass paddle! No thanks. Do your arms a solid and upgrade to a lightweight paddle.
  2. Our paddles adjust. If you’re tall, you need a long paddle. If you’re short, you need a shorter paddle. Seems obvious. Your sport will also dictate your ideal paddle length. iROCKER and BLACKFIN paddles adjust from 72” to 86”, and fold down to just 35” for easy breezy storage.
  3. Our paddles float. Trust us, this is important.
  4. Our paddle blades are made for SUP. They’re angled just right for stand up paddle boarding (or kayaking). Again, this attention to engineering matters as you’ll soon see.

Now that you understand what matters most when choosing a SUP paddle, let’s talk about how to use it.

Your paddle technique will vary based on your SUP activity. So we’re going to break it down by activity. If you favor one SUP activity over another, skip to your sport and get straight to the what matters most to you.

Traditional SUP Paddling Technique

Whatever your SUP sport of choice, you’re going to need to paddle out into the water. For paddling out and for straight-up SUP (what we’ll call traditional SUP), there’s a right way and a wrong way to paddle.

The right way gets you where you’re going with grace and relative ease. The wrong way looks and feels wrong. Let’s talk about the right way.

First, you’ll notice that your paddle blade is scooped or angled, sort of like an ice cream paddle. You might be tempted to place your paddle scoop side backward as if to scoop your way through the water. That’s the wrong way to paddle.

Instead, hold your paddle with the scooped side facing forward. To be clear, the iRocker Logo on the blade and shaft should be facing front of your board. This way, the back edge of the blade will do the hard work of pushing the water back as your board glides forward. 

Next, adjust your paddle to your ideal height. Notice we said your ideal height. What works for one SUPer might not work for another. A general guide is to test your paddle at about one foot longer than your height.

This takes some practice to get the right feel. If it feels like hard work to move forward in the water, you might think of adjusting your paddle slightly shorter. If it feels like you’re not able to stand up fully, think about adjusting your paddle slightly longer.

You’ll get it with a bit of practice.

Skip ahead to the 2-minute point here to see traditional SUP paddling the right way. Easy, smooth, looks good, feels great.

Yeah, that.

SUP Surfing Paddling Technique

If you’re the higher-octane type of SUPer and into SUP surfing, you and your paddle will have a different relationship with each other than with traditional SUP.

With SUP surfing, you, your board and your paddle will adjust with the surf to control your speed and direction.

For SUP surfing, many surfers prefer their paddle adjusted to a longer length than straight-up SUP. This is because a longer length improves the surfer’s ability to remain standing as high as necessary to see through the water while paddling.

Most experts agree that the ideal paddle length for SUP surfing is about 8-to-12 inches longer than the surfer’s height.

When SUP surfing, it’s ideal to keep your board going at 90 degrees over the waves. Doing this requires alternating strokes with your paddle -- a few strokes on the right, then a few strokes on the left, repeat -- keeping your board pointed where you want to go and at the right angle to get there.

You may find as you alternate sides, that you might want to adjust your hand position up or down on the paddle to maintain control. As you do this, think about always keeping the paddle blade perpendicular to the water.

By the way, did you know stand up paddle boarding got its start in the surf culture? We love the history of SUP as much as we love the sport itself. Check out this post we wrote on the origins of our favorite water sport.

SUP Kayaking Paddling Technique

SUP kayaking is trending big-time. There are many reasons for this. For one, SUP kayaking can take you places you can’t go with traditional SUP. Think about swampy waterways with a low-hanging canopy, or rocky river rapids where you definitely want to be seated.

For another, SUP kayaking gets you up close and personal with the water and the nature below the surface.

And for another, SUP kayaking gives you some relief from standing when you want it or, in the case of injury or recovery, when you need it.

If you haven’t tried SUP kayaking, get yourself this genius Kayak Conversion Kit and give it a go.

The first and most obvious thing to know with SUP kayaking is that the paddle has two blades and not one. The good news is you don’t need to buy a new paddle. Simply get the kayak blade attachment to replace your SUP paddle’s t-bar with the second blade.

Yep, genius.

You’ll notice that once the second blade is attached, it will not face in the same direction as the original blade. This is not a mistake. It’s called “blade feathering” and it serves the purpose of allowing you to steer your board and control your speed. More on this in a moment.

The next thing you’ll notice is that you’ll use your paddle completely differently than you do with SUP paddling. If you’re an experienced kayaker, you know how to do it, though you’ll find the on-water movement of your inflatable stand up paddle board slightly different from the in-water movement of a traditional kayak.

To paddle correctly, use your strong hand to control the angle of your blade by turning it forward or back, and your other hand to loosely hold the paddle steady.

We love the simple kayaking tutorial here. Click the blue arrows next to the text instructions to zoom the cartoon accordingly. Talk about genius!

If you plan to order the kayak conversion kit (and why wouldn’t you), check out our tutorialfor the proper way to attach your kayak seat, accessories and blade.

More Paddling Techniques for Stand Up Paddle Boarding

If you’d like to know more about paddling techniques for stand up paddle boarding for your particular type of SUP activity, get in touch with our team using the fields below. We’ll get back to you with our tried-and-true tips on the best paddling techniques we know.