Kai Lenny’s Stand Up Paddle Board Basics

Professional surfer and paddle boarder Kai Lenny shares his advice for getting started with stand up paddle boarding.

For newcomers to water sports, getting your bearings can be intimidating and just entering the water may seem like a challenge. Luckily, professional surfer and paddle boarder Kai Lenny is here to share his expert advice. Lenny breaks down everything you need to know on comfortably getting into the water and holding your SUP paddle.  

How to Get into the Water

When it comes to getting into the water, Lenny says the first step is to be aware of your surroundings and mindful of SUP safety tips. Stay on the lookout for waves, other boarders and potential inclement weather.

Once you’ve scoped out the scene, you can begin to enter the water. Lenny recommends that you raise your board over to your shoulders for better visibility to upcoming waves. If you keep your board too low, it might catch on the water and pull you to the side.

After you’ve taken a few steps in the water, take note of the depth around you. Before placing your board down, you want to confirm that the water is deep enough for the fin of your board to stay above the bottom.

Now you’re ready to get on your board! Depending on your comfort level you can either lay flat on your stomach or immediately stand on your board to begin paddling out. For more tips on how to stand on a paddle board, check out our guide

How to Hold an SUP Paddle

For a successful day on the water, knowing how to hold your SUP paddle is key. To master the technique, Lenny recommends first trying this easy on land exercise to dial it in.

First, place one hand on the top of your paddle and the other on the shaft of the blade. Next, raise the paddle above your shoulders, gently placing it on your head and keeping your arms at a 90-degree angle on both sides. Lenny says this represents a perfect paddle grip.

“It’s like holding a bow and arrow,” he says.

SUP Paddling Technique

For proper paddling technique, the focus goes beyond just your arms, Lenny says. Your entire body will work together to help keep you from early fatigue. Once your hands are placed in your paddle grip, the next step will be to twist your shoulders, set the blade into the water and pull.

With your feet pushed down into the board, place the blade arm’s reach ahead and pull through the water. Lenny says you want to think of using the paddle as a lever, rather than focusing on your arm strength. Throughout this motion you are going to use your lats to get the most power.

While paddling, your top arm should remain still while a full-body rotation helps to pull you forward.

“That way you’ll be able to stay on the water a lot longer and you’re going to have a lot more fun,” Lenny says.

Ready to take on the waves? Shop our full collection of paddle board gear and learn how to choose the right paddle board for you. Need some more tips? Check out this SUP basics on the sweep turn and the forward stroke