A Beginner's Guide to Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) in Vail this Summer

Looking to beat summer board-em and try something new and fun this summer while vacationing at Vail Cascade Resort, Vail’s premier mountain destination?  Why not try one of the fastest growing sports in Vail - stand up paddle boarding, also known as SUP! SUP is not only fun and easy, but you don’t even need an ocean or waves to participate! We know, you’re thinking to yourself…stand up paddle boarding in the mountains? Yes! Vail and Beaver Creek have plenty of lakes and rivers to practice this exciting sport from mid-May through September! You need just a few pieces of equipment to enjoy this sport:


  • Stand up paddleboard: Sizes are based on the paddler's weight and experience. More experienced and lighter paddlers can choose narrower boards. Novice paddlers should choose wider, flatter boards, which offer more stability.
  • Paddles: Stand up paddles Choose a paddle that's roughly 6” to 8” taller than you are for maximum benefit.
  • Personal Flotation Device: The U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand up paddleboards as vessels, so always wear a PFD.
  • Proper clothing: For cold conditions where hypothermia is a concern, wear a wetsuit or dry suit. In milder conditions, wear shorts and a T-shirt or bathing suit—something that moves with you and can get wet.
  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses.

Carrying Your Board to the Water

Most stand up paddleboards have a built-in handle. Just lean the board on its edge, reach for the handle and tuck the board under one arm. Carry your paddle with the other hand. 

For longer distances, or if your board has no handle, you can more easily carry your paddleboard on your head. Stand the board on its tail (end) with the deck (top of the board) facing you. Lay your paddle on the ground within easy reach. Grasp the edges of the board with both hands. Walk yourself under the board so that your head is about midway between the nose (front) and the tail. Stand upright with the board overhead, still holding it by its edges. Now bend down and pick up your paddle and carry it alongside the board. 

Head for the water.  Flat, calm water that's free of obstacles like boats and buoys is best for beginners.

Head for the Water

When you're learning the sport, it's best to start out in ideal conditions: flat, calm water that's free of obstacles like boats and buoys.

Mounting the Paddleboard and Beginning Your Adventure

When you're a beginner, it's easier to kneel on the board rather than to stand directly upright. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Standing alongside the board, place your paddle across the deck of the board and use it as an outrigger. The paddle grip is on the rail (edge) of the board; the blade rests on the water.  Hold the board by the edges. One hand will also be holding the paddle grip.
  • Pop yourself onto the board into a kneeling position, just behind the center point of the board.
  • From that kneeling position, get a feel for the balance point of the board. The nose shouldn't pop up out of the water and the tail shouldn't dig in.
  • Keep your hands on either side of the board to stabilize it.
  • Once you're ready, stand up on the board one foot at a time. Place your feet where your knees were. You might also bring a friend to wade out about knee-deep with your board. Have your friend stabilize the board as you get the hang of standing on it.
  • Your feet should be parallel, about hip-width distance apart, centered between the board edges.
  • Keep your toes pointed forward, knees bent and your back straight.
  • Balance with your hips—not your head.
  • Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright, and shift your weight by moving your hips.
  • Your gaze should be level at the horizon. Don’t stare at your feet
  • Practice balancing on the board in flat water, then take off on a paddle boarding excursion!

For guided standup paddle boarding tours or rentals in Vail, visit: Timberline Tours, Alpine Quest Sports or Lakota Guides. Or as a guest of Vail Cascade, let us help you plan your adventure getaway and we would be happy to help coordinate your paddleboarding experience! 

Paddle your way to a whole new adventure in Vail Colorado!

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