SUP Certifications

For those wishing to become a professional stand up paddle boarder, qualified to teach the skill to others, there are various certification programs available. Many groups offer certifications. The certification programs differ significantly in terms of the experience needed, skills required, time necessary to complete the program, and the cost.

The most popular certification programs include the ones offered by these organizations:

  • Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI)
  • American Canoe Association (ACA)
  • National Surf Schools and Instructors Association (NSSIA)
  • PaddleFit
  • Professional Stand Up Paddle Association (PSUPA)
  • World Paddle Association (WPA)
  • World Stand Up Paddle board Association (WSUPA)

Here is a comparison of the leading SUP certification programs:


Australian organization, long associated with surfing, has a global presence, which gives it some credibility for marketing purposes. There is a strong curriculum offered for different levels of SUP. It was one of the first organizations to offer SUP instructor certification. The certification requires background experience in surfing, not paddling, based on years of experience, not on the number of students taught. ASI offers five levels of certification including those with a focus on flat water, exposed water, distance cruising, racing, and surf SUP.

This is the oldest paddle sports association established the 1970s. It was one of the first to offer certification and insurance for paddle sports instructors. The association has a very large membership. The courses are comprehensive and low cost. The course takes longer to complete because they cover more material. One disadvantage in marketing is that the association name has no direct relationship to stand up paddle boarding.
ACA offers 4 levels of certification including those for basic SUP, whitewater, and surf SUP. ACA also offers a special SUP Yoga instructor endorsement.
This association requires having a background in surf instruction, therefore it concentrates on surf SUP and ocean safety.
NSSIA has four levels of certification, with the top master level requiring 20 years of surfing experience.

This group has a one-day certification program for $295, which includes WPA certification as well. Almost everyone passes the entry level. The emphasis is on using stand up paddle boarding for fitness and exercise. The courses are well organized and the certification provides a fresh new approach for marketing SUP instruction combined with fitness.
PaddleFit offers three levels of certification. This program is more expensive than the others, with one or two-day courses that cost between $295 to $549.

This newer association has a 2-day course for an SUP instructor that includes business practices. Currently, they offer

  • Flatwater level 1 certification
  • Downwinding
  • River
  • SUP Surf
  • SUP Yoga

This association has a very large number of worldwide members, was one of the first to offer certifications, and the first certification course only takes one day.
WPA offers five levels of certification with course fees ranging from $195 to $395.

This association offers a one-day certification program that focuses on testing the swimming and paddling ability of the persons wanting to become instructors.
This is a newer association with only one level of certification based on passing a skills test.