Skip to Content

How to Stand up Paddle Board in the Ocean | 5 Main Keys

So, you want to learn how to paddleboard in the ocean? Maybe try your hand at SUP surfing? Well, if you are new to stand-up paddleboards, you should take 5 minutes to read this first.

How to paddleboard in the ocean:

  1. Know the basics of how to Stand-up Paddleboard
  2. Realize that Paddling in the sea can be Tough
  3. Know the Potential Dangers of using a SUP in the ocean
  4. Get your Board Through the Surf
  5. Be Safe
Silhouette of stand up paddle boarder at sunset on a flat warm quiet sea

1. Know the Basics

Before you try out paddling in the ocean, it is a good idea to know the basics of stand-up paddleboarding.

Make sure you can get back on your board when you fall off. With all the wind and waves, your board will be much more unstable, and people do tend to go in the drink more often in the ocean than on a calm lake.

If you don’t know the basics, I recommend that you click How to Keep a Paddleboard Straight? or How Do You Get on a Sup? to learn some more advanced techniques.

I would most certainly know how to paddle forward and change directions quickly. This is important so that you can bring your bow into the waves. It is easier to balance when your board goes into the waves versus the waves hitting you on the side.

I count it as a basic that you should know how to swim. If you can’t, you’d better have a really well-fitting life jacket.

2. Paddling is Tough in the Ocean

It’s very picturesque. An image of a paddleboarder effortlessly skimming along the coast with the sun setting behind him. But if you were to zoom in, you might see something different.

You might see a person struggling with all their might to fight the current while trying their best to stay on the board because the waves keep knocking his feet out from under him.

Paddling in the ocean usually entails dealing with wind and waves. There is quite often a current that can drag you to places you don’t intend to go.

My advice here is twofold. First, try to pick a calm day, but I know that is not always possible. Just realize that you will be working harder in the ocean, which brings me to my second piece of advice.

Be in shape, at least pretty good shape. Between paddling through the surf and getting knocked off your board, and getting back on time and again, you are going to need some stamina. It is no fun to use all of your energy fighting your way out only to realize that you still have to paddle back.

3. Potential Dangers in the Ocean

Sharks, Killer Whales, The Kraken!!! No, no, no, not that kind of danger. I’m Talking about dangerous currents, big waves, and wind.

When you venture into the ocean, you have to expect, even if you are experienced, to be subjected to whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

The problem most beginners get into is the lack of ability to make forward progress. In the surf, trying to get out past the breakers is a hassle. It is bothersome, but if you get washed back to the beach, you can regroup and try again.

If you are out past the breakers and trying to get back to the beach, that is a different story. If you can’t make headway against the wind and tide, then you are in trouble. You can’t take a break from paddling because that will only push you farther offshore. This is where knowing the basics, being fit, and knowing the weather and ocean conditions can make it much safer to SUP in the ocean.

And when you ignore these things and get swept out to sea. The Kraken will get you!!

4. Get Through the Surf

Surfer und Stand up paddler in den Wellen in der Abendsonne am Strand von Sylt, in Norddeutschland.

All kidding aside, let’s say you do know your way around a stand-up paddleboard, and you are familiar with the local conditions. Let’s also assume you are adequately fit. Now you have to get past those darn breakers to enjoy the gentle swells on the other side.

Here are a few tips for the first time you paddle through the waves.

Watch out for other people. You have a massive board, and it can easily knock someone over. Stay clear of crowded swimming areas and keep clear of them. I have watched some folks trying to paddle out, and before they are 20 yards out, the current has pulled them 1/2 mile down the beach. In conditions like these, it’s best just to stay out of the water.

Next tip…Go fast and hard through the breaking waves. The longer you linger, the more you will get beat up and worn out.

It is easier to paddle out on your knees than it is standing up. Paddling out on your belly with your paddle under your chest is another option. A low center of gravity will allow you to keep paddling since you will fall off the board less. The more and harder you paddle, the faster you get through the surf zone and out to those peaceful swells.

5. Stand Up Paddleboard Safety

I talk a lot about SUP safety on this site, and I’m going to talk about it now. Paddling in the ocean can be dangerous if you ignore the dangers. If you decide not to wear your leash and fall off your board. It could be kicked away as you fall and easily be blown by the wind or pulled by the current.

One minute you are paddling along, the next, you are treading water or, hopefully, floating with a life jacket, but your board is floating away faster than you can swim. It would be bad enough to lose your board, but there are worse things that could happen.

WEAR YOUR LEASH and PFD while paddling in the ocean.

SUP Surfing

Boy stand up paddleboard surfing

This topic could be discussed in its own post, but I will quickly touch on it here.

SUP surfing is a lot of fun but does take practice. If you are brand new to it, please start with smaller waves. Let me tell you, catching a two-foot bar break on a SUP for the first time is a blast. And you don’t have to worry about burying the nose in the sand.

Also, if you’re just starting out, I would definitely stay away from crowds. Even when you are wearing your leash, that board can drag you into other swimmers as it rushes toward the shore with you in tow. Make sure there is a clear path between you and the beach.

One other tip, Your stance should be a bit different when you are riding a wave versus flat-water paddling. In the surf, you want to have one foot slightly In front of the other, and both should be facing the side of the board instead of the front. They should also be a bit wider than shoulder width. I have a link to my SUP surfing tips in the Related Questions section at the end of this post,

Final Thoughts

I just went back and reread this post from the top, and I was like, “Man, I’m never going to SUP in the ocean again!” But that’s not what I’m trying to say. I love to SUP in the ocean, I love having the waves lift me. I like to surf small waves and ride them almost to the beach.

I just wanted to emphasize safety. I want you to get out on the ocean after you have learned the basics and really enjoy the freedom.

So, be safe and have fun paddling your SUP on in the ocean.