Do I Need to Know How to Swim to Paddle Board?


Table of contents

1.How much water can a non-swimmer be in, to learn to paddle?
2.Best location for a non-swimmer to learn to paddle
3.The safest way for non-swimmers to learn how to paddle board
4.What to wear to learn how to paddleboard?

SUP board safety tip

You can go paddle boarding without knowing how to swim. However, it’s advised to wear a life jacket at all times and practice in still, calm waters between 20’’ and 30’’ deep. A lagoon would be an ideal location to do so. And if possible, bring someone with you so that you will have someone there to help you when you are in a dangerous situation. 

You don’t really need to know how to swim to paddle, but it’s better if you can swim because you are bound to fall into the water at some point even if you are using the best all-around paddle board. In this post, we will explore all the paddling issues for non-swimmers and weak swimmers, and provide advice for staying safe and, most importantly, to make sure you enjoy your time on the water.

You can still learn how to paddle board even if you are a non-swimmer, but there are some things you should be aware of before heading out on the water. For instance, depth of water needed, safety equipment, best location, and what to look for when choosing your first paddle board, etc. So check out the following content to find out all the things you need to know about this fun and wonderful sport.

SUP board safety tip

How much water can a non-swimmer be in, to learn to paddle?

You are very likely to fall into the water when you are just starting to learn how to paddle board. So if you are worried about learning in deep water, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of learning to paddleboard in various depths of water. 

10’’ deep water is not suitable for paddling
This is way too shallow. You probably won’t be in any kind of danger but there’s a high chance the fin of your SUP board will be damaged. Remember, your fin is between 6’’ and 8’’ tall and so can be easily damaged as soon as you stand on the board. Also, if you use a plastic, epoxy or carbon paddle board, you can easily chip your board in a water depth of 10’’.

20’’ deep water is still not ideal for SUP but it’s safe
20’’ of water depth is safer for your board and fin. You have to land pretty hard on the board or step on the back of the board to put it under water enough to damage the fin or the board itself. But there’s still a slight chance you can damage your board.

The greater danger with this depth is how you land when you fall. You could twist your ankle when trying to land upright, or hit your body or head on the bottom of the water when landing on your side. There is just not enough water to break your fall. 

30’’ deep water is a safe depth for your board, but you could still get hurt
Your paddle board probably won’t be in any kind of danger right now. But when you try and land upright you will find yourself having to reach down to touch the ground beneath. When you land on your side, you may still reach the floor, but as long as you have buoyancy aid, you will be very safe.

A water depth of 40’’ won’t pose any threat to your board but it might require you to know some swimming techniques
40’’ of water is roughly above your torso height, your paddle board is pretty safe. But this water depth can be dangerous for you if you don’t know any swimming techniques. Attempting to fall upright is not possible anymore as the water is too deep to reach off the board. If you attempt this, you can only remain upright by puposely falling in the water remaining upright, and waiting to feel the ground and stand up as soon as possible. 

If you fall on your side(by far the safest way to fall in the water) again you will still not hit the ground and in both cases will need to paddle your hands a little to get your body upright before you stand up. 

50’’ of water depth is both good and bad for you
The water is check height now. You will need to jump up to get back on your board if you fall. The odds of you hitting the ground when you fall off your board is very low now. But you will have to paddle with your hands to get yourself upright. The key is to stay calm. There’s no reason to panic because you can still stand up in the water.

60’’ of water
In this water depth it won’t be easy for you to feel the ground now. But don’t be afraid, just stay calm if you fall, all you have to do is upright yourself and stand up and you will probably still have your head above the water. But in this water depth we would strongly recommend you wear a life vest as it will help you get back to the surface very quickly where you can take hold of your SUP and get your breath back.

70’’ and deeper it’s recommended you learn how to swim before you get on a paddleboard
In any water over 50’’ we would recommend you master some basic swimming skills first before trying to paddle. To keep your head above water you may need to ‘tread water’(treading water is a technique of kicking your feet and pushing downwards with your hands to elevate your body so to keep your body in an upright motion and your head above water.

Best location for a non-swimmer to learn to paddle

To learn how to paddle board safely, you might want to find a shallow, still body of water between the depth of 20’’ and ideally no more than 30’’ of water. You can find such body of water in a controlled environment like a natural or man-made lagoon. 

A lagoon is the best choice for non-swimmers to start to learn how to paddle board for a few good reasons. First, it has calmer water than a river or sea. It’s shallow enough that it won’t be dangerous if you fall in, but still deep enough to paddle on. Also, there are usually lifeguards around overlooking the lagoon and some of them might even offer SUP lessons. 

SUP board safety tip

The safest way for non-swimmers to learn how to paddle board

As a non-swimmer, to learn to paddle safely, we would recommend that you

  • Wear buoyancy aid, so you will float to the top of the water when you fall into the water.
  • Go to a controlled and safe environment like a lagoon.
  • Take SUP lessons to learn some basic SUP skills and what to do in an emergency.

You can’t go wrong with a lagoon when picking a safe place to learn how to paddle board as a non-swimmer because the water is usually still and only thigh-high. Even if you do fall in, which is very likely to happen, you won’t be at risk of drowning. Just stand up, get back on your paddleboard and start again. Even if the odds of drowning is very low, we still recommend that you wear a life vest whenever you are out on the water.

What to wear to learn how to paddleboard?

It’s necessary to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.

Below are what you should wear for different occasions.


  • Swim suit, wet suit and buoyancy aid(PFD) for cold waters
  • Swim suit and buoyancy aid(PFD) for mild waters
  • Swim suit, buoyancy aid(PFD) and sun cream in warm waters and sunny days
  • Water shoes or sandals if you want

Standup paddle boarding is a fun sport, and there’s no reason to skip it just because you can’t swim. But for safety concerns, wear a life jacket when you get out on the water, even if you become a skilled paddler and swimmer later.

Since you are a non-swimmer and beginer, we would suggest that you start in relatively shallow water to keep yourself safe, but not too shallow that it will damage your paddle board or the fin. And don’t be over-confident and pick a place that’s too deep. You need to make sure you can touch the group and hop back to your board when you are in the water.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Hot Sale


enter to win our monthly giveaway

Providing range of durable and innovative inflatable paddle boards for all level of paddle boarders