Can I Surf With A Paddle Board? (Even without a paddle)

Ever wondered if you can catch waves on a paddleboard? As an avid surfer and paddle boarder, I’ve had my fair share of exhilarating experiences in the ocean with all sorts of boards, from surfing shortboards to inflatable paddle boards. 

As a general rule, you can surf with a paddle board. It’s a fun and unique way to ride the waves. However, it requires balance and skill. Paddle board surfing is best on smaller, slower-moving waves. It may not be suitable for high-speed, steep waves unless you are very experienced. 

In this article, I’ll dive into the specifics of using an inflatable paddleboard in the waves. I’ll share tips on how to manoeuvre past the breakers and ride those swells like a pro, all based on my experience.

Can I Surf With A Paddle Board?

Yes, you can surf with a paddle board. Paddle board surfing is not only possible, but it’s also a fantastic way to enjoy the ocean. The larger size and added stability of paddle boards can make catching waves a little easier for beginners compared to traditional surfboards. Moreover, using a paddle, you can propel yourself into waves that might be just out of reach for standard surfers. 

However, paddle board surfing requires good balance and understanding of wave patterns. Always remember to start in small, manageable waves and gradually work your way up as you become more comfortable and skilled. 

As with any water sport, safety should be your top priority – wear the appropriate gear, be aware of your surroundings and never venture out alone or in conditions beyond your skill level. Stick to these principles, and you’ll be riding the waves on your paddle board in no time.

What Size Waves Can You Surf With a Paddle Board?

The size of waves you can surf on a paddle board depends on your experience and comfort level. As a beginner, you might want to start with smaller, 1-2 foot waves. These waves are typically slower and easier to ride, which can help you get a feel for the board and the dynamics of the ocean. As you gain confidence and improve your skills, you can gradually move to larger, 3-4 foot waves. However, even experienced paddle board surfers typically avoid waves that exceed 5 feet, as the larger the wave, the higher the risk. Remember, safety first – gauge your conditions and abilities before heading out.

Experience LevelWave Size
Beginner1-2 foot waves
Intermediate / Expert3-4 foot waves
Professional5+ foot waves
This table shows paddle board wave size based on experience level

What Is The Difference Between A Surfboard And A Paddle Board?

The most evident difference between a surfboard and a paddle board is their design and usage. A surfboard, typically narrower and lighter, is designed for manoeuvrability, speed, and performance on waves. Surfboards use the force of the wave and the surfer’s body balance for propulsion. 

On the other hand, a paddle board is generally wider, longer. It provides more buoyancy – making it more stable on the water. Paddle boards come with a paddle (hence the name), and the paddler stands or kneels on the board and uses the paddle to propel themselves through the water. This means you can use paddle boards in various water conditions – lakes, rivers, and, yes, even ocean waves. 

While you can surf with both, the experience will differ due to these design differences. With a paddle board, you’re not just relying on the wave – you can also paddle yourself into the wave, which can be an advantage in slower, smaller waves. But remember, paddle board surfing requires unique skills and balance.

This article from has a load of excellent information on surfboard sizing. For more comprehensive information on paddle board sizing, this article from covers this beautifully.

Can You Use An Inflatable Paddle Board In The Ocean?

You can use an inflatable paddle board in the ocean. Inflatable paddle boards, also known as iSUPs, have come a long way in terms of durability, stability, and performance. These boards are constructed with a tough outer surface that can withstand the ocean’s harsh conditions and are filled with air to a high pressure, which makes them rigid. 

This combination of rigidity and buoyancy makes iSUPs excellent for ocean surfing. The wider platform provides more stability, making it easier to balance, especially for beginners. 

However, it’s worth noting that while iSUPs can handle waves, they might be a bit slower and less manoeuvrable compared to regular hardboards. 

So, if you plan to tackle larger, faster waves, you might consider using a traditional surfboard. Nevertheless, for smaller waves and more relaxed surfing, inflatable paddle boards are a fantastic option.

Is Paddle Boarding In The Ocean Hard To Learn?

Learning to paddle board in the ocean can be challenging but not impossible. Much like any new skill, it requires patience, practice, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. 

The main challenges you’ll face are maintaining balance on your board and understanding how to read the ocean’s waves and currents. 

Paddle boarding in the ocean differs from a calm lake or river paddle boarding due to the dynamic environment. Waves, wind, and tides can all affect your balance and control. However, with time and regular practice, these challenges become less daunting. 

