What is Paddleboarding?

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Expert: Cameron – I have been active in all water-based adventures since 2014. In my youth I would stay with my uncle in Florida who introduced me to paddleboarding and have enjoyed SUP ever since. While traveling I frequently rent paddleboards to explore coastlines of tropical areas such as Hawaii and Guam to include my shoreline at home on the Emerald Coast.

The allure of paddleboarding has been steadily growing, captivating water enthusiasts seeking a unique and serene way to connect with aquatic landscapes.

This guide unveils the world of paddleboarding, an activity that harmoniously blends the art of balance, the tranquility of water, and the thrill of exploration.

I personally use paddleboards every opportunity I get when heading to a new coastline.

They are usually always for rent for very cheaply and offer a great way to explore the waters to get a better familiarization with my environment.

But what is paddleboarding?

Paddleboarding is a water activity where individuals stand on a wide board and use a paddle to navigate. Most paddleboards are made of fiberglass and epoxy resin layers over hollow wood or foam cores. It offers a blend of balance, serenity, and exploration, allowing someone to glide over water surfaces and engage with aquatic landscapes.

To gain a deeper understanding of paddleboarding or SUP, keep following along as we break everything down from the history, how to use, equipment, and community that gathers around the activity.

Understanding Paddleboarding

Stand-Up Paddleboarding has a much richer history than some may think or consider.

Defining Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding is a recreational water sport at its core.

Paddleboarding involves gliding across water surfaces on a specially designed board while propelling forward with a paddle.

Unlike high-speed water sports, paddleboarding offers a leisurely and immersive experience that allows individuals to savor the surroundings.

The Evolution of Paddleboarding

Karakokooa by John Webber

The roots of paddleboarding can be traced back to ancient cultures, where people used various forms of boards for transportation and fishing.

Over time, paddleboarding has evolved into a contemporary recreational activity, capturing the essence of leisure and adventure.

Todays paddleboard is a more advance model that is recorded to be made in the 1930s by Thomas Blake who was restoring older surfboards for his museum work.

He drilled holes into a replica board made of redwood, ridden traditionally by the Hawaiian king.

Then he covered them bringing us to the first hollow board that we know of today.

Thomas Blake with Paddleboards

Types of Paddleboarding

Among the diverse paddleboarding disciplines, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) stands out as the most popular and accessible.

SUP involves standing on a wide board, akin to a surfboard, and maneuvering with a lengthy paddle.

This style offers a versatile platform for exploration on lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Short SUP
Paddleboard Surfing

These are typically under 10 feet in length and are suitable for kids and SUP surfing.

These boards have a lower weight capacity which makes them more unstable for some riders.

However, the shorter length allows for sharper turns which is why it is more suitable than longer boards for surfing.

Medium SUP

These paddleboards typically range from 10 to 12 feet in length and are the more common board size that you will see.

The higher floating capacity makes them a good choice for SUP fishing, stretching, and flatwater cruising.

Long SUP

These paddleboards are larger than 12 feet but normally do not exceed 14.

They can really pick up speed do to their length and for this reason are ideal for long distance exploration.

Exploring Paddleboarding Styles

Paddleboarding with Dog

Paddleboarding encompasses an array of styles to suit various interests.

Touring allows for leisurely exploration, racing offers competitive thrills, while yoga integrates balance and serenity.

For those who seek a connection with marine life, fishing paddleboards provide a novel angling experience, and surfing paddleboards ride the waves in a unique way.

Getting Started with Paddleboarding

Related: What to Bring Along When Paddleboarding

Essential Equipment

Before venturing onto the water, familiarize yourself with essential paddleboarding gear.

This includes the paddleboard itself, a paddle designed for efficient strokes, a leash to ensure the board stays within reach, and a personal flotation device (PFD) for safety.

Depending on your activity, there are also attachments for fishing or coolers you may want to include if your trip is going to take longer than an hour or two.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Paddleboarding with gear and equipment

Tailoring gear to skill level and intended Use by selecting appropriate gear is paramount.

For beginners, stable and wide paddleboards are ideal for building confidence.

Advanced paddlers may opt for sleeker designs that enhance speed and maneuverability.

Additionally, consider the paddle length, material, and blade shape for optimal performance.

Basic Techniques

It can be tricky your first time on a paddleboard, but nothing is impossible.

