Discover Paddleboarding | The Ultimate UK SUP Guide
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The Ultimate Guide to Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) isn’t dissimilar to surfing, however instead of using waves for momentum, you use a paddle to propel you. SUP is great fun, and with some practice, you can flat water paddle, use it to assist in surfing or even attempt yoga on your board.

Beginners guide to SUP

Paddleboard close up

What you’ll need for paddleboarding

To try stand up paddleboarding you’ll need some essential equipment. You can usually rent your equipment which should include:

• Stand up paddle board (and a pump if it’s an inflatable one)
• A paddle
• Personal floatation device (vital for children)
• Clothing appropriate for the water temperature (more on this below)
• Dry clothes to change into afterwards

What are the different types of paddleboards?

Group of paddleboarders

Paddle boards come in all different sizes and shapes and can be categorised by the type of materials they’re made of, as well as what type of activity they’re best for.

Inflatable paddle boards

Inflatable boards are gaining in popularity, given their ability to be deflated, rolled up compactly and stored which is particularly useful for travellers. Don’t let “inflatable” make you picture a delicate board as s good iSUP can easily compete with fiberglass.

Inflatable paddle boards float along the top of the water, so they are a slower option, but they’re just as ridged as an epoxy board.

Hard paddle boards

Made of foam, wrapped in layers of fiberglass, and coated with epoxy resin, hard paddle boards are strong and durable. These are most like what most would picture when thinking about a surfboard and are the best option for surfing and riding waves.

Due to the more complex manufacturing process, hard paddle boards are more expensive than their inflatable counterparts, but they’re the better option for anyone looking for speed and agility.

Composite paddle boards

Also called soft top paddle boards, these are great for beginners. A foam core is layered with soft material, giving a padded finish which is less likely to show scratches and dings (and less likely to hurt when colliding with other boards or people).

Who is paddleboarding for?

Child Paddleboarding

Anyone can give paddleboarding a go, making it a brilliant sport for the whole family. With the ability to lie, sit or stand (the hardest part), you can make paddleboarding as extreme or slow-paced as you want. If you're dog loves spending time in the water you can get them involved too!

Where can you paddleboard in the UK?

You can paddleboard on all bodies of water, including the sea, lakes, rivers and canals. If you’re a beginner, you might want to join a school or hire an instructor to get you started. That way, you’ll be able to hire a board to use and check you enjoy it before investing in your own paddle board.

We have campsites all over the UK, which would be a great base for your first paddleboarding trip. You can also read our top picks of places to paddleboard in the UK.

Lakeside campsites
Riverside campsites 
Campsites near canals 
Beach campsites 

Stand up paddleboarding technique

Paddleboarding stance

Learning to SUP can be broken up into simple steps, and once you’ve mastered the basics, you can experiment with more challenging techniques. Practise on dry land before getting in the water and most of all, have fun and don’t put too much pressure on learning quickly!

The best technique for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) involves a combination of proper body positioning, paddle stroke technique, and balance. Here are some key elements to consider:

1. Stance and Balance:
• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, parallel to the stringer (centerline) of the board.
• Keep your knees slightly bent to maintain stability and absorb shock.
• Distribute your weight evenly on both feet and engage your core for better balance.
• Look forward and maintain a relaxed posture.

2. Paddle Grip:
• Hold the paddle with a relaxed grip, placing one hand on the top handle (T-grip) and the other hand on the shaft.
• Your top hand should be positioned slightly above shoulder level, while the lower hand should be lower, around the height of your hip.

3. Paddle Stroke Technique:
• Start with the paddle in front of you, fully submerged in the water, with the blade angled away from you.
• Engage your core and pull the paddle backwards, using your core, back muscles, and arms in a smooth and controlled motion.
• As you pull the paddle backwards, rotate your torso and hips, allowing for a more powerful stroke.
• Exit the water cleanly by raising the paddle near your feet once it reaches your hip level.

4. Turning:
• To turn, you can use a forward sweep stroke or a reverse sweep stroke.
• For a forward sweep stroke, reach the paddle forward and away from the board, then sweep it out to the side, making a wide arc away from the board.
• For a reverse sweep stroke, start with the paddle near the tail of the board and sweep it in a wide arc toward the nose of the board.

How to stay safe while paddleboarding

Male paddleboarder wearing PFD

Any water sport needs to be undertaken with care. Here are a few key safety tips to follow:

1. Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), which will provide buoyancy and can save your life in case of an emergency.

2. Attach a leash to your ankle or calf and secure it to the board. This prevents the board from drifting away from you if you fall into the water, making it easier to retrieve and ensuring you don't become separated from your board.

3. Before heading out, check the weather forecast and be aware of any potential changes or storms. Avoid paddleboarding in severe weather conditions such as high winds, lightning storms, or heavy rain.

4. Familiarise yourself with the water conditions, including currents, tides, and waves. Choose appropriate locations for your skill level and always be aware of changing conditions. If you're new to paddleboarding, start in calm, flatwater areas.

5. Take the time to learn basic water safety skills, including swimming, self-rescue techniques, and how to call for help in an emergency. Being comfortable in the water and knowing what to do can make a significant difference in your safety.

6. Bring water with you to stay hydrated, especially during hot weather or prolonged paddling sessions. Apply sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, and consider wearing protective clothing.

7. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Look out for other boats, vessels, or watercraft and give them the right of way.

Do I need a licence to paddleboard?

If you’re paddleboarding on managed canals and rivers in the UK, the likelihood is that you’ll need a licence. If you’re using these waters under the instruction of someone else, they’ll be able to tell you whether you’ll need your own license.

Now you know the basics of paddleboarding, go ahead and book your next trip away to give it a go for yourself. You can search for campsites or browse all of our regions in the UK.

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