All About Prone Paddle Boards: A Complete Guide

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Prone Paddle Boards are a niche relative of stand-up paddle boarding but people who use them swear by them. And really all paddle boarders should learn some of these techniques as they can really come in handy in certain situations

Prone Paddle Boarding is a great way to work out new muscle groups while being closer to the water. It is also a worthwhile technique to learn in case you get a lower-body injury while paddle boarding. 

Below we overview everything about Prone Paddle Boarding and why its a good idea to at least learn some of the techniques. 

An Introduction to Prone Paddle Boarding

Photo Kindly provided by Jianca Lazarus Photograpghy

For those who don’t know, prone paddle boarding is a paddle boarding technique that involves laying on your chest and propelling a specialized board with your hands. There are two types of prone paddling techniques:

  • Laying on your chest and using the front crawl stroke 
  • Resting on your knees and bending over propelling yourself using a butterfly crawl.

To do proper prone paddle boarding, you need a prone paddle board to minimize drag and maximize your speed with your hands. These hard boards usually start at $1100 and above for a new board and are made of fiberglass coating wrapped around the foam and a stringer. You can sometimes find used boards in about the $800 price range

Types of Prone Paddle Boarding

There are 3 main common classifications of prone paddle boards that are listed at designated racing events. According to Jack Bark from Bark paddle Boards..

  • 12’ Prone Boards: These are usually boards that are best for people in the weight classification of 130 to 180 lbs. If you are in this weight classification this will most likely be the board you learn on. 
  • 14’ Prone Boards: These are boards that are made for bigger/ taller people over 180 lbs. The two extra feet also make these boards track better and are better suited for longer distance paddling excursions like island crossings
  • UL or Unlimited Prone Paddle Boards: These are boards that range from 15-21 feet and are used by the pros. Sometimes these boards even come equipped with a rudder to help the paddler steer better. 

Why Paddle Boarders Should Learn Prone Paddle Boarding Techniques

Paddle boarders should learn prone paddle-boarding techniques for a few reasons.

  1. The Prone paddling technique is a great self-rescue technique in case you get a lower-body injury while paddle boarding. 
  2. Prone Paddling like swimming works different muscle groups including core abdominal, deltoids, shoulder muscles, forearm muscles, upper back muscles as well as glutes and hamstring muscles for balance. 
  3. Prone Paddling is useful when you have to paddle against heavy winds. Rather than acting like a sail for your board and standing. You reduce aerodynamic drag by being down low, therefore reducing your overall profile and allowing you to face less wind resistance when you paddle. 

This helps you have a broader range of focus and can act as a kind of cross-SUP training you can add to paddle boarding. 

Items to Have For Prone Paddle Boarding 

Luckily, like paddle boarding, you don’t need much in the way of accessories. All you really need is:

  • A Prone Paddle Board: A regular paddle board may do as well although you will be going slower using the prone technique and your front stroke will be interrupted by the board’s width.
  • A SUP Leash: In flat water, a normal coiled SUP leash will do but in surf zones, you should always use a straight leash. Especially if you are paddling a bigger and heavier Unlimited board. The force of a big prone board going the opposite motion of you can put unnecessary pressure on your legs and could even cause injury. 
  • A Sleeveless Rash Guard or Wetsuit: Your Arms will be the main thing in motion so you don’t want anything restricting them. 

If you are going offshore it’s probably best to bring a PFD. However, under rule 33 CFR 175.11 (CFR Stands for Code of Federal Regulations) the Coast Guard does not classify (at least not yet) a prone board as a vessel as it is operated by your hands and not by a paddle, oar, sail or propeller. 

We understand that vest PFD can get in the way so it’s best to get a Belt PFD in this case. We have a few good nonobstructing ones here in our Best SUP PFD’s list

How to Prone Paddle Board

Below are some tips as to how to Prone Paddle Board. We figured its best you learn from one of the fathers of Prone Paddle Boarding, Mr. Jack Bark.

Be Observant of Your Surroundings

Because you are lower in the water than most other vessels you need to be extra careful about everything that surrounds you. Make sure you are not in any high-traffic areas of boats and other vessels and do a shoulder check every once and a while. 

Keep Your Neck Relaxed

In other words, do not over-extend your neck as that can lead to a “pain in the neck” type of injury (Anyone get it? No? ok). 

In all seriousness, you don’t need to crank your neck up to see everything. Rather position your head in such a way that your peripheral vision can see the horizon. The exact neck position may differ from person to person so try out a few positions in flat water and find what’s most comfortable for you.

Ease Yourself Into it

Screenshot of a Video done by Jack Bark and Surftech

When starting out you want to paddle in shallow water in calm flat water conditions. These are the best conditions to get started as you don’t have to worry about tides, currents, or other obstructions. Which is where things can get dangerous. I would say preferably start off in a small to medium-sized lake. 

Practice Getting Speed and Momentum

As you get better try to get momentum going without overly straining yourself. Try to go a bit longer each time and you will be training your muscles to go longer and longer as you get more experienced. 

Switch Positions to Avoid Straining

As you get more experienced you will find that after a while your chest and arms me be starting to get sore doing the same movements over. Switch to the kneeling position to give those muscles a break and do a butterfly-like paddle as seen in the video. 


Here are some common Prone Paddle Boarding FAQs.

What’s the Difference Between Prone Paddle Boards and Stand Up Paddle Boards

Prone paddle boards have a thinner width and a pointer nose and tail which allows them to slice through the water. Stand-up paddle boards are made for stability which means have to be wider. 

Prone Paddle Boards also are typically longer than stand-up paddle boards. Prone Paddle Boards can be 12 -21 feet while stand-up paddle boards usually are in the 10 – 12 foot range for all-around SUPs.  

Prone boards also have a hollowed-out design in the middle to allow you to put your body or knees in. The hull is also uplifted so that The water is designed to flow off the sides of the front of the board while you are paddling with your arms. 

Can You Use a Stand Up Paddle Board as a Prone Board?

Theoretically, yes you can use a stand-up paddle board to the prone position but you will be a lot slower in the water. The width of a stand-up paddle board will also get in the way of doing true front crawls so you are even more disadvantaged using a SUP to prone board. 

Can You Use a Surfboard as a Prone Paddle Board?

A surfboard would work better as a prone board than a stand-up paddle board as they have a thinner width. But they will still lack the paddling efficiency, speed, and tracking of a true Prone board. 

Can You Use an Inflatable Paddle Board to Prone Paddle?

You can use an inflatable paddle board to prone paddle but it will be even less efficient than both a hard paddle board and the surfboard options. This is because inflatable paddle boards sit on top of the water rather than in the water. So you will lack the true tracking of a prone board and you will not be able to go as fast due to the water sitting on top of the water rather than cutting through it. 

Having looked a bit, Surftech does offer an inflatable prone board although it won’t be as efficient as models like Bark that cut through the water. 

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Hey, My name is Derek Lenze and I'm the owner of Inflatable SUP Authority. I've had over 20 years experience with watersports and over 10 years of various paddle boarding experience. My new-found passion is bringing my stand up paddle boaring knowledge in an explainable and actionable way all the while giving you my unbiased takes.