The great thing about your paddleboard is that it allows you to move gracefully and effortlessly across the water. Gliding across the water makes you feel almost weightless and free.

It’s a good thing that being on the water on your paddleboard feels so good, because for most of us, getting to the water with our board, paddle, life jacket, water, sunscreen, hat, dog, and all the other gear you might be carrying with you, can be an awkward experience at best.

Then there are those paddleboarders that make carrying their board look so simple and just as graceful as gliding through the water on their board. It’s these people that we strive to be like.

And so, in this article, we offer you a guide for how to carry your paddleboard, so that you get from your car to your put-in point without feeling like a bull in a china shop.

The 3 ways to carry a paddleboard

Rocky Beach paddleboarding
Photo by Malik Skydsgaard / Unsplash

We’ve discovered that there are three ways that most paddleboarders carry their board. These three ways seem to be the most effective for most people, but you will still need to find the one that feels best for you.

While carrying your paddleboard can be challenging simply because it is large and not terribly easy to maneuver outside of the water, there are ways that you can make the process easier.

Here are our three suggested ways for carrying your stand-up paddleboard.

Before you learn how to carry a paddleboard, you should make sure you’ve got the right size paddleboard for you.

Way 1: Using shoulder straps to carry the board

Many paddleboards come with their own shoulder straps. These straps can be a welcome relief if the distance between your car and your put-in point is relatively far away.

Shoulder straps can be a really convenient option, or they can be a hassle. How efficient they are for hauling your SUP really depends on the design of the straps and how they fit your board.

Also, shoulder straps can make a huge difference for individuals that are smaller in stature or for kids, when it comes to transporting your board from point A to point B.

Here are some tips for using SUP shoulder straps:

  • If your board only came with the basic strap, make sure you wrap it around the board and secure it using the buckles.
  • There are more intricate strap options that you can purchase that may be more comfortable, easier to get around your board, and provide a more secure attachment to your board. If you don’t like the ones that came with your board, you may want to upgrade.
  • Some straps are adjustable so that they are the right length for your height. If the strap that came with your board is one length only, do consider an upgrade.
  • When you’re sure your board is secure in the shoulder strap, place the padded section over your shoulder. In this arrangement, your SUP is like a giant duffle bag or purse. For some people this is the perfect way to haul their SUP.
  • If you don’t love dangling your paddleboard off of one shoulder, place the strap over your head and across your body, in a cross-shoulder carry. Carrying the board this way distributes the weight and bulk of the board more evenly across your body. It also allows your body to use your muscles more efficiently.
  • Don’t just let your board swing around. Always support it by placing your hand on the board to keep it steady.
  • Using the shoulder strap can free up one of your hands for carrying other items like your paddle and life jacket.

Way 2: Using the designated handles

If you’re not a fan of the shoulder strap, you may want to try using the center handle. In our experience, this is most often used by taller riders, who can easily wrap their arm around the board. To carry your board this way, follow these steps:

  1. Place your paddleboard flat on the ground with the carry handle facing up.
  2. Kneel or squat next to the center of your board, close to the carry handle.
  3. Grab the carry handle with your dominant hand.
  4. Using your other hand, lift the board and set it on the edge or rail that is furthest from you, in a vertical position.
  5. Hold the board securely using both hands, then stand up.
  6. Don’t over bend the hand on the handle, this can be uncomfortable.
  7. Lean the board against your torso for added support.
  8. Start walking to your desired destination.

The carrying handle is intended to be a quick and easy way to transport your board.

However there are a few things you need to keep in mind when you carry your board this way.

  • Wind can be your enemy when you are carrying your paddleboard, but especially if you’re carrying it with the center handle. A strong wind can turn your board into a sail, which can thrash you around. If you’re in windy conditions, point the nose of your board directly into the wind. This will keep you in better control of your board.
  • Be mindful when setting your board down using the center handle. Be as gentle as possible so you can avoid scratching or denting your board.
  • Whenever possible, set your board down on a soft surface like sand or grass. If nothing else, try to find a fairly smooth surface to set your board on. This will keep it from being scratched or damaged.
  • The center carrying handle is most convenient if you’re only going a short distance. If you have to carry your board a longer distance you’ll want to consider one of the other two options.

