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Turning Techniques You Need To Know For Beginners Paddle Boarders

April 20, 2023

In the realm of water sports, paddle boarding, or stand-up paddle (SUP) boarding, has surged in popularity, captivating the hearts of thrill-seekers and serenity-lovers alike. As a versatile and accessible activity, it invites a wide range of enthusiasts to conquer the vast watery landscape. One of the essential skills for beginners is learning how to turn effectively and efficiently while maintaining balance. This guide will dive into three turning techniques (plus a bonus one!) for beginner paddle boarders and provide tips on how to master each of them. By mastering these techniques, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the thrill and serenity of paddle boarding with ease, confidence, and style.

The Sweep Stroke

The sweep stroke is the cornerstone of paddle boarding techniques, suitable for the most wide-eyed beginner or the grizzled veteran. This method involves creating an arc with the paddle, guiding the board in the process. Here’s how to perform this maneuver:

  1. Position your feet like a seasoned explorer, shoulder-width apart, knees loose, and eyes locked on the horizon. Your weight should be centered, poised for action.
  2. Grip the paddle as you would normally.
  3. To turn left, thrust the paddle into the water on the right side of your vessel, near its nose. Carve a wide, clockwise arc with determination until the paddle reaches the tail. To turn right, do the same on the left side of the board.
  4. Repeat this sweeping motion until you’re comfortable.
fall paddling

The Reverse Sweep Stroke

The reverse sweep stroke is the counterpart of the sweep stroke – a more cunning turning technique for those seeking sharper, more abrupt changes of direction. To master this clever move, follow these steps:

  1. Assume the same basic stance as with the sweep stroke – poised and ready for action.
  2. Hold the paddle like a trusted companion, its blade submerged in the watery depths.
  3. To turn left, place the paddle near the tail of the board on the left side. Unleash a wide, counter-clockwise arc, slicing through the water until the paddle reaches the nose. To turn right, repeat this motion on the right side of the board.
  4. Keep performing these reverse sweeps until you’ve carved the desired path through the waters.
turning techniques for paddle boarders

The Step Back Turn

The step back turn is a more advanced technique reserved for paddle boarders who have honed their skills and seek a greater challenge. This method demands balance and finesse, rewarding those who dare with swift, tight turns. Here’s how to pull off this daring maneuver:

  1. Begin in the classic paddle board stance – feet parallel, knees bent, weight centered, and prepared for the challenge.
  2. Shift your weight to the back foot, and with cat-like agility, step back with your front foot, moving it behind the other. This raises the board’s nose, priming it for a rapid pivot.
  3. Grasp the paddle with both hands, and with determination, sweep on the side you wish to turn. A left turn requires a sweep on the right; a right turn, a sweep on the left.
  4. As the board submits to your turn, return your weight to center and resume your original stance, victorious in your conquest.
turning techniques for paddle boarders

Bonus Tip: The Pivot Turn

The pivot turn is an advanced turning technique that enables experienced paddle boarders to execute rapid and sharp turns with precision. Only give this technique a shot until you’ve mastered the 3 above.

This maneuver requires excellent balance and a strong sense of control over the board. Here’s how to master the pivot turn:

  1. Start in the classic paddle board stance with feet parallel, shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and weight centered.
  2. Shift your weight to your back foot. And take a small step back with your front foot, placing it closer to the tail of the board. This movement will lift the nose of the board slightly out of the water. Reducing the board’s resistance and allowing for quicker turns.
  3. Bend your knees further and lean back slightly to maintain balance while keeping the nose of the board raised.
  4. Hold the paddle with both hands, and perform a sweep stroke on the side you wish to turn. To turn left, sweep on the right side of the board; to turn right, sweep on the left side.
  5. As the board begins to turn, use your core muscles and legs to control the rotation and maintain balance. Be prepared to make slight adjustments with your paddle to ensure stability throughout the turn.
  6. Once the board has turned to the desired angle, shift your weight back to the center, and return to the original stance.

Practicing the pivot turn will help you develop exceptional balance and control over your paddle board. Allowing you to maneuver with ease in various water conditions. As you become more confident with this technique, you’ll be able to execute sharper turns and navigate tight spaces with precision.


In the exciting world of paddle boarding, mastering the art of turning is crucial for those who wish to ride the waves with confidence and style. By learning the sweep stroke, the reverse sweep stroke, and the step back turn, you’ll be navigating treacherous waters with the skill and finesse of a seasoned pro.

If anything above is unclear, check out this short video by REI as they go through a few of the techniques we just discussed.

And be sure to send us an email or call us directly at 8 7 7 . 6 9 8 . 8 5 8 1 for questions, comments, or if you’re ready to get on the water with your very first Atoll iSUP! We’re here to help.

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