Downwind SUP Certification​

My experience with Rob and the PSUPA has been extremely helpful in negotiating the many aspects of my lessons and guiding business. The PSUPA Instuctor program not only has more of a detailed focus on paddle technique, safety and modifications than other instructor courses I have participated in, but the course also covers in depth many of the ‘back end’ aspects to running a water based business.

Jaecey Suda

Owner/Operator, More Watertime Maui

Starting a downwind business or looking to add downwinding to your business? Our expert PSUPA trainers from the north shore of Maui, Oahu and the Pacific Northwest will train you to be the most skilled and knowledgeable downwind instructor as possible. You'll also learn how to develop successful downwind educational programs.

Course Duration: Typically 2-3 days. Minimum of 2 days.

Minimum Age of Participants: 18 years old.

Teacher-to-Student Ratio: 1:1, 1:2, 2:3


Learn how to safely teach a downwinding class on a variety of locations from lakes and rivers to open water.

Certification Requirements

Certification Valid for 4 Years: PSUPA certified instructors are required to take a one-day refresher course in their certification every four years to keep their certification valid.

Keeping Certifications Active: Active Annual PSUPA Membership and Current hands-on First Aid / CPR certification is required to keep certification active.


  • Have current hands-on (i.e., not Internet-based) First Aid/CPR certification or Wilderness First Aid or Lifeguard Training certification or the equivalent for your location.
  • Be in good overall physical shape, be able to swim to shore from any downwind run and be able to lift and carry all equipment.
  • Have at least two years of downwinding experience. Additional experience in SUP surf, rivers and/or ocean racing a plus.
  • Be able to launch and land a board safely, as well as safely fall from and remount a board in waves.
  • Be comfortable walking on a SUP board and comfortable balancing in rough water conditions.
  • Know advanced paddling techniques and be able to maintain directional control of a board, including various strokes for turning and paddling straight in high wind conditions.
  • Be able to paddle twice the length of most downwind runs on flat water.
  • Have positive interpersonal skills and understand your role as a SUP Ambassador.
  • Hold current PSUPA membership.
  • Sign liability form, provided by Instructor Trainer.This is not a course for beginners.

Note: Instructor Trainers have the right not to pass students who do not adequately demonstrate teaching skills and have a poor overall evaluation. If a student who does not pass wants to continue to work toward certification, further training outlined by an Instructor Trainer, at an additional expense to the student, will be required prior to issuing certification.

If you are not an experienced paddler or don’t yet meet the requirements for this certification, please consider taking some basic and advanced SUP classes from our Instructor Trainers or Certified Instructors before pursuing this certification.



This short on-water course is offered to make sure all students are prepared for an actual downwind run. The course can be taken prior to the Downwind certification or as the first day.

Essential Testing Techniques:

  • Directional control – Establish a mini obstacle course to test turning skills.
  • Forward stroke ability – Paddling straight, on one side, ability to change cadence.
  • Footwork – Ability walk comfortably on the board and understanding the benefits.
  • Falling safely as well as re-mounting board easily.
  • Demonstrate rescue techniques such as flip rescue. Test rescue techniques in rough water.
  • Test comfort level in rough water whether it be wind, surf or similar conditions.
  • Ability to paddle with wind waves hitting from sides, tail, nose and quarter directions.
  • Ability to paddle prone, on knees and/or sitting.
  • Swim test. Set up a short course to determine if students can swim some distance and/or in rough water. Add swimming with PFD, and swim with paddle only (no board).
  • Testing of C02 PFD inflation and back-up inflation if cartridge fails.

The Pre-Course is also a great time for clients to demo rental boards prior to an actual run.

Day 1

Understanding Marine Weather

  • Understanding wind, where it comes from, hazards, how it works.
  • Discussion of marine weather forecasts and tools.
  • Choosing safe downwind runs - What works or doesn’t; put-ins and take-outs, wind issues.
  • Discussion of current and tides and how each affect sea state in wind.
  • Downwind terminology – bumps vs waves, glides vs rides.
  • Understanding of sea state conditions for various locations – Ocean, river, lake and inland waterway. For example, for ocean, cover wind direction and speed and how each interacts with ocean swell size, period and direction as well as various beach and reef types.

Downwind Equipment

  • Boards – types, pro and cons of each.
  • Paddles
  • Fins, rudders
  • On-water communication devices including hand signals
  • Lifejackets – Type 3 - vest and Type 5 - C02
  • Leashes – types, double leashing, double string.
  • Rescue gear – tow ropes, rescue communication devices and methods.
  • Clothing for downwinding including footwear
  • Hydration
  • Energy gels, snacks

Downwind Fitness

  • Level of fitness required for downwinding
  • Fitness training
  • Nutrition and hydration
  • How to prepare for a downwind run – Pre-run warm-ups, stretching, post-run recovery.
  • Cross training – Prone, kayak, ski, OC/Canoe, swimming.

Downwind Paddling Techniques

  • Footwork, stance, weighting rails, adjusting trim
  • Stability in rough water – Braces, paddling for stability
  • Falling safely and re-mounting in rough water and high wind.
  • Catching bumps via acceleration, cadence techniques (See Blue Planet’s On-ramp video)
  • Reading water. How to look for bumps, what works, connecting bumps
  • Navigation in wind and swell conditions. Using ranges, triangulation for safety.

Day 2

Rescue and Safety

  • Group dynamics – Keeping track of your group, communication on-water, hand signals
  • Float Plan – Leaving trip info with a friend on shore. Use of Float plan apps.
  • Rescues in open water
  • Evacuation techniques
  • On-water gear repair
  • CPR/First Aid on-water and/or on shore
  • VHF techniques. Weather forecasts, use as walkie-talkie and contacting boats and/or emergency personnel.
  • Do you go or not?

Setting Up a Run

  • Choosing the put-in / launch location
  • Carrying boards in high wind solo or 2 people carry
  • Launching in shore break, ocean and/or river current, reefs,
  • Permits for use of a location
  • Choosing your line, backup or adjusting of line or route.
  • Choosing your take-out and having backup take-outs
  • Shuttles – Hired vs personal shuttles. What to bring, what to leave in car


  • On-water instruction tests / mock class instruction
  • PSUPA test (on paper)

Requirements for Course Completion and Certification

Tests are Pass/Fail with Passing grade at 90% or better.

  • Pass on-water test
  • Pass written test
  • Demonstrate ability to teach land-based and on-water scenarios in the downwind environment.
  • Approval of Instructor Trainer through standardized student evaluation, which includes accessing leadership, teaching skills, and attention to safety

Cost for Certification

PSUPA Membership (annual membership) $ 85.00
On-Water Session (Price is set by local Instructor Trainer.  Typically a 1 day session) Set by Instructor Trainer
On-Line Test $14.25
Miscellaneous- Any associated travel or equipment rental costs for completing On-Water Session Varies

Certification is valid for 4 years (with active membership)

The entire course must be completed within 6 months from starting, (unless a preapproved extension is granted), so it is strongly advised for candidates to solidify their plans for the on-water portion prior to beginning.

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