How To Paddle Board In Choppy Water: Tips for Safety and Fun

Definitely, after you have cut your teeth on stand up paddle boarding in a lagoon, you will want to know how to paddle board in waves.

You see, whitewater paddle boarding is the Holy Grail of this sport.

And that is why you are here!

It is no easy feat. However, you know that unless you do it and get how to SUP through the waves bug out of the way, you will not rest.

Of paramount importance is staying safe, and having crazy fun. So, here, we shall look at seven very helpful tips to keep you safe through the waves. They are:

  1. Know how to launch a sup in waves
  2. Approach the whitewater directly
  3. Keeping your feet wide increases your stability
  4. Keep your knees bent
  5. Increase your paddling speed
  6. Put your weight forward
  7. Stay a bit to the back of the board

How To Paddle Board In Waves

How To Paddle Board In Waves

Knowing how to stand up paddle board in waves is crucial if you aim to take your SUP to the ocean. Every day is a learning experience. Thus, the more you can practice, the better.

Here are helpful tips for paddle boarding through waves:

1. Know how to launch a sup in waves

This is where everything starts, knowing how to launch a SUP in the waves. This is something that you will have to learn and master with time.

Therefore, we suggest that you learn how to launch a SUP in waves when the waves are not too big. It will take some falling in the water and getting up again.

Don’t go too far from the shore, but make sure the fins of the iSUP cannot touch the floor.

Mark a spot where you want to launch your stand up paddle board while you are still a shore and head out for it.

Also, do not wear the leash when on the shore. Wait until you get to the spot where you want to launch your SUP board.

To climb on the paddle board, wait until the waves abate and during that calm space, climb onto the paddle board. If you try to climb when the waves are coming in groups, you will not make it because the board will be too unstable.

2. Approach the whitewater directly

Face the water at a 90 degree angle if possible. The idea is to cut through the water with the nose of the board going straight in.

One of the paddle board mistakes that people make with waves is going to the wave at an angle. That way, the water hits the board on the broadside and sends you falling into the water.

To SUP in waves easily, keep the board’s nose straight and direct to the waves. That way, it will cut through the water so easily.

3. Keeping your feet wide increases your stability

This trick can help you SUP catching waves easily. SUP boards are broader than surfing boards to allow you to adopt a wider stance. If you buy a SUP paddle board for beginners, you will notice that it is even wider!

Keep your feet shoulder width apart or even wider. This will enhance your stability when going through white water and waves.

4. Keep your knees bent

Because the board is so buoyant, keeping the knees bent at an angle really helps a lot. When the waves hit your board, your knees can absorb the impact well.

Besides, keeping your knees bent increases your stability.

5. Increase your paddling speed

When you have done all of the above, and you have found your sweet spot for how to paddle through waves, go for it.

Without relenting, increase your paddling speed. You will realize that the faster you paddle, the more stable your board becomes.

6. Put your weight forward

One of the ways for how to balance on a paddle board is to know how to shift your weight.

If you watch stand up paddle boarding and surfing videos, you will see that riders pitch forwards. This helps with stability since your own body will not block your speed.

image of paddle boarding small waves

7. Stay a bit to the back of the board

When paddle boarding on calm water, you are supposed to stay right in the middle of the board. However, when learning how to paddle in waves, this narrative changes a bit.

For instance, when a wave of whitewater is coming straight at you, tip the nose of your SUP board up a bit. It allows the wave to pass under the board.

To tip the board’s nose upward, step a foot back towards the back of the board. That will lift the board’s nose.

Can you paddle board in choppy water?

Can you paddle board in choppy water

Why not? In fact, this might be the ultimate challenge that you are looking for. However, paddleboarding in choppy water is not for beginners. You will want to gain some skill and experience first, because it is the ultimate challenge.

You should always match your skill to the challenge at hand. For instance, if you are paddleboarding in the river, make sure your skill matches the conditions of the water.

Of course, you will fall more often than when you paddle board on flat water. Your ability to maintain proper balance on the SUP board will be tested thoroughly.

Not to worry about falling too much, you can wear a life jacket for stand up paddle boarding. The regulations say to have the life jacket on the paddle board, not to wear it all the time.

We recommend you use your discretion. If you felt saver in the Coast Guard approved life jacket, wear it. It will boost your confidence on the water.

Having your SUP fun in choppy water requires some knowledge. First, there are different types of waves, which include wind waves, swell waves and tidal waves.

Secondly, there is a special skill for getting your SUP board through the waves. For instance, it is vital that the wave never gets to bang the side of the paddle board. You should cut into the waves at a 90-degree angle.

Thirdly, there is a special way to stand on the board. You have to keep the knees bent forward and flexible. Keeping the knees loose is going to help you absorb the shock from the waves easier than rigid knees.

Can you use a paddle board in the ocean?

Can you use a paddle board in the ocean

This is the whole point of learning how to paddle board, to one day have unlimited fun in the ocean. The open water offers all types of paddle boarding challenges and conditions.

If you are a beginner, you can have fun on your paddle board in the ocean, when the water is flat and without any waves.

As an intermediate, you can choose the best Isle Surf SUP board and use it to cut through small waves on the ocean.

If you are a skilled paddle boarder, you can try to catch bigger waves in the ocean, if you are looking for a bigger challenge.

To paddle board in the ocean, you will need an inflated or solid SUP board suited for just that. You might want to try a more sophisticated board such as the detachable 3-Piece Easy Eddy paddle board.

If you want to have fun on your SUP board in the ocean without too much exertion, you will want to time your session to the slack tide time. This is when the ocean is almost flat, without any considerable waves.


Those seven tips for how to paddle board in waves should help you SUP through waves like a pro.

From experience, getting past the break will be the hardest part. There are two things to get your board past the break without losing it.

  1. When waist-deep, place the board in the water with the nose facing the break. Secure the paddle under your grip by laying it lengthwise and holding it in your right hand. Let the board ride the water ahead of you.
  2. Climb on the board and lay down flat on it. Keep the paddle lengthwise on the board and under your body. Paddle with your hands until you are past the break.

Once you get the hang of paddleboarding small waves, you will find it more thrilling than paddling on calm waters. Ocean paddle boarding in Canada, US, UK, Australia or elsewhere is the real deal.

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