Getting On the Paddleboard

Stepping onto a paddleboard from the shoreline requires balance and finesse.

Start in calm, shallow waters, ensuring the board’s stability before gradually finding your footing.

Maintain a wide stance, engage your core muscles, and keep your gaze fixed on the horizon to achieve stability.

I have fallen off several times while fully clothed in regular clothing with my wallet and phone in my pockets.

So definitely do not get discouraged if you cannot get it on your first attempt.

Efficient Paddling

Related: How to Hold a Paddleboard Paddle in 5 Steps

Navigating waters with precision and mastering paddling techniques ensures efficient movement on the water.

Hold the paddle with a firm grip, positioning your hands shoulder-width apart.

Use your core muscles and twist your torso as you stroke through the water, propelling the board forward in a controlled manner.

It is very important on long board trips to use your core as much as possible because you will wear out your arms within 10 minutes of just paddling.

Safety Considerations

Safety should always be a priority when entering the water.

Water Safety Precautions

Wearing a leash that tethers you to the board is crucial to prevent separation in case of falls.

A properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD) provides added security, particularly for less confident swimmers.

Adhering to navigational rules and etiquette ensures a safe and enjoyable experience in shared water spaces.

You will also be out in the sun so be sure to wear and bring extra sun screen with you.

Weather and Environmental Awareness

Navigating natural elements for a smooth ride and understanding the impact of weather conditions is vital.

Wind, currents, and tides influence paddleboarding experiences.

Check weather forecasts and water conditions before embarking, ensuring your safety and enhancing your paddleboarding enjoyment.

You do not want to head out an hour away from your docking point only to realize there is a storm coming in.

It is also good to note the potential for rip currents in the waters that can drag you out into deeper ocean currents; be sure to check your beach flag condition.

Benefits of Paddleboarding

Standing out the most, physical fitness and mental health are key points of interest when paddleboarding.

Physical Fitness and Health Benefits

Engaging body and mind in a low-impact workout, paddleboarding offers a full-body workout that engages core muscles for stability and balance.

The rhythmic paddling motion enhances cardiovascular fitness while minimizing joint strain, making it suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

Do not underestimate the distance you are paddling however, this low-impact workout can turn into exhaustion quickly if you have low endurance.

Mental Well-Being and Stress Relief

Finding serenity amidst the ripples with the gentle rhythm of paddling on calm waters fosters a meditative state, reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

The soothing sounds of water and the panoramic views contribute to a profound sense of tranquility and mental rejuvenation.

According to specific studies, music therapists have incorporated ocean sounds into cardiac care units, often treating patients who require assistance in coping with stress.

Connecting with Nature

Witnessing aquatic ecosystems from a new perspective, paddleboarding provides a unique vantage point to observe aquatic ecosystems.

Glide above shallow waters to glimpse marine life beneath the surface, and explore hidden coves and coastlines that are inaccessible by foot.

I have had both dolphin and manatee swim up to me while exploring so I do not believe that it is entirely an uncommon occurrence.

Paddleboarding Communities

Forging bonds with fellow enthusiasts by joining local paddleboarding groups and clubs cultivates camaraderie among like-minded individuals.

Participating in events and excursions provides opportunities to share experiences, learn new techniques, and strengthen your connection with the paddleboarding community.

This is also a great opportunity to network and recycle your old gear to someone who could use it or find something else someone is selling or giving away.


As the paddle dips into the water, a world of balance, tranquility, and adventure unfolds.

Paddleboarding offers an accessible gateway to water exploration, inviting individuals to embark on a journey that fosters well-being and discovery.

The allure of paddleboarding lies in its ability to evoke a sense of wonder, whether you’re gliding across a glassy lake or navigating gentle waves.

As you embark on your paddleboarding journey, embrace the versatility of the activity and the myriad joys it brings.

I encourage you to explore local waterways and embrace the serenity and excitement that paddleboarding offers.

[Sources and References]

Hanser, Suzanne B. EdD*; Mandel, Susan E. MEd†. The Effects of Music Therapy in Cardiac Healthcare. Cardiology in Review 13(1):p 18-23, January 2005. | DOI: 10.1097/01.crd.0000126085.76415.d7

[Image Attribution and Licensing]

Featured Image by Thomas G.
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