Start in calm, shallow waters to get comfortable with your board and gradually venture into deeper and more turbulent waters as your confidence grows. Everyone learns at their own pace, so don’t rush the process. 

Be very careful with off shore winds and learning to paddle board in the ocean. Offshore winds can pose a significant risk for paddleboarders, particularly those new to ocean paddling. These winds blow from the land towards the sea and can carry you further away from the shore and into open waters. They can also make it extremely difficult to paddle back to shore against the wind, leading to exhaustion and a potential safety hazard. 

It’s, therefore, critical to always check the weather forecast before you head out for a paddleboarding session and avoid going out in strong offshore winds. If you are caught in offshore winds, stay calm, paddle diagonally towards the shore and signal for help if needed. 

You may also consider taking a course on ocean safety to better understand how to deal with such situations and ensure your safety while enjoying the waves on your paddle board.

You’re on the right track as long as you’re enjoying yourself and respecting the ocean.

How Do I Get Past The Waves On A Paddle Board?

Getting past the waves on a paddle board can be challenging, but with practice, it becomes easier. 

First, ensure you are wearing a leash. It’s a crucial safety measure, keeping you connected to your board if you fall off. 

Next, start by paddling out to the sea kneeling until the water is about waist-deep. Then, stand up on your board and paddle with long, deep strokes.

When you see a wave coming, paddle hard and get your board to glide over the wave. Lean forward slightly as you paddle over the wave to help keep the nose of your board down. 

Do not attempt to paddle over large waves, as you might risk capsizing. Instead, you can perform a move known as “duck diving” for larger waves. In this technique, as the wave approaches, you should get off your board and hold onto it, then dive under the wave, pulling your board along with you.

Lastly, always keep an eye on the horizon to anticipate upcoming waves. It’s essential to maintain a steady rhythm and keep your momentum going. 

Here is a fantastic video from 

Do I Need A Paddle If Using A Paddle Board To Surf?

Yes, a paddle is essential when using a paddle board to surf. The paddle serves a dual purpose. First, it helps you to navigate the water and position yourself correctly to catch a wave. This is particularly useful in paddle board surfing as it gives you an advantage to catch waves earlier than standard surfers. 

To catch a wave, you must be moving fast enough so that when the wave arrives, you have matched the wave’s speed, which will carry you. Using a paddle is a fantastic aid for this. 

Second, the paddle aids in maintaining balance while riding the waves. However, once you catch the wave and start surfing, you might use the paddle less, relying more on your body balance and board control. That said, I like to use my paddle as an anchor to help me turn and manoeuvre in the water. It’s a fantastic aid and adds to my surfing style. 

Remember, holding onto your paddle while riding the waves can also serve as an additional safety measure, as it can help you get back to your board quickly if you fall off. The paddle, therefore, plays a crucial role in paddle board surfing and should always be part of your gear.

Is A Longboard And Paddle Board Similar?

A surf longboard and a paddle board share similarities as they are both used for riding waves. However, there are also key differences between the two. For instance, a surf longboard is typically shorter and narrower than a paddle board, which tends to be longer and wider to allow for standing and paddling. 

Board TypeAverage LengthAverage Width
Paddle Board9-12 Feet32-36 Inches
Longboard9-10 Feet22.5 – 23.5 Inches
This table shows the difference in dimensions between longboards and paddle boards.

While both boards allow you to catch and ride waves, the techniques used differ. On a surf longboard, you rely on arm paddling and body movements to navigate the waters and catch waves. On a paddle board, you utilize a paddle for movement, navigation, and balance, which can be particularly advantageous in catching waves early. 

Furthermore, the standing position on a paddle board offers a unique perspective, giving rise to a distinctly different surfing experience compared to a surf longboard. 

Despite these differences, both boards offer their own unique style of fun and challenge, enhancing the diversity and thrill of surfing.

What Experience Do I Need To Surf With A Paddleboard?

To surf with a paddleboard, it’s recommended to have some basic skills under your belt. First and foremost, you should be comfortable with swimming and have a good level of physical fitness, as paddleboarding can be physically demanding, especially when dealing with waves. 

You should also have some experience with stand-up paddleboarding understanding how to balance, steer, and paddle effectively. Having prior experience in surfing will be advantageous, but it’s not mandatory. 

Most importantly, you should be familiar with ocean safety – understanding wave patterns, tides, and weather conditions. 

