What is Paddleboarding?

paddle boarding

Paddleboarding is an activity where riders use a paddle to propel themselves forward while laying, kneeling, or standing on a paddleboard. The paddleboard is a larger version of a surfboard that has more balance. There are many activities that can be done with a paddleboard including surfing, adventuring, touring, fishing, and yoga.


The paddleboarding which is popular today has evolved from many previous forms. The idea of propelling oneself forward while on a floating platform originated thousands of years ago. 

Fishermen, travelers, and warriors crafted canoes and gondolas. They would stand up on these and utilize homemade paddles to maneuver through water. The modern form of paddleboarding originated in the 1900s. Surf instructors utilized standup paddleboards to get a better view of their students. Soon, people began using paddleboarding as an activity for fun and fitness. Now, paddleboarding is used for a variety of reasons. People today use paddleboards to fish, surf, tour, do yoga, and for numerous other activities.

Playing Surface

paddle boarding playing surface

Paddleboarding can be done wherever there is a body of water deep enough for it. The fins on the bottom of paddleboards are typically around 8-10 inches, so it is important to ensure the water is deep enough to avoid scraping and damaging the fins. Paddleboards are used in large bodies of water including lakes, rivers, and oceans. Depending on what activity you are looking to use the paddleboard for, the location will change. For those looking to use the paddleboard to surf, it is important to go to a beach with exceptional waves. For those looking to just paddle and have a relaxing time, a lake would be a better option.

Paddle Boarding Equipment

Paddle Boarding Equipment

Paddleboarding is a fairly simple activity. All one really needs is a paddleboard, a paddle, and a body of water. Depending on the size of the individual and what they want to use the paddleboard for, the style of board will change. Finding a board and a paddle that are the correct size will make a paddleboarding experience much more enjoyable. Another important piece of equipment is a leash connecting the board to your ankle. This will ensure that if you fall, your board will not float far.

Here is the essential paddleboarding equipment you should have:

  • Leash
  • Paddle
  • Paddle Board
  • Water


Depending on the activity, objectives will change when paddleboarding. For example, someone using a paddleboard for yoga will have to successfully perform their positions while maintaining balance. An individual using a paddleboard for exercise will be aiming to improve themselves physically. There are many opportunities when it comes to paddleboarding and one can create many goals depending on their activity of choice.

Rules and Regulations

paddle boarding rules and regulations

In regards to paddleboarding itself, there are not many rules. However, the area in which one is paddleboarding may have its own rules. It is important for paddleboarders to research and understand the rules determined by a specific location. For example, some lakes do not allow paddleboarders, or only allow a single person on each paddleboard. Each paddle boarding location is sure to have its own regulations and it is important to always follow them.

Here are the most important paddleboarding rules you should know:

  • Research the area before paddleboarding there
  • Follow rules and regulations posted
  • Respect other paddleboarders or other people in the water


Paddleboarding is all about balance and technique. It’s important to ensure that one is comfortable and stable, whether that be standing or kneeling, before beginning to paddle. When ready to stand up, while keeping both hands on the board, slowly move one foot forward and remain on one knee. Then slowly push yourself up and onto two feet. Keep both feet parallel to each other and near the center of the board.

When paddling, keep one hand on the top of the paddle and one about halfway down. In a rowing motion, dip the blade side of the paddle into the water and push yourself forward. To move in reverse, move the paddle in the opposite direction.

If you fall off, it is important to learn to get back on the board. Grab near the center of the board, and hoist your upper body onto the board. Then kick your legs and pull them up. You can then sit on the board, move to your knees, and eventually stand back up.

Here are the most important paddleboarding strategies you should know:

  • Learn to balance and paddle on knees before standing up.
  • Go onto one knee and then push yourself using your hands.
  • Use two hands while paddling.
  • After falling, get back up slowly to avoid falling back off.


Paddle Boarding Lingo

Here is the common lingo and slang in paddleboarding:

  • Deck: The top of the paddleboard
  • Bottom: The bottom of the paddleboard
  • Rails: The sides of the paddleboard
  • Rocker: The area of the board that goes from the curve in the nose to the tail
  • Fins: The fins are an attachment on the bottom of the board. They allow someone to propel themselves in a straight line. There are many different fin setups.
  • Leash: A rope like attachment that is tied to the board and is velcroed around one’s ankle
  • Hard Board: A type of board that is used for high performance. These boards are made with fiberglass, foam and other composite materials.
  • Foam Board: This is a very sturdy and easy board to use. Typically it is used by beginners and is a great cheap option.
  • Inflatable Board: A type of board that can be blown up or deflated. This is a great option for travelling.


There are a few individual leagues that host events and tournaments for competitive paddle boarders. These leagues host a number of events in different forms. The Association of PaddleSurf Professionals (APP) is a league that hosts racing events and surfing events. The APP is responsible for running the APP World Tour which features the best paddleboarders in the world. SUP Racer is a competitive league that features racing events only.

Here are the most popular paddleboarding leagues you should know:

  • SUP Racer
  • Association of PaddleSurf Professionals

Events and Competitions

Paddle Boarding Events and Competitions

Here are the most popular tournaments in Paddleboarding:

  • Pacific Paddle Games: Located in Dana Point, CA, the Pacific Paddle Games is more of an event than a competition. Everyone in the community and from around the world is encouraged to participate in this huge celebration of paddle boarding.
  • Yukon River Quest: In Alaska, the Yukon River Quest is a 444 mile race that takes around 50 hours to complete
  • Paris SUP Open: This race is known as the largest SUP race in the world. There are requirements to participate in the race after 700 people participated a few years back.
  • Tribal Clash UK: The Tribal Clash UK is a team event. Teams of 6 stand up on one large raft and race through a treacherous course.
  • Air France Paddle Festival: Located in Pape’ete in French Polynesia, this race is part of the Paddle World Tour. Many high profile racers participate in this event.


What can you do with a paddleboard?

Popular activities to do with a paddleboard include:

  • Surfing
  • Fishing
  • Yoga
  • Race
  • Challenge yourself
  • Adventure
  • Go with a group
  • Explore wildlife respectfully

How do you move on a paddleboard?

With a paddle, put one hand on the top of the paddle and one in the middle. If the paddle is on the left side of the board, one should put their right hand on the top of the paddle and their left hand in the middle of the paddle. On the right side of the board they should do the opposite. To propel themselves, they put the blade side of the paddle into the water and pull it back towards them. It is a very similar motion to kayaking or canoeing.