Tips for Paddle Boarding Rivers

What I love about the sport of stand up paddling is how versatile it is in various types of water environments.  And unlike a kayak you can move around on the board controlling trim and rocker and it’s easy to exit!

Paddling SUPs on river is a hoot!  I recommend taking a class from a certified instructor before you go on any river to learn essential skills to keep you off the news.

Here’s some Basics:

River Classes

Class 1 River – No rapids or whitewater. Easy flowing but still some hazards to avoid like strainers.  Beginning to intermediate.

Class 2 River – Some rapids and rocks, fast moving water but also eddies to rest in. Intermediate to Expert.

Class 3 River – Few eddies and fast moving water with rocks. Expert level.

Class 4 – River – No eddies, fast water, drops, pure whitewater.  Expert level.

Our river sup instructor Brice on the Skagit River

Our river sup instructor Brice on the Skagit River


  • Coiled leash attached to vest PFD side straps.  Or River Specific quick release leash on side straps. Ankle leashes have led to many river fatalities due to entanglement.
  • PFD / Lifejacket vest style. No waist pfds.
  • Whitewater helmet
  • Determine wetsuit or dry suit. Both are fine, a personal preference
  • Paddling booties to protect your feet from rocks.
  • Paddling gloves and hood to stay warm
  • Throw rope to help a friend
  • Think about a deck bag to carry extra clothing, food, water, etc.

Essential Skills:

  • Learn to fall flat like a pancake
  • Learn how to use eddies. Entering eddies from current and breaking out into eddies.
  • How to cross an eddy line, where to enter and exit.
  • How to ferry across a river
  • Paddling in rough water
  • Identifying river hazards like log jams, strainers, dangerous hydraulics and more.
  • River rescue skills to help others
  • Wilderness First Aid.  Shit happens on moving water, be ready for it.

We offer year around SUP River skills on rivers in Washington State. 

About Rob Casey – Named a pioneer in the SUP industry by Stand Up Journal, Rob is the author of “Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers” and “Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips.” Rob owns SUP and Kayak school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle. He also runs several paddling races.


Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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