It’s advisable to take a few lessons from certified instructors to get started. Remember, practice, patience, and perseverance are key when learning any new sport, and paddleboard surfing is no exception.

Most importantly, if you are a beginner, don’t paddle in the ocean when there is a strong offshore wind unless you are with an experienced paddle boarder. In my early days of paddle boarding, I made this mistake and found myself much further from the shore than I had intended. If the wind is particularly strong, it can be hard to paddle back to shore. 

Is Surfing With A Paddle Board Easier Than A Surfboard?

Paddle boarding offers many advantages and can make surfing waves more accessible for beginners. 

For instance, the larger size and stability of a paddle board can make it easier to balance, especially for those new to water sports. 

The paddle also provides additional support and control, aiding in navigation and wave-catching. However, mastering the use of a paddle while manoeuvring a larger board can come with its own set of challenges.

On the other hand, while surfboards, particularly shortboards, might be trickier to balance on initially, they are smaller, lighter, and can be more agile in the water. This makes them a preferred choice for advanced surfers looking to perform more complex manoeuvres and ride larger waves.

In essence, both paddle boards and surfboards have their unique characteristics and challenges, and the ease of surfing on either will largely depend on the individual’s personal ability, experience, and preference. It’s always a good idea to try both and see which one suits you best.

Personally, I believe that it is much easier to surf a wave with a paddle board due to its large size and additional speed offered by the paddle; however, since it is harder to manoeuvre on a paddle board, pulling off fun manoeuvres is so much harder. 

Should I Put Wax On My Paddle Board When Surfing?

The maintenance and work involved with putting wax on a paddle board is not for everyone, and many boarders (myself included) do not see the advantage of using wax on a paddle board, even for surfing. 

Although it is not necessary to put wax on a paddle board, some riders find that applying wax to their paddle board when surfing can be beneficial. 

The wax increases the grip on the board, helping maintain balance and footing, especially when the board gets wet. However, the type of wax you use depends on the water temperature. 

If you do decide to wax your paddle board, be sure to select a wax that suits the conditions where you will be surfing. Remember, waxing your board is not a one-time affair. You’ll need to maintain and reapply the wax regularly to ensure it continues to provide an effective grip. Also, keep in mind to clean your board periodically to prevent wax build-up.

Here is a great article from, which discusses the application of wax to paddle boards in much greater detail. 

10 Tips For Paddle Board Surfing

  1. Start Small: If you are new to paddle board surfing, start with smaller waves and gradually work your way up as you gain confidence and skills.
  2. Choose the Right Equipment: Make sure your paddle board is suitable for surfing. It should be stable yet manoeuvrable, and your paddle should be the correct length for your height. 
  3. Practice Paddling Techniques: Mastering your paddling techniques can significantly enhance your surfing experience. Practice efficient paddle strokes, turning, and manoeuvring on flat water before moving onto waves.
  4. Learn to Read the Waves: Understanding wave patterns and how to identify the right wave to catch is crucial in paddle board surfing. Spend some time observing the waves before you paddle out.
  5. Respect Surf Etiquette: Respect other surfers in the water. Avoid dropping in on someone’s wave, and always wait your turn.
  6. Stay Balanced: Keep your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, and always look towards the horizon to maintain balance.
  7. Use Your Paddle for Stability: Your paddle can be used for more than just propelling forward; it’s an excellent tool for stability. Keep it in the water as much as possible.
  8. Master the ‘Duck Dive’: This is a technique used to get past breaking waves when paddling out. It involves submerging the entire board underwater while holding onto the rails and then resurfacing once the wave has passed.
  9. Prioritize Safety: Always wear a leash and consider a personal floatation device. Be aware of your surroundings, and never surf alone.
  10. Enjoy the Ride: Most importantly, have fun! Paddle board surfing can be challenging, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Enjoy the ride, and don’t get discouraged if you fall. Remember, every wipeout is a chance to learn and improve.

Final Thoughts

Surfing with a paddle board presents its unique set of challenges and rewards. It merges the tranquillity of paddle boarding with the thrill of riding the waves, creating an exhilarating water sports experience. It’s a learning process – from choosing the right equipment and mastering the art of balance and paddle strokes to respecting surf etiquette and prioritizing safety. But as with any sport, the key is to keep practising and, most importantly, to enjoy the journey. So grab your paddle board and hit the waves. 

Happy surfing!

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

Recent Posts