Land Paddling For Beginners: 8 Steps For Getting Started

land paddling for beginners

If you’re attracted to land paddling and wonder how to get started with it, you’re in the right place. Land paddling is an amazing longboarding style which gives you a full-body workout including your shoulder, arms and chest, your core ab and lower back muscles, and of course your hips and lower body like most longboarding styles.

Learning land paddling for a beginner involves the following steps:

  • Choosing the right land paddle size
  • Finding the right land paddling board stance
  • Positioning your hands on the paddle stick
  • Learning the frontside paddle stroke
  • Learning the backside paddle stroke
  • Learning to stop when land paddling
  • Learning to turn when land paddling
  • Learning slides and cutbacks when land paddling

Step#1: choosing the right land paddle size for you

The first step as a beginner land paddling longboarder is to choose the right size land paddle for you. Your stick should be a bit shorter than your height and reach about eye level when you rest it on the ground in front of your face – anywhere between your chin and your forehead is fine.

Make sure to stand on your longboard (vs on the ground) when measuring the as, as being on your board adds a few inches to your height. You want your paddle stick to be the appropriate size taking your longboard’s height into account.

Some land paddlers prefer shorter sticks while others like longer ones, depending on their style. A shorter land paddle will make you bend and reach more for each stroke but can help in doing more radical turns, e.g. when riding bowl or ramp. For beginner level land paddling, however, eye level height is typically the most comfortable and efficient choice.

The most popular land paddle on the market is without any doubt the Kahuna Creations land paddle stick – riders even use the term “Kahuna stick” or “Big Stick” to refer to land paddles in general. You can see the price and over a hundred positive reviews for the Kahuna stick on Amazon. If you do decide to buy it, make sure to get one of the adjustable models for your first stick.

Step#2: getting the right land paddling stance on your board

land paddling for beginners - stance

Although you’re a beginner land paddler, you may not be a beginner longboarder so you may be familiar with general longboard stance. However, the stance for land paddling can be slightly different from other longboarding styles, depending on the size of your board and on your own paddling style.

For land paddling, you’ll generally ride a larger longboard, at least 43″ long or more with a comfortable wheelbase – see my post on choosing the best longboard for land paddling.

If you’re new to longboarding in general, you’ll first need to find your natural riding stance, i.e. “regular” or “goofy” (see this post for more on that).

The standard land paddling stance is as follows: your front foot (left if regular, right if goofy) should sit right behind your board’s front truck holes. Your rear foot should be about halfway down your deck – depending on its length, it may be a bit closer or a bit farther. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart. Your knees should always be slightly bent.

Your stance will vary quite a bit depending on the situation, for example whether you’re trying to pick up initial speed or if you already have momentum and you’re just carving turns.

Land paddling stance for beginners
Building up momentum using a wider stance

Step#3: how to position your hands and arms on the land paddle

With land paddling as in water-based SUP, there’s a very specific way of holding the paddle a beginner needs to learn for an effective technique:

  • Your front hand, i.e. the hand on the same side as your front foot when standing on your longboard, goes on top the paddle stick handle
  • Your back hand (on the side of your rear foot) grabs the paddle shaft of the land paddle at about waist height.

Your top (front) arm should always remain extended when pushing down on the handle, while your lower (rear) arm pulls on the paddle stick as it grips the ground.

Step#4: learning the frontside land paddle stroke

The frontside stroke involves pushing the road grip at the bottom of your stick against the road and pulling it backward on the toe side of your longboard – the right side if you’re a regular footer, the left side if you’re goofy.

The road grip, the big rubber part at the bottom of the land stick that looks like a wheel, is designed to grip the road hard while you pull on the paddle.

As a beginner, to move forward on your land paddle board, you need to reach out with your front arm as far as possible (with your front hand on the top handle). Push the rubber grip down onto the pavement in front of your board, then drag yourself up toward the stick with the rubber gripping the pavement in order to get your board moving. Pull on the paddle as far back as you can, fully extending your back arm.

As your longboard moves forward, the rubber grip loses traction and comes off the road. At that point, you can bring your paddle stick back to the front of your longboard, again as far forward as possible with your front arm, and initiate your next stroke. Keep your eyes look far forward at all times, avoid looking down to the ground.

As you get better at land paddling, you’ll start initiating your strokes from your core instead of just with your arms, adding a slight twisting motion from your hips up to your shoulders. Keep your knees bent and your feet solidly anchored into the deck – having a deck with some concave or rocker helps. This way the power from your pulls will better translate from the ground into your trucks and wheels.

Step#5: learning the land paddling backside stroke

As a beginner land paddler, once you’re moving comfortably on your longboard through the frontside stroke, you need to learn the backside stroke which involves paddling on the opposite side of your longboard – the heelside of your board, which is behind your back.

To do this, you need to pivot your upper body so your hips face forward and your shoulders are turned slightly toward your back. As your shoulders are facing backward, what is your rear arm in your natural stance now becomes your front arm, with the same side hand on top of the handle. Conversely, your normal front arm now becomes your rear arm with your hand on the shaft.

It’s a bit like sweeping the floor with a broom behind you without turning your feet. Your feet and hips are still facing forward while your shoulders and upper body are facing slightly backward to allow you to perform the stroke behind the heelside rail. The technique is similar to the frontside stroke – reaching far ahead with your (new) front arm and dragging the ground until the rubber grip ends up far behind your board.

