A Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddleboard Racing Techniques & Training

SUP racing is starting to take off. Just like paddle boarding has seen an explosion in popularity, many are starting to enjoy a race while paddling around. The thrill of your board cutting through the water on race day is just too much for many to pass up.

Each year there are over 200 official races worldwide. Competitors gather to enjoy stand up paddleboard racing and get the juices flowing. If the trend continues, you can bet paddle racing will continue to grow.

As such, we wanted to cover everything you need to know before getting on a SUP board for an official race. So let’s dive in and take a look at basics like training, technique, gear, and more.

SUP Racing Gear

Before you can race around, you’ll need the right SUP board racing gear. You can’t hit the water until you have the right equipment, and usually, you won’t be able to rent racing gear.

To begin, you’ll need a standup paddleboard. But what kind of SUPs do race pros use? Well, the pros use SUP boards designed specifically for racing. These boards are usually designed with different shapes, lengths, and designs.

Here are a few of the basics:

  • Women typically use 12-14′ boards while racing.
  • Men often use 14′ boards while going for speed.
  • Narrow boards tend to be faster, but can be harder to balance on.

When finding the perfect standup paddleboard for racing, it’s important to pick a model that suits your needs. Your ability, experience, balance, and more will play a greater role than anything else.

sup racing If there are races coming up in your area, seek out board reps. At these races, the sales people will let you demo different boards. This can ensure you find a perfect SUP racing model for your needs.

Make sure you ask fellow riders. See what they think about different brands and models. Remember that you have a budget, too. While carbon fiber construction tends to be the pinnacle of SUP boards for speed, these models tend to be more expensive, too.

If you plan to spend most of your time in the flat water, you may consider investing in a displacement hull or a touring SUP board. While touring boards aren’t as fast as racing ones, they’ll still get the job done and offer decent speed.

You’ll also need some other gear to race. Your paddle is important when racing. Make sure you get a one-piece paddle. You don’t want an adjustable one, as they loosen during a race. Find a carbon fiber one, as they are lighter.

Next, make sure you have proper attire, hydration packs, waterproof casing for electronics, and more. SUP races can be long. So you’ll want to come fully prepared to compete.

4 Standup Paddle Board Racing Techniques

Before you hit the open water with speed on your mind, you’ll need to understand a few technique tricks. By learning the ins and outs of SUP racing technique, you’ll be sure to skate across the water.

So here are four SUP race techniques you must master:

  • The Start

While SUP races can be long, you’ll need to start strong. How you begin one of these events is important. There are three different types of race starts when SUP boarding:

  • Sitting on the board
  • Running start
  • Standing next to the board

You need to research any race you enter and know what type of start will be used. Then you need to practice it. Make sure you are comfortable using each type of start before you get too serious in this speedy SUP sporting event.

  • Paddling Technique

While the start is important, how you paddle will determine your SUP race success. The only way to improve your paddling stroke is to extend it. The further you can reach, the faster you can go. Practice reaching as far out in front of the board as you can with the paddle.

While paddling, make sure you activate your core. Pull your body towards the paddle. Don’t pull the paddle towards you. This small change can make huge differences in your speed.

As you bring the paddle to you, quickly yank it straight out of the water. Then smoothly reach out as far as possible again. Never let the paddle pass your body. Paddling behind your body is useless.

  • Pivot Turns

The ultimate paddle board race technique of the pros is the pivot turn. If you want to win competitive races, you’ll need to master it. Pivot turns are the quickest way physically possible to get around the markers or buoy.

To do a pivot turn, you’ll shuffle your feet to the tail of your board. One foot will be in the back and the other forward, like a surf-style stance. You’ll need momentum while going into the turn.

Once your feet are set on the back of the board, you’ll want to insert the paddle near the mid-section of the board and circle it away. This will ensure you make a sharp turn. Just stay on balance!

If you keep your foot closer to the back fin, it’ll help you move around the buoy faster. Plus, you won’t have to paddle as much. After the turn, you’ll need to quickly get back to the middle of the board.

If you feel off balance on a turn, use your paddle and hold yourself up with it. It’ll help a lot. You’ll need to practice the pivot turn technique a lot, and this means falling into the water a bit during the learning process.

 

  • Drafting Technique

Drafting is a SUP racing technique that allows you to paddle in the coattails of a fellow competitor while conserving energy. The technique is great for recovery and allows you to past the people in front of you with the conserved energy.

However, many races have rules against drafting. You’ll need to know the drafting rules of any race you enter before it begins. Or you could be kicked out and disqualified.

SUP Race Training Tips

If you’re ready to prepare for a SUP board race, then training is essential. First, you’ll need to have the right board. Once you have your SUP, you can begin training. Start by creating your training plan.

Once you have a race-training program, you’ll be ready to hit the water. If you don’t know where to get one, we suggest SUP Velocity. These programs will prep you for a race and ensure you’re faster than ever.


Paddleboard racing is a fairly new sport. As such, you’ll find it’s exciting and ever-expanding. Plus, there’s still an opportunity to become one of the all-time greats! Don’t miss your chance.

Grab a SUP racing board. Find a race in your area. Then get to training. If you have a need for speed, then SUP races may be right up your alley.

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