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5 Essential Skills Every Inflatable Paddle Boarder Should Master

March 23, 2023
Paddle Boarder Holding Atoll Board in Front of Water and Mountains

In this article, we discuss the 5 skills every inflatable paddle boarder should master in order to stay safe and have fun on the water!


Inflatable paddle boarding is a fun and rewarding activity.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, there are specific skills that every person who steps on a board should master. This is in order to stay safe and enjoy the experience on the water.

If you’re just starting out in SUP, then this article will be very helpful for your journey into the activity. Once you know what they are, you’ll be able to practice them on the water to increase your skills and have fun. Always remember to practice them in a safe area. Under ideal weather conditions. And with all proper safety equipment including a leash and PFD.

With that said, follow along with us as we discuss the top 5 essential skills that every inflatable paddle boarder should master!

Skill 1: Proper Paddle Grip and Stroke Technique

The first essential skill that every inflatable paddle boarder should master is proper paddle grip and stroke technique. Here are some tips to help you improve your paddle grip and stroke:

1. Hold the paddle with both hands: Place one hand on the top of the paddle grip and the other hand on the middle of the paddle shaft.

2. Keep your arms straight: When you take a stroke, keep your arms straight and use your core muscles to rotate your torso and propel the paddle forward.

3. Keep the paddle vertical: Make sure the blade of the paddle is vertical as it enters the water, and pull it straight back towards your body.

As you practice this, make sure you are sinking the paddle blade entirely into the water. This will increase your stroke efficiency and will make it easier to paddle in the wind and especially turn.

skills every inflatable paddle boarder should master

As far as the perfect paddle stroke goes, follow these 5 steps:

1. The reach: With your correct stance in place, gently hinge at the hips forward with your top hand above your head and your paddle blade going as far forward as is comfortable. This part of the stroke is called the reach. The longer the reach forwards the more you will be able to pull back and propel your board in the water.

2. The catch: The catch is the point where the blade enters the water. The important thing to remember here is to fully submerge your paddle blade for max efficiency.

3. The pull: Once you’ve submerged the blade it’s time to pull your body forward to the blade. Keeping your arms straight and using your obliques and traps as your primary force, keep your lower arm straight as you pull your body towards the paddle, ending your stroke at your feet. If you leave your paddle in the water behind your feet you decrease efficiency over time.

4. The release: The best way to release your blade from the water is to slightly turn the blade away from the board to release the built-up pressure. This will allow the paddle to exit the water in an efficient manner and increase the speed with which you can continue your stroke.

5. The recovery: The recovery is simple, this is the point between paddle strokes where you can reset yourself, and make any adjustments to the next stroke that you might have noticed on the previous one. Are your feet in the correct position? Hinged at the hips? Are your knees bent? Are you reaching as far forward as you can and putting your paddle blade fully submerged into the water?

skills every inflatable paddle boarder should master

Skill 2: Balancing and Stability

Balancing and stability are skills every inflatable paddle boarder should master – of all levels. Here are some tips to help you improve your balance and stability:

1. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and distribute your weight evenly over both feet. With a wider stance, you are in the perfect position to balance instead of being too narrow or too wide and standing on the rails.

2. Keep your gaze forward: Look at the horizon rather than down at your feet, as this will help you maintain your balance and stability. Or as the old surfing saying goes, “Look where you want to go.” If you want to fall off your board and into the water, then there’s no quicker way than looking straight down!

3. Use your paddle for balance: When you feel unstable, you can use your paddle as a stabilizer by placing it in the water on one side of the board. You can also practice by tipping towards one side of the board and using your paddle as a balance lever. By mastering this subtle technique you’ll spend more time on your feet instead of swimming.

For a video lesson on how to accomplish this, click below:

Skill 3: Turning and Maneuvering

Being able to turn and maneuver your inflatable paddle board is essential for navigating different water conditions and environments. Here are some tips to help you turn and maneuver your board:

1. Use a back paddle stroke to turn: To turn your board to the left, use a back paddle stroke on the right side of the board. To turn right, use a back paddle stroke on the left side. This is the quickest and easiest way to turn your board, especially for beginners.

2. Lean into your turns: As you turn, lean your body in the direction of the turn to maintain your balance and stability.

3. Practice maneuvering in different water conditions: Practice turning and maneuvering in calm waters, choppy waters, and windy conditions to improve your skills and adaptability. Just remember to start slow. Especially if you’re a beginner. You want to make sure your skills match the conditions. If you feel like it might be too windy or choppy, wait for another day.

skills every inflatable paddle boarder should master

Skill 4: Self-Rescue Techniques

Self-rescue techniques are essential for inflatable paddle boarders who may find themselves in challenging or emergency situations on the water. Here are some self-rescue techniques to master:

1. Practice falling off your board: Falling off your board is a common occurrence in paddle boarding, so it’s important to practice falling off and getting back on your board in calm waters. To properly fall off, make sure you always fall away from your board with your paddle held out away from your body.

By falling this way, you protect yourself and your equipment from damage.

2. Learn how to climb back on your board: If you fall off your board, you should know how to climb back on from the water. The best way is usually to grab the center handle, place your other hand on the opposite rail, and kick with your feet until you gain enough momentum to climb back on.

3. Use a leash: Always wear a leash when paddle boarding to keep you connected to your board and prevent it from drifting away if you fall off. This is especially important on windy lake days, in the bay, or in the ocean. If you are river paddling, it’s best to use a quick-release leash to avoid any dangerous accidents such as being caught in a current with no way to resurface your head to breath.

skills every inflatable paddle boarder should master

Skill 5: Paddle Board Etiquette and Safety Guidelines

Paddle board etiquette and safety guidelines are essential for ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone on the water. Here are some guidelines to follow:

1. Respect other water users: Always be aware of other water users, such as swimmers, boaters, and other paddle boarders. Give them plenty of space and be mindful of their safety. This is especially the case when it comes to boats. Typically, the rules of the water dictate that boats give way to paddlers, but if they hit you or you hit them, only one side will experience injuries. Because of this, it’s best to stay as far away from boaters as possible.

2. Know the rules and regulations: Familiarize yourself with the local rules and regulations for paddle boarding, such as required safety equipment, speed limits, and no-wake zones.

3. Wear appropriate safety gear: Always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device, and consider wearing a wetsuit if the conditions require, sun protection, and other proper gear based on the conditions and environment.

4. Be prepared for emergencies: Carry a whistle, a communication device, and other emergency equipment in case of an emergency situation. The best way to do that is to attach a dry bag to your board.

5. Leave no trace: Respect the environment by packing out all trash and debris, avoiding sensitive wildlife habitats, and following other Leave No Trace principles. The natural environment is what we call home. Treat it with the same respect as you would your own house and you’ll have nothing to worry about!


By mastering these essential skills and following paddle board etiquette and safety guidelines, inflatable paddle boarders can enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. So get out there! And start practicing your paddle boarding skills. And remember to always prioritize safety and respect for the environment and other water users.

Questions? Comments? Need any clarification? Send us a message! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Or call us directly at 8 7 7 . 6 9 8 . 8 5 8 1

Keywords: Inflatable paddle boarding, skills, paddle grip, stroke technique, balance, stability, turning, maneuvering, self-rescue, safety, etiquette, regulations.

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