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Why Door County is the best location for learning to Paddle Board

Exploring a wetlands preserve on a paddleboard

Door County is a great spot to learn to paddle board

Wave riding on Paddle boards is the goal of many riders. There is a logical progression for you to work on in order to safely enjoy the challenging conditions.

Your posture and technique are the keys to comfort and reduced energy expenditure. Having all the variables dialed in to the point that you don’t have to think about them is when you are ready to advance to the next level.

We also cover basic weather analysis so you can be ready for wind and wave changes, temperatures and storms predictions.

All these factors help decide where and when you want to go paddling.

We’ll be adding more posts covering the instructional progression that leads to wave riding, but here is the basic outline:

  1. Beginners learn the basics in a safe, fun easy environment with fairly flat water. Beginners start with basic balance skills, learn the safety protocols and a variety of paddle stokes for the different foot positions. We start you in flat water to isolate the variables.
  1. Advanced Beginners may choose to take a downwind tour with small swells giving them a push from behind. Learning the timing of the wave and corresponding weight shift to get your board sliding down the wave is easy and fun once you have learned the paddle strokes in your first lesson.
  1. Intermediates will enjoy the many beaches that provide gentle waves close to shore where they can learn how to paddle surf style with their arms while laying on their bellies for maximum efficiency and safety. Achieving an instinct for the timing and judging of wave characteristics comes easily in the shallow water close to shore. This is safe and fun for children and adults.
  1. Advanced Intermediates will learn how to time the waves allowing them to paddle standing up and punch out through the breaking waves. Once outside the lineup, they will learn how to pick the right wave and time the strokes to catch the wave as well as decide whether to turn right or left depending on the conditions.
  1. Advanced riders will learn where the secret spots in Door County are. Challenging and often head high waves are available if you have the skill and local knowledge. Once you can ride in breaking waves, you’ll want options for bottom turns, off the lip, and a variety of tricks.


For those of you looking to surf the Great Lake, we recommend that you reserve a package of lessons/tours so that over the summer you can advance through the levels.

If you are already an experienced Paddle boarder in flat water but want to start advancing towards the wave riding, we can assess your level and start you wherever you’re ready for.

We have over 300 miles of coastline on Green Bay and Lake Michigan, plus several inland lakes to accommodate all skill levels and any wind/wave direction.

All sports evolve with time.

What began as a fringe activity has exploded into one of the biggest water sports in the world. In the beginning, a few watermen looked back to the roots of surfing and out-rigger canoes searching for alternative methods of catching waves.

Back in the summer of 2000 I was using old giant windsurfing boards with canoe paddles to teach kids basic board skills, as well as towing behind a rowboat with a 10 hp motor at slow speeds. This was a great stepping stone to prepare them for waterskiing and wakeboarding while eliminating the need for the difficult deep water starts, and the speeds needed to stay on top of the water which creates significant impact when making mistakes as a beginner.

Since then, a wide variety of board designs have emerged for all levels of skill, size of participants and style of riding. Whether you are racing for money, cruising for fitness and relaxation, balancing for Yoga or surfing on waves, there is a board design for you and your budget.

Paddles have evolved too – Lighter, stronger and more efficient. DCKT has lightweight boards and paddles available for retail in addition to rentals, tours and instruction.

And now, 15 years later there are a huge number of SUP Stand-Up-Paddle-Boarders around the world who have mastered the art of cruising in flat water.

You’ve all seen the photos of SUP’s in waves. The magazines are full of them. Videos on YouTube have you drooling for that adrenaline rush. But you can’t just head out into the waves without knowing all the variables. As with any exciting sport, there are risks.

Fortunately, Door County has over 300 miles of coastline on the bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, with beaches facing in all directions which provide a wide variety of wave conditions suitable for all levels of SUP wave riding instruction.

Door County Kayak Tours is unique in the SUP department because we have highly experienced surfers who can train you safely to ride waves in an easy, logical, fun progression. We know all the secret spots that are uncrowded and provide gentle waves that don’t have rip currents, and don’t hold you down under the water if you fall.

If you’re an experienced Paddle Boarder wanting to get into the waves, or if you’re a beginner who wants more than just flat water cruising, then call us this season and get into our program. We do more than just rent boards and let you fend for yourself – We can train you to progress to the level you’ve been dreaming of.

Beginners learn best in protected flat calm water and we have multiple locations that guarantee these factors.

Intermediates seeking more challenging condition such as downwind cruising in moderate swells for gentle surfing and breaking waves on sandy beaches, and Door County has many options for instruction in wave riding all around the peninsula.

We can also charter boats for towing surf skills progressions so you get extended time carving turns and learning in one session what would normally take many hours of paddling and catching individual rides on waves.

For the advanced riders, we have Secret Beaches – spots that only the dedicated local surfers know about. Uncrowded and significant sized waves that will satisfy experienced surfers.

We can take you from beginner paddlers to riding waves in just a few sessions. Make this summer your surfing summer.

Intermediate Level Paddle Board: Riding small broken waves on the inside sandbar is the safe and easy way to first experience sliding on a wave.

These photos of a teenage boy riding small waves at Ridges Sanctuary Beach in Baileys Harbor shows great style and control.

After gaining confidence in flat water, we ditch the paddle for a while to learn the board skills the old school way – paddling with our arms.

First we just paddle and ride while lying flat on our stomachs.

Then up to your knees, and eventually standing. Repetition makes for instinct, and having the right instincts allow you to gradually increase the wave sizes safely.

These progressions are so much fun you don’t even notice that it’s exercise and good for your health!

The best compliment I ever got from parents was, “After surfing all day with you, he fell asleep on the car ride home”.

If you want your kids, or yourselves to be tired and happy, then try surfing in Door County.  Give us a call to get your kids in the water and learning something new! (920)868-1400

Are you an experienced Paddle Boarder?

Do you want to progress to the next level?

September is our month for waves in Door County and this is your chance to learn how to surf your paddle board.

If you already own your own board, then our 2 hour surfing clinic is only $25, if you need to rent a board we can provide one for you at an additional charge of $35.

Naturally we are at the beck and call of Mother Nature so we’ll take your phone number and email to contact you when conditions are favorable and you can attend if you’re available.

Email us at

Or phone 920.868.1400 to be on our call list