November 16, 2022 7 min read

Start Your Career As A Paddle Board Instructor

Group of paddle boarders on Austin

Are you keen to turn your paddle boarding passion into a career? With the right guidance, you can! If you have got the skills and dedication to this fun water sport, then why not look into becoming a SUP instructor and teach others how to paddle board?

Not only will you be spending your days out on the water, but you will also be sharing the thrill of stand-up paddle boarding with other people. That is a win-win in our eyes.

We have done the research for you, creating this ultimate guide on how to become a paddle board instructor. From what it takes to pass the instructor certification exam to specific avenues you can explore within your career, keep reading for everything you need to know about teaching the art of SUP. Cultivating your passion for paddling could be a dream come true.

What Is A SUP Instructor?

A paddle board instructor teaches the proper techniques needed to paddle a SUP board safely and effectively. Instructors generally teach beginners the basics, however, some intermediates may take lessons to improve their paddling technique and master more advanced paddle boarding turns. 

It doesn’t stop there though. There are also different avenues of paddle boarding that an instructor can lead a class in. From touring or surfing to SUP yoga classes, being a SUP instructor can be as fluid as the water you paddle on!

There are four main things that you need to have to become a SUP instructor:

  1. Passion
  2. Expertise
  3. SUP gear
  4. Certification

Why Become Qualified To Teach Paddle Boarding

Man wearing blue wetsuit instructing how to paddle board

Becoming a qualified instructor allows you to teach paddle boarding within a water sports school environment and covers you legally. If you want to embark on a paddle boarding career, then you need to have these qualifications to abide by safety measures and regulations. 

Sure, we have all given our buddies or kids a basic SUP lesson to get them started. But when it comes to teaching the public, you need to be fully qualified. 

Getting qualified opens more than just one door into the water sports industry though. A SUP instructors qualification could help you get into a variety of job roles:

  • Instructor in the SUP or outdoor recreation industry
  • Industry job roles that require SUP knowledge, like marketing, sales, or retail
  • Pathways to higher levels like SUP Tech Coach or to become a SUP yoga teacher, a SUP surfing coach or perhaps a SUP fitness instructor
  • Start your own accredited SUP school

Requirements To Become A Qualified SUP Instructor

To qualify as a SUP instructor, there is a certain criterion you must meet. These requirements are generally the same across the board regardless of where you choose to do your qualifications:

  • Aged 18 or over
  • 40+ hours of SUP experience
  • Able to demonstrate technical skill sets, including short paddle strokes, reverse paddle boarding and push turns among other basic techniques
  • Valid first aid qualification
  • Valid SUP water rescue or surf rescue certificate
  • Shadow teaching with a recognized school

You are also required to obtain membership to whichever certifying board you do the qualification with. As the instructor, it is your responsibility to ensure that your first aid certificates are up-to-date and you participate in any renewal workshops required for the SUP certification.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding Instructor Courses

Man on a black wetsuit teaching a group of people how to paddle board

There are several different certifying bodies across the world that offer a similar standard of SUP instructor training courses and qualifications. The below all provide courses and certification that is internationally recognized, meaning your teaching career could take you traveling around the globe.

  • ACA (American Canoe Association)
  • BSUPA (British Stand Up Paddle Association)
  • ASI (Academy of Surfing Instructors)
  • PSUPA (Professional Stand Up Paddle Association)

The following courses are variations of SUP instructor certification offered by ASI. The other examining bodies provide similar qualifications that may be named slightly differently.

Level 1 SUP Instructor

The Level 1 SUP Instructor or Technical Coach course is an entry-level certification. ​​The aim of the course is to teach participants how to deliver basic SUP lessons, short SUP paddle tours, and safely handle SUP rentals in enclosed flat water locations.

This is a good introductory course for anyone that is interested in kickstarting a new career. Enclosed flat water locations include creeks, rivers, lakes, lagoons, estuaries, and canals with no swell or breaking waves.

Add On Level 1 Technical Coach

The Technical Coach certificate add-on focuses on providing coaching to improve performance for recreational paddlers and recognize common paddle boarding mistakes. This course teaches you how to conduct assessments of SUP skills and create ongoing training programs.

Level 2 SUP Instructor

Take your standard Level 1 qualification to the next level. The Level 2 SUP Instructor course reinforces how to deliver basic SUP lessons, short SUP paddle tours and SUP rentals, but on exposed waters. 

You will focus on exposed water hazards, techniques and instruction methods needed for these exposed water conditions, and share how to read water conditions.

