How To Do a Handstand On a Paddleboard

Doing a handstand on your paddleboard is a real challenge for your balance and your coordination. It’s an excellent exercise for your core muscles and a lot of fun to do. Getting started on this masterpiece of body and board working together can be a bit daunting though!

Place your hands at shoulder width near your handle, with fingers spread apart. Keep your back straight, with your legs near the back end of the board. Take a half step forward with one foot, lift the other leg straight up then kick off with the forward leg and the rest is practice and balance.

Just like that, nothing more too it. Well, of course, there is more to it. We are working on maybe one of the hardest static balance exercises you can do with your board. This post, we will go through, how to do a handstand on your paddleboard, and some ways to get there.

Handstands on a paddleboard

First off, your paddleboard probably is not the first place you will want to learn handstands or similar balance exercises. There are plenty of exercises that you can do to learn handstands; we talk more about them later in the post. Handstands are generally not very dangerous if care is taken, but it is a bit dangerous, and serious injury has resulted from hand-standing both on the ground and on paddleboards.

Handstand sequence

  • Place hands near the center of the board
  • Keep hands shoulder-width apart
  • Place legs as far back as comfortable
  • Keep a straight back
  • Move dominant leg forward
  • Lift the other leg as straight up as you can
  • Kick yourself up

The handstand on the paddleboard starts with your hand shoulder-width apart. Place them in the exact center of your board, one to each side of the board. Extend your fingers to give more leverage to your hand.

The exact center of your board is usually where your carry handle is placed, so this is a good starting point. Starting in the exact center of your board is essential as the board will tend to lunge out under you if your weight is not centered. This can be overcome as you learn, but starting centered gives you the best chance for success.

Place your leg as far back from your hands as is comfortable. Try if possible to do this with a straight back as this reduces the risk of injury. 

Move your dominant leg forward. This is the leg you feel most comfortable doing this with. Most people have one very dominant leg that the use in most reflex situations. Surfers, for instance, always stand with their dominant leg back. If you don’t know, here you can find a guide to finding out. 

After your dominant foot is forward you move your other leg as straight up as you can. Trying to handstand with your back leg down is not a good idea. This will lead to you having to kick harder, which in turn leads to increased risk of falling over.

The final part is the hard part. You kick with the leg you still have down, as you go up into a handstand position you will need to find your balance point. This is the point where you do not need to do any movement to keep standing. During the kick you may feel the board move in under you, this is normal as the board moves instead of you. On dry land, you would shift your body over to perform the same.

There you are! Hand-standing on your paddleboard!

Head stands on a paddle board are a little easier

How hard is a handstand on a paddleboard?

Handstand on your paddleboard is harder than a handstand on land. It is a movable platform as opposed to the ground or a floor; this adds to the difficulty. 

It is much easier to do a handstand on a solid hulled stand-up paddleboard than on an inflatable. The inflatable will bend in the middle as you do your handstand. This may make you feel more unstable. However, while you are learning to do this, an inflatable is quite a bit safer. There are no hard surfaces for you to injure yourself on.

If you fall while practising, try as much as possible to fall in the water. When you fall, you can also try and push the board out from under you to minimize the risk of landing on it.

If you are comfortable doing the handstand lengthwise on your board, you can try and do it across. This is with your shoulders must be parallel to the board with one shoulder facing the bottom end of your board and the other the top. You will need a bit more finger and hand strengthing to pull this off, but it’s great fun once you get it. It is also a bit safer to fall from this position.

Do you do not want to risk this on your board? Read on to learn tips on how to get all the way to hand-standing on your paddleboard, one exercise at a time.

AquaSportsPlanet is an Amazon Associate. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In our paddle board yoga article, we have two stable platform yoga boards we recommend. This SHUBU Flow All Water Yoga iSUP comes as a complete package from Amazon.

Read more in our own yoga article.

How to handstand on flat ground

To learn how to do a handstand properly on your paddleboard it is best to start by practising on flat ground. After you master the handstand on flat ground and on the paddleboard, you will find that there are elements of the paddleboard handstand that are easier than it’s land equivalent.

To learn a freestanding handstand, it is best if you have a friend that can spot you. Also, try to practice on soft ground like grass, outdoors, or judo or gymnastics mats, indoors. 

Handstand on land steps

  • Place hands shoulder-width apart
  • Place legs as far back as comfortable
  • Keep a straight back
  • Move dominant leg forward
  • Lift the other leg as straight up as you can
  • Kick yourself up

Start in the same position as described for the paddleboard. Hands at shoulder distance apart, feet back and back straight. Then take the same step forward with your dominant leg and lift the other. When you kick off, start with a bit of force, so you feel for how much you need. When you have kicked and are upright, falling back on your legs is better than tipping over. When up, what you are looking for is the balance point. It will not feel natural in the beginning, but as you get used to being upside down, the sweet spot will get more apparent every time.

The sweet spot, also known as a balance point, is actually a very natural position. Think of standing still, feet a bit wide. You do not use a lot of energy to hold this position. If you flip yourself entirely upside down, that is the handstand balance point. You don’t use a lot of energy to keep it. That is if you ignore the fact that your legs are designed to hold you up and your arms are not really.

You can also practice by backing up a wall. Start by laying down on your belly on the ground in front of a wall or a big tree. Then put your hands down as if you are doing push-ups. From that position start “walking” up the wall with your feet while following in towards the wall with your hands. When you get to almost vertical, you nudge your feet off the wall and presto, handstand.