Step#6: learning to stop when land paddling

As a beginner land paddler, once you’re able to pick up speed using either the frontside or the backside paddle stroke, the next step is to learn how to stop. At slow speeds, you can certainly jump off the longboard and run it off like you would in regular longboard riding. See this post for how to stop on a longboard.

However, in land paddling, you want to make the most use of your land stick. Also, you can use your land paddle to your advantage for efficient and stylish control of your speed when going fast.

To shed some speed, you can hold your land stick behind you and let the road grip drag onto the pavement. This will create friction that will slow you down, eventually to a stop. The trick here is to shift your weight onto your back leg while the rubber part rubs against the road.

Lean your upper body slightly backward, and bend your rear knee low to the deck to shift your weight toward the back of the longboard. This, combined with the friction of the road grip, will help slow down your board.

Step#7: learn to turn when land paddling

The next technique you’ll probably learn as a beginner is how to turn the land paddling way. If you already have some longboarding experience, you already know how to shift your weight toeside or heelside to make your longboard carve left or right. You can of course use this same basic technique for turning, holding your land paddle above the ground.

Using your land stick for turning quicker, however, is one of the great aspects of land paddling. What you can do is touch the pavement with your stick on the side you want to turn while leaning on the board rail. Using the stick this way will make your turns tighter. Check out these few seconds of video:

This technique takes practice as you need to determine the right amount of pressure to apply onto the paddle not to catch the ground and fall. Light contact, with the stick brushing the road, is enough to help make your longboard turn faster- (provided you run a decent carving setup.

Step#8: land paddling cutbacks and slides

Once you master the beginner aspects of land paddling including leverage the stick for stopping and turning, you’ll be ready to learn more advanced tricks such as cutbacks and slides.

Sliding with a land paddle is similar to performing a regular longboard hand-down slide, except you put your stick down to the ground instead of a gloved hand! Watch the following slide with a land paddle:

Similar to a Coleman slide, you carve hard into the slide, lean backward and offload while pushing your longboard out with your back foot to break traction. Putting your stick down behind you and leaning into it makes it easy to offload the board while pushing out sideways. With some practice, you’ll soon find yourself pulling 180º slides using your land paddle.

Cutbacks are radical versions of land stick-backed carves. Here again, you lean somewhat into the ground using your land paddle to make your turn super tight. You can perform cutbacks on a ramp or in a bowl on a smaller land paddling board with a snappy truck and wheel setup. Watch these bowl turns:

Though these are not really beginner land paddling techniques, they’re not that hard to learn and tend to come naturally over time. Of course, it also depends on your experience in regular longboarding and other board sports.

Final land paddling beginner tips

Here are a few important tips that will come in handy if you’re a beginner learning land paddling:

  • If you’re just getting started, don’t start paddling from a still position. At first, kick push the ground with your foot a bit to get a bit of momentum before your first stroke. Only then should you start paddling with your land stick. Having a bit of initial momentum will make it much easier for you to get paddling.
  • When paddling, make absolutely sure you always put the tip of your stick onto the ground at enough distance from your wheels. Hitting your wheels with your land stick will bring your longboard to a dead stop and send you flying in the air!
  • When going too fast, first shed some speed by dragging your paddle tip on the pavement behind you as I explained earlier. Once your longboard is down to a manageable speed, you can jump off in front of the board with your back foot. This will stop the board behind you.
  • Placing your feet on the deck at an angle so they are pointing slightly forward, say at 45º instead of fully perpendicular to the deck, may help you give more power to your paddling strokes. Try different angles to find what works best for you for frontside or backside strokes.
  • Avoid paddling with your back rounded at all cost! You should always bend at the hips, not the spine, particularly when pulling on your paddle. Pulling with your spine flexed can lead to some nasty injuries such as disc herniation (trust me I’ve been there!)

  • Don’t start paddling from a dead stop…. Go ahead and kick a couple times to get your speed up and THEN take your first stroke with the paddle.
  • Don’t rush into a prone stance until you’re totally ready for it.  Even with both feet pointing forward, we still keep one foot slightly ahead of the other for balance.
  • Hop to regular/goofy foot to “surf through” road hazards, then take a couple power strokes to get your speed back up, then you can work your feet back to parallel forward.  This is how you recognize a skilled SUP Skater.
  • The best way to stop yourself and the board (low speeds) at the same time is to dismount by stepping forward off the board with your back foot, which will cause the board to stop behind you.  Braking from higher speeds takes more time so we just drag the paddle tip on the road till we’re going slow enough to dismount.
  • Finally… the Street Sweeper SUP Skate paddle is a flexible pole, not a stick… It’s made to flex and store energy then give it back to you in a smooth, controllable manner… You sprign yourself along… Unlike a water paddle, you don’t pull yourself forward with the bottom hand, but rather you pull with your top hand against the fulcrum formed by your bottom hand.  Push the tip down with your bottom hand, keep your bottom arm straight and stiff and then pull the top hand toward your chin. That will grip the road while loading the paddle so it can spring back smoothly, giving you an awesome forward push straight through the bottom hand. E-books and videos are coming.

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Photo credits:
Featured photo, step#2 photo1: Kahuna Creations
Step #2 photo2: Hamboards

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About me

Big Kahuna

Hi I'm Jesse. All my life I've been passionate about the board riding lifestyle. Some years ago I got into longboarding, and in doing so, I discovered a whole new universe and a fantastic community. There's something for everyone in longboarding regardless of age, gender, size, and fitness level. Ride on!

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