How To Turn On A Paddleboard

You’ll need to learn how to turn at some point in your paddleboarding journey. Once you feel more comfortable standing and moving forward while paddleboarding, turning is the next challenge to overcome. Paddleboarding: How to turn for beginners and experts is your ultimate guide to turning effortlessly on your paddleboard. 

Here are some paddleboarding turning techniques:

      1. The Basic Sweep Stroke (Beginner-Friendly)

      2. The CrossOver Turn (Intermediate)

      3. Back Paddle/ Reverse Paddle Turn (Intermediate

      4. The Step Back Turn (Advanced)

Paddleboarding Turning Techniques

Turning on your paddleboard is just as important as standing and moving forward. Here are some turning techniques for different experience levels.

1. The Basic Sweep Stroke (Beginner-Friendly)

The beginner-friendly paddleboarding technique is none other than the classic sweep stroke. This turning technique allows you to maintain your stability while turning in as few steps as possible. Here’s how to do it:

  • First, plant your feet firmly in the middle of the board. Ensure that your feet are about shoulder-width apart and your knees are bent. This will help you keep a low center of gravity and keep one foot slightly in front of the other for adequate balance.
  • Stretch forward and submerge your paddle on the opposite side of the direction you aim to turn in. For example, if you want to turn left, place and submerge your paddle blade on the right side of the board and vice versa. 
  • Start paddling in a wide sweeping motion. Move the paddle from the nose of the board to the tail. Ensure that your paddle shaft is at 45 degrees to the board’s width. 
  • Once you’ve completed your turn, start paddling on the other side with alternating strokes. Doing this will help you gain momentum again and move forward.

This technique is not convenient for longer paddleboards as it’ll take longer to do full sweep strokes from the board’s nose to its tail.

Pro Tip: You can make this technique work faster by making short and semi-circular strokes from the nose to the tail of your board. 

2. The CrossOver Turn (Intermediate)

Also called the crossbow turn, it is a great technique to turn your paddleboard quickly and smoothly. It’s an old canoeing technique brought into paddleboarding. This is how it works:

  • Don’t switch hands like other turning techniques. Instead, you’re going to be making use of your torso. 
  • To turn to one side, twist your body towards that side and place the paddle in the water on that same side. I.e., if you want to go left, turn your torso to the left and submerge the paddle into the water on the left side of the board.
  • Keep your knees bent and your feet wide for balance and sufficient stability.
  • Make steady sweeping strokes with your paddle from the side, arching past the nose to the tail on the other side. If you’re turning left, sweep your paddle from the left side past the front of the board to the tail on the right side. 

Pro Tip: Angle your paddle blade slightly outward. This will act as a steering control against the forward movement and redirect the board while turning. 

3. Back Paddle/ Reverse Paddle Turn (Intermediate)

The back paddle turn is an excellent technique for intermediate-level paddlers who are a little familiar with being on the water. Once you have mastered the basic sweep stroke for beginners, you can move on to this as it’s faster and more efficient. The steps are:

  • Submerging your paddle on the same side you want to turn into, i.e., put your paddle on the right side of your board if you want to turn right.
  • The next step is to paddle backward instead of forward. Plant your feet wide with your knees bent and paddle from your feet to the front of the board.
  • Do these back-paddling strokes a few times, and the front of your board will start rotating toward your turn. This will give you an almost-perfect 180-degree turn in place. 

Another variation of this paddle turn technique is the reverse paddle turn. They vary in the placement of the paddle. For a reverse paddle turn, you submerge your paddle on the other side of the board without changing the position of your hands on the paddle. Then, you paddle backward like you would with a back paddle turn.

We recommend these two turns for paddlers with long paddleboards and intermediate paddleboarders.

Pro Tip: Don’t hold back when taking this turn. Approach it with some speed to get a smooth turn.

4. The Step Back Turn (Advanced)

This technique is best if you know your way around your board. The step-back turn, also called the pivot turn, is the most efficient turning technique. It’s best for professionals and paddleboard competitors who need to turn while racing. This turn isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t take too long for an advanced paddler to figure it out. Here’s how to do a pivot turn:

  • Pick the spot you want to turn and focus on it. 
  • Gather a little forward momentum with a few short strokes. It’s easier to use this technique when you have some speed.
  • Stop paddling and keep your paddle off the water as you approach your spot.
  • Keep your head up and assume a surfer stance: dominant foot stepped back to sink the tail of your board. Start with a small step and increase it as you practice for better balance. 
  • The further you step back, the quicker and tighter your turn will be. Ultimately, you want your foot to be far back enough on the board’s tail so that when you apply pressure, the nose rises above the water.
  • Ensure your front foot is near the middle of your board. Keep your knees bent for stability and a low center of gravity.
  • Immerse your paddle blade in the water on the opposite side of where you want to turn. Press the tail down hard with your back foot, putting more weight on it. The nose of the board will lift out of the water, but don’t panic as it’s crucial for nailing the turn.
  • In a circular motion, sweep an arch toward the board’s tail.
  • The board will pivot on its tail with a tight and fast turn!

Pro Tip: This turn is very unstable and will require a lot of expertise and balance. Once your board turns, you must not lose momentum. Continue paddling as you return to a standard stance and maintain your balance.

Tips for Turning a SUP( Stand Up Paddle)

  1. Consider your level of expertise when choosing a paddleboard.
  2. Choose a paddle that fits you best.
  3. Learn all the basic paddling techniques before moving to harder ones.
  4. Ensure that you have a leash, so you don’t lose your board if you fall.
  5. For better stability, try to keep your paddle blade in the water.
  6. Try to keep your knees bent. Staying low is key to balancing and standing up on a paddleboard.

Getting Posture and Balance Right For Turning On A Paddleboard

Before you learn how to turn a SUP, master the correct posture and balance. Having a good stance helps prevent falls and makes your techniques much more efficient.

Tips for the correct posture include:

  • Keep your feet apart.
  • Bend your knees and try to get as low as you can.
  • Keep your back straight when moving or bending your hips.
  • Keep your head up and look straight ahead; avoid looking at your feet!


Now you can maneuver on your paddleboard with no problems. Evaluate your level of expertise and try out the turning techniques. They may look easy in theory, but don’t forget to practice, practice, practice! What are you waiting for? Hit the water, stay safe, and have fun!


How Do You Turn SUP On A Wave?

Start the turning maneuver when you see the wave, keeping your board pointed straight towards the beach. That will help you have better stability and help you glide on the waves effortlessly. Ensure that you’re paddling straight, pointing down the wave and not across it. If you’re paddling across, correct the course with a few paddle strokes to point towards the beach when the wave finally hits.

How Do You Do Step Back Turns SUP?

Step your dominant foot back and keep the other close to the middle of the board. Keep your paddle on the opposite side of where you want to turn. Press down on the tail of your board with your dominant foot and paddle with an arching sweep toward the board’s tail. Immediately you turn, return your feet to standard stance and start paddling normally to stay balanced.