A spotter is useful in this situation as well as tipping yourself over with the nudge of the wall is easy. Your spotter does not need to be super fit or trained, just strong enough to nudge you back to the wall.

For a more in-depth overview of how to learn land handstands, see the video above for some great tips. Many sports and fitness activities include handstands as a part of their curriculum, Capoeira and Yoga, to name a few. Capoeira on a paddleboard, now we are talking!

And the easier thing? On your paddleboard, you can move the “ground”, which normally is not possible on land. Have a go at handstands with your paddleboard, and maybe you’ll understand what I mean. You can keep your balance by moving the board instead of only shifting your weight. Some tricks become a lot easier once you have this down. This one, shown on land, going from a crow position to a handstand and back is one such. We will cover this a bit more further on.

Easier ways to practice

If you cant, find your balance point while standing on flat ground and feel you need to practice more doing it in a pool can be an option. You will be cushioned when you fall, and you can very easily adapt your challenge to your abilities.

A pool is a great way to learn handstands, that is if you don’t mind being upside down underwater. Anything you can do on land or on a paddleboard that has to do with being upside-down can be practised in a pool. Remember, though that it is a bit too easy on your muscles. This means you need to practice a bit more complicated things than you would do on land or on your board. 

Pool exercises

  • Handstand
  • Handstand push-ups
  • One-handed handstand
  • One-handed push-ups

All that sounds far more difficult than it is. The only barrier, which is insurmountable to some, is being upside down underwater. A swimmers nose-clip can help if you keep getting water in your nose.

You regulate how hard all these exercises are by varying the depth of water you do them in. If the water is at neck-height on you, it will be very easy. If at waist height significantly closer to doing them on land. And well, of course, doing them with no water is doing them on land.

The plain handstand and the one-handed handstand in a pool is mainly to get your bearings learning handstands this way. When you are upside down in the water, you will feel the balance point very quickly and moving in the water will leverage, more than air, so you can quickly compensate.

After you get the handstand down in neck-deep water, move quickly on to the handstand push-ups.

The handstand push-ups is a nice way to practice not only your core muscles and your arms but also your ability to hold your breath underwater.

Stand in water that suits your experience. Go to a handstand then do handstand push-ups for as long as you can. Count them to track your progress. You will improve really fast in the beginning. Do three repetitions of as-many-as-you-can handstand push-ups with a short break of 30 seconds to a minute between. Then take a long breather between the sets.

As it gets easier, go for shallower water. With enough repetitions, you will be able to do the handstand push-ups without water eventually.

The one-hand underwater push-up is a great way to practice that extra bit of balance. Do the sets as described for handstands but alternate between your left and right arm. Keep the arm you are not using next to your body, not flailing around in the water.

Things to learn about your board

There are some things that you can learn about your board that makes going from a land handstand to a paddleboard handstand a little bit easier.

When you have gotten the hang of handstands on land or in a pool, moving to a paddleboard can be helped by understanding how your body propels itself upwards. When you have one leg in the air and one ready to kick-off, what happens is that you move your center of gravity. You move it from being balanced between your hands and the remaining foot to be right between your hands. As the paddleboard is a movable object, you as much move the board with your hands in place as you move yourself. 

This trick may seem very counter-intuitive, but if you think about it, it will probably become clearer. With a handstand on land, you have to move your body over your hands. That means first accelerating your body up, then stopping it when you are up. Normally this is done by accelerating just as much as needed on no more.

But with your board, you can accelerate your body a lot less horizontally and just do the vertical part. Then instead of moving your body, you move the board. It is a bit like sliding the support, that is your hands connected to your board, instead of moving your body.

If you have ever seen someone do a handstand on a skateboard, that is the exact same thing. They move the skateboard to keep balance, not their hand on the skateboard. When keeping your balance on a paddleboard, the same is true. On land, you need to move your hands if you start to fall over, on the board, it is possible only to move the board. Just like a skateboard, but usually in the other direction. If you practice doing your handstand the other way on your paddleboard, you will be closer to the skateboard experience.

Now, this is maybe a bit too much information. If you are new to handstands, in general, it will not make sense, probably. As you learn, however, keep this in mind. It will make sense once you start on your paddleboard.

In this video from a floating yoga school, they mention this. Not with an explanation but you can see in the movie how she pulls the board when she goes up. (That is, right before she falls down) 

Handstands and more!

As you build up your shoulder and arm strength, as well as work on your core muscles and balance, you will eventually progress to even more daring acts on the paddleboard.

Almost anything done on land can also be done on a paddleboard. We’ve talked about how some moves are easier once you learn to use your board to your advantage. Our imagination and physical limitations are all that holds us back. 

In paddleboard yoga, several positions defy gravity most gracefully. Anything from headstands to one of those body-knots no one seems to be able to explain what they are for. There are great exercises in the balance waiting for you on our paddleboard.

Just paddling you paddleboard is an awesome core workout. Taking it to the next level is even better. Your paddleboard is a very versatile tool and great fun to boot!

Practice, practice, practice!

Everything you will learn on your paddleboard needs practice. The more advanced the moves, the more you have to plan your way there. Which naturally means more practice. This article provides an outline that most people can follow to learn handstands on their boards. Start in a pool to build strength, practice on land to learn the basic handstand and move on to your paddleboard.

Experience the unique feeling of standing upside down on a board on the ocean. Feel a new connection to the water that carries you and your paddleboard. 

Next stop, surf while hand-standing! (that was almost a joke)

That is all for today, fellow paddleboarders.

Handstand safe and have fun!

Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

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