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Stand-up Paddle Boarding for Exercise

May 26, 2016 by HealthyFamiliesBC

Stand-up Paddle Boarding for Exercise

You know life’s good when you’re SUPing at the beach, catching some sun, and enjoying a beach picnic! No, I’m not talking about asking your buddy “what’s up,” but rather stand-up paddle boarding, called SUP for short. Stand-up paddle board combines standing (or kneeling) on surfboards and using a paddle to propel yourself. You can do it in urban and rural areas, basically anywhere there’s water.

Safety is paramount. Always wear a lifejacket and stay within your ability levels. Read these recommendations from Paddle Canada.

How to Start Stand Up Paddle Boarding

The best way to get SUPing is to rent or borrow a paddleboard and go on a day with low wind. It’s likely you may go for a plunge so pick a time when the water is warm and wear appropriate clothing. Pack a towel, change of clothes, and waterproof sunscreen.

Gear You'll Need

For beginners, choose a longer, wider board which will be more stable on the water. Shorter, narrow boards are easier to manoeuver, but are wobblier. There are also inflatable boards that pack-up quite small (great for those living in small spaces or for travelling on the bus to your oasis).

Choose a paddle that is about 10-15 cm taller than you so that when paddling you can stand upright. If you’re renting or taking a lesson, ask for help finding the right length. Also, get a properly fitting lifejacket (a must) and wetsuit if you’re on cold waters.


  • Get on the board: Walk into knee deep water. Put one knee on the board, then the other. It is OK to paddle kneeling for greater stability if that is more comfortable for you.
  • Stand when you're ready: Once stable in kneeling, slowly stand and position your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, look forward. Engage your core muscles.
  • Using the paddle properly: Hold the paddle with one hand on the top (on the T grip) and one hand mid-shaft. Face the blade with the bent side towards you.
  • Cruise: Put the paddle in the water, a few feet ahead of you. Pull the paddle towards you with your arms (this works your latissimus dorsi or “lats”, deltoids, and triceps!) and slightly rotate your body (this works the internal and external oblique and rectus abdominis muscles).

More advanced skills can be developed with practice or with an instructor; lessons are relatively inexpensive and go a long way. Here’s an infographic on skills you can try mastering to make your SUPing more enjoyable.

Have you tried stand up paddle boarding? What was your experience like? Any advice for first-time SUPers?

Related blogs

Reasons to Try Canoeing and Kayaking
Unleash Your Inner Dragon This Summer

Recommended resources

Paddle Canada: Find a SUP Instructor



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