Way 3: Using your head or going surfer style

This is the classic way of carrying your SUP. Taking after the preferred transport method for surf boards, this way of carrying your paddleboard is relatively easy for everyone, and as an added benefit doesn’t require any special equipment.

Getting your SUP on your head is simple and effective. However it should be done with care to avoid damaging your board. Here are the steps for carrying your board surfer style:

  1. Place your paddleboard on the ground, deck side down, fin facing up.
  2. Squat or bend down at the tail end of your board.
  3. Grab both sides of your board at the tail and lift slowly. (Always lift with your legs, not your back. Even light objects can cause injury if you’re lifting improperly)
  4. Lift the tail end of your board above your head, and start walking underneath your board, toward the center.
  5. When you reach the center carry handle, stop walking, and grip the side rails holding them securely.
  6. Bend your knees and push up with your knees and arms, so that your board balances on top of your head.
  7. When you feel the board is balanced, stand up straight and adjust the board as needed for it to feel secure on your head.
  8. Start walking.

Tips to carrying your paddleboard

Photo by Malik Skydsgaard / Unsplash

Now that you have an idea of how to carry your board using three simple options, you’re ready to head out on your next SUP adventure, looking a little more confident. Here are a few additional tips to take your paddleboard carrying skills to expert level.

  • Base your carrying method on the weight of your board. Use surfer style or shoulder straps for heavier boards.
  • Carrying your board on your head provides more control and stability, even in the wind.
  • If you’re carrying multiple boards consider a SUP cart. These are great tools for parents with smaller children who already have their own paddleboards.
  • A SUP cart is also great if you have extra gear like coolers, multiple paddles, and chairs for the beach.
  • If a hard board becomes too much for you to carry around, consider an inflatable paddleboard. These can be deflated between uses, making transporting them super easy.

Picking up the paddle the right way

Congratulations, you’ve picked up your board, and you’re ready to walk. But – what about your paddle? Picking up your paddle when you’ve already got your board in hand can be challenging. The easiest way to pick up your paddle when you’re already holding your board is to lean it up against something so you don’t have to bend over.

If you want to skip carrying your paddle all together, you can strap your paddle to your board. This is especially easy with shoulder straps, but can also be done with the other two carry methods. Strapping your paddle to your board makes it easier to carry both your board and your paddle.

Putting down the board safely

Setting your board down should be done carefully, especially when you are carrying your board on your head. Setting the board on the tail can damage the fin box, so when taking it down from your head, set it on the nose instead. With the other two methods, you’ll set the board on its side, and gently tip it over so it is deck side down.

And, remember, set your SUP down on a soft surface whenever possible. This will protect your board from scratches and dents.

We’ve written another post on how to strap your paddleboard to the roof rack of your car. It makes for easy transfer of your board.

How to carry an inflatable paddleboard

The carrying methods that we’ve discussed to this point relate mostly to hard paddleboards. Carrying your inflatable SUP is a different process altogether. If you are not deflating your inflatable SUP after every use, you’ll carry it in the same manner as your hard board.

If you deflate your SUP between uses, you may want to consider investing in a SUP Backpack. A SUP backpack makes transporting your inflatable paddleboard so much easier. You can pack your paddleboard, paddle and life vest into the backpack, and then you only have one thing to carry. These packs also carry your inflation pump and hose so you can inflate your board when you are near to your put-in point.

For added ease and convenience look for SUP backpacks that have good, heavy-duty wheels to make hauling your gear as easy as possible.

Final thoughts

If you are still getting comfortable with your SUP and carrying it from car to water, it’s good to know that even experienced paddlers were once challenged by carrying their boards.

We’ve provided you with three easy ways to carry your paddleboard. Trying each method will allow you to learn which you’re most comfortable with. Remember, you may want to use all of the three methods depending on your situation, so make sure you practice carrying your board with each technique.

As you get out more, and you carry your board more frequently, you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable and soon you’ll be the person on the beach that all of the new paddlers are looking at, because you make carrying your board look as graceful as paddling your board across the water.