Add On Level 2 Technical Coach

The Technical Coach certificate add-on allows you to teach SUP lessons to improve technical paddling ability for exposed water locations.

Other SUP Certification Courses

Woman leading a group of paddle boarders

From yoga to surfing, and everything in between, you can specialize your training to give you the best teaching techniques and experience to pass on to other paddlers. 

  • SUP Tour Guide
  • Level 3 SUP Instructor (Downwind & Distance Paddling)
  • SUP Surfing Instructor
  • SUP Yoga Teacher
  • SUP Water Safety Rescue Award
  • SUP Instructor Trainer

Learn The SUP Lingo

When giving SUP lessons to newbies, you are going to have to explain all those terms we just use in our everyday paddle board vocabulary. You need to break down the equipment so your students know what you are talking about during the lesson. This will include the nose, tail, hull, and cockpit as a minimum!

Here is some more SUP life jargon that you will probably encounter as an instructor:

  • Put in – the location you launch your SUP
  • Take out – the place you get out of the water
  • Portage – exiting the water with your SUP and paddle to walk around an obstruction/obstacle
  • Tracking – how straight and true a SUP board paddles
  • Glide – how much momentum a SUP carries with each paddle stroke
  • Displacement – a term used to describe a craft that cuts through the water instead of on it
  • Planing – a term used to describe a craft that rides on top of the water
  • Offshore – when the wind blows straight off the beach
  • Onshore – when the wind blows straight onto the beach
  • Crossshore – when the wind blows left to right on right to left along the beach
  • Rip (current) – a surge of water heading back out to sea having dispersed initially as waves break, following the path of least resistance
  • Eddy – water flowing back upstream (in rivers) against the main flow of current
  • Backwash – tidal or wave energy-infused water hitting a solid object then rebounding back
  • Gnarly – a word used to describe something extreme within the context of what’s happening on the water
  • Wipeout (also referred to as bail) – falling off

How To Become A Better SUP Coach

Group of paddle boarders improving their skills

The best SUP coaches will want to continue developing and improving their teaching skills to provide great quality lessons. So, how do you become a better SUP coach?

Firstly, always remain patient with everyone and make it fun. Students will learn things at different paces. As long as you stay friendly and patient during the session then everyone should have fun regardless of how many times they fall in the water!

One of the best ways to improve your coaching skills is to keep up to date with the industry and ensure your qualifications remain valid. This is also a requirement for many employers within the water sports industry.

Read More: 24 Awesome Paddle Boarding Apps to Fire Up Your SUP Experience


🏆 What level of paddle boarding is expected when becoming an instructor?

Paddle board instructors are expected to demonstrate a certain level of technique and skill set. Most qualification courses require you to show short paddle strokes, reverse paddle boarding and push turns among other basic techniques. As you progress through to more advanced courses, you will have to demonstrate more advanced skills.

👍 What qualifications do I need to teach paddle boarding?

To teach paddle boarding, you need a recognized level 1 teaching qualification along with a first aid certificate and water rescue certification. These qualifications need to be maintained and kept up to date with renewals and additional workshops where necessary. 

🏝️ What are the requirements for a paddle board instructor qualification?

Different examining bodies have their own requirements for paddle boarding instructor qualifications. However, most ask for these aspects as a minimum: 

  • Aged 18 or over
  • 40+ hours of SUP experience
  • Able to demonstrate technical skill sets, including short paddle strokes, reverse paddle boarding and push turns among other basic techniques
  • Valid first aid qualification
  • Valid SUP water rescue or surf rescue certificate
  • Shadow teaching with a recognized school

❓ Is my SUP instructor qualification recognized internationally?

Most certifying bodies provide internationally recognized teaching qualifications. However, it is a good idea that you check directly with the course provider if you are hoping to travel abroad and teach paddle boarding.

📦 Can I use my surf instructor certification to teach paddle boarding?

You cannot use a surf instructor qualification in place of a paddle boarding qualification. While there are crossovers between the two sports, there are specific techniques you need to learn in how to teach and deliver SUP lessons. However, you can use the same first aid and water rescue certifications.

📦 Do I need to renew my SUP instructor certification?

Renewal of SUP instructor certification is required worldwide. Most qualifications are valid for 2-3 years, however, this can vary. Check with the issuing body and your employer what is required to continue working as a paddle board instructor.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

Surfer, paddle boarder, and ocean lover. She loves traveling and discovering new destinations all across the world. When she's not writing, she's exploring the outdoors and enjoying fresh air.

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