How to turn your Stand Up Paddleboard

For what seems like a pretty simple operation, there are actually several different ways to turn your stand up paddleboard around. 

Some are better suited to different disciplines, and to different situations - having the pivot turn dialled is really handy in the surf if a nice wave pops up while you're paddling out, for example, or the side stroke can be a good option if you're taking on a mellow turn while paddling upriver. 

You really need to get them all mastered though, which will take your stand up paddleboarding up a level and equip you well whatever the day...


Side Stroke

This is the most straightforward way to turn your board around, and the one that you'll probably use most when you're starting out.  You need plenty of space as your turning circle is pretty large. 

This is also a stroke that you'll use when you're past the beginner stage to make subtle changes of direction while you're cruising, or for when you need to make a broader turn. 

*      Make sure you're nice and stable on the board (with one foot slightly in front of the other to stop you from rocking forward or back when you paddle).

*      Begin making a series of strokes on the opposite side to the direction that you want to go. (i.e. if you want to head off to the right, use your paddle on your left side of your board)

*      Keep your strokes short and quick - start around half-a-metre in front of your feet, and stroke till the paddle blade is just behind your feet.

*   The SUP will begin to turn and should pick up momentum and begin turning more quickly as you put in more strokes.

*   TIP: As you begin feeling more confident begin to change the direction of your strokes - rather than pulling the blade back parallel with the board, pull it back and away from the board, to give you more leverage and bring the board around more quickly.

*  As the board reaches the direction that you want to head off in, start paddling on the other side, and begin to alternate strokes as you start to generate forward momentum.

*  Use your core!   Path of the benefit of Stand Up Paddle is the fantastic six pack you're going to get.   So rather than just using the paddle to push the board around, conciously twist the board with your feet by activating your abs.   The combination of your arms pulling, and feet twisting will have the board around in a jiffy

Back Paddle

This is one of the most useful and widely used turns for your stand up paddleboard.  If you're using a longer board and the pivot turn isn't really an option, then it's also the quickest way to turn your board around. 

If you're racing then getting it dialled will give you a real advantage over the competition, and if you're surfing then the quicker you can turn the more waves you'll score:


*  Approach this turn with a bit of speed.

*  When you want to initiate the turn just dip your blade into the water on the same side that you want the board to turn towards.  This will begin to bring the board round in the right direction.

*  As your board runs out of forward momentum, begin paddling backwards on the same side of your stand up paddleboard.

*  Start your back paddle around half-a-metre behind your feet and stop the stroke as the blade comes just past your feet.

*  Once your board has come about half way around the turn (90? or so), begin paddling on the other side of your board (as with the side stroke, above).

*  This should see you generating some forward momentum and coming out of the turn with some pace, ready to set your sites on the next wave, or your next competitor!

Pivot Turn

The pivot turn is the quickest, and most advanced, way to turn your stand up paddleboard around.  It is very efficient and, through reducing the amount of board in the water, is also the quickest way to turn your board around.

Very useful if you're out surfing and need to make a quick transition to pull yourself onto a wave, or in any circumstance where speed and 'tightness' of turn is important.  Be warned - you may get wet while trying to master these - so maybe stick a wettie on if the water's a bit chilly!

*  Choose the spot where you want to turn around - keep your eyes on this and stop stroking as you approach, letting your board glide in.

*  The key to the pivot turn is getting as much of the front of the board out of the water as you can, so you need to get your weight as far back possible, and then put your weight through your back foot before you begin initiating the turn. 

It's best to break it into two phases:

Getting your weight back:
  Assuming you've already done some surfing, you'll know whether you're goofy or regular footed, and you'll be comfortable with your stance on a surfboard. 

You need to replicate this stance, just standing right at the back of the board.  Try to move back in one quick movement, moving your back foot first and then rotating your front foot so that it's side on.

Start making quick strokes on the opposite side that you want to turn your stand up paddleboard.  Try to put the blade in the water away from your body, and then pull it in towards the tail of the board for maximum leverage and rotation.

*  The board should come around nice and quickly, with each stroke swinging the nose around a good distance.

*  As you approach the end of the turn move your feet back to your standard paddling position, get your balance, and you're ready to stroke onto the wave of the day!