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How to Get on a Stand-up Paddle Board | Step-By-Step Guide

You’ve got your new stand-up paddleboard, and you are next to a body of water. My guess is you are either on a dock or the shore. But you are a little intimidated about getting on for the first time. Well, don’t worry. I will show you how to get on a board from a beach or a dock. As a bonus, I will also show you how to get BACK on your stand-up paddleboard from water that is over your head, just in case you fall in a time or two.

However you choose to get on your SUP, there are two universal tips.

  1. You must remain low- It is easier to keep your balance when your center of gravity is low.
  2. Apply equal pressure to each side of the board- If you push down on one side of the board, make sure you are also pushing on the other side. Distribute your weight evenly on each side.

So, this should be your mantra as you get on your board:

“Keep low, equal pressure. Keep low, equal pressure. Keep low, equal pressure.”

Now, I will cover in detail how to get onto your board from the shore, the dock, or while in the water.


Steps for Getting on a SUP From the Shore

So we now know to keep low and to the center. Next, we have to pick a good shoreline to enter the water from. Since you are just starting, you want to choose a location with calm water with few waves, and light to no boat traffic.

Once you have found a suitable beach to launch your SUP, follow these steps:

1. Place your SUP in water deep enough, so the fin does not touch the bottom.

I usually go about knee-deep. You definitely do not want your fin hitting the bottom too much, especially if the bottom is hard and rocky.

2. From the side of your SUP, Place your paddle across the board and hold it and the board stable.

Your paddle should be perpendicular to the SUP, and your hands should be placed a few feet forward of the handle about shoulder length apart.

3. Kneel on the board, starting with the knee that crosses to the far side of the board.

Getting on a SUP in the ocean

Ensure that when you are getting your knees on the board, you keep low and apply equal pressure.

Once you are on your knees, you are almost there. It might be a good idea to get a feel for your board before you take the next step of getting to your feet. Just stay on your knees and paddle around for a few minutes, getting used to how the board turns and how it balances when you shift your weight.

Once you feel comfortable and are ready to stand up, here is how you do it.

4. Shift your weight onto your hands, which are on top of your paddle, and rise onto your toes.

5. Keeping your hands on the board, slowly slide one foot, and then the other into place beside the carry handle.

At this point, you should be crouching with your feet flat on either side of the carry handle. You will be bent over with your hands still steadying you.

6. Now, shift your weight back, take your hands off the board, and stand up.

Getting on a SUP in the ocean

Don’t try to do too much at this point. Just feel the board under your feet. Feel how it moves as you shift slightly. Keep your head up.

It’s time to take your first strokes, but that is beyond the scope of this post. To read more about how to paddle a sup, click here.

Getting on a SUP From a Dock

Guess what?! You really need to keep low and apply equal pressure when you are getting on a SUP from a dock or pier.

1. Pick a location with little or no boat traffic.

The first time you get on your SUP from a dock, you don’t want to be bounced around by a wake thrown up from a passing boat. If there are boats around, make sure you wait for the wakes to calm down before trying to get on your board.

2. Slide your SUP into the water nose first, then turn it parallel to the dock.

3. Place your paddle along the mid-line of your SUP.

Remember getting on from the beach? We had the board across the board. Because the dock will be in the way, your paddle needs to be parallel to the board.

4. Sit on the edge of the dock and hold the SUP with your feet.

5. Slide your knees into place on either side of the carry handle

Getting on a SUP next to a dock

When you slide onto your board, keep your weight low, and support yourself by holding onto the dock until you are balanced.

Make sure to paddle away from the dock before trying to stand. It would be dangerous to fall off your board and hit the dock.

To get back on the dock, reverse the process. Make sure you approach the dock on your knees and use it for support while sliding off the board and into a sitting position on the dock.

Getting Back on a SUP from the Water

When you fall into the water, or just hop into the water to cool off, you will need to know how to get back on.

There are two basic ways to get back on your SUP from the water

From the Side

Getting on a SUP in the ocean

From the side of your SUP, grab the carry handle and pull yourself up so you can reach across the board and grab the far rail.

Once you have a hold on the far side of the board, you simply need to give a big kick while pulling with your arms. Just get your torso onto the board and then pull yourself up until you are lying down on the board.

Don’t worry about your paddle until you are lying on your board. If it has drifted away, you can stay on your belly and use your arms to paddle over and retrieve it.

Once you have your paddle back, you can get to your knees and then, once stable, back to your feet.

From the Back

To get on a SUP from the back, you will position yourself at the rear of the board. From here, grab the rails on each side of the board.

You will then pull and kick until you can get your chest onto the board. Once you get your chest onto the board, all you have to do is scoot up until you can get your knees under you near the center of the board.

Some people prefer to get back on from the back because when you start the process, the tail goes further into the water. This makes it easier to scoot into position. The nose of the board will rise, but that is normal.

Final Thoughts

Getting on a SUP can be intimidating the first time, but it is definitely worth it. On your first time out, give yourself a few minutes to get on and off a few times before heading out. If you get the chance, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to practice getting back on from the water too.

Related Questions

How do you paddle a SUP straight? I have written a whole article on that question. To read it, click How to paddle a SUP straight.

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