L1 Conversion

The SUP SAFE Code and Courses

Important! Free stuff for you to help make our sport safer, and safety course presenter opportunities….

In order to try and deliver a clear and consistent safety message, NZ SUP developed the SUP SAFE CODE in 2019. A simple five point plan (aligned closely with the Maritime NZ Safer Boating Code) that covers all the essentials of SUP safety. The SUP SAFE code is shown below, and there’s also a video from the SUP SAFE course you can watch for more background and information.

If everyone followed the SUP safe code, the number of rescues and callouts around New Zealand would be dramatically reduced. And the code is very simple to follow. You’re probably already doing all of it yourself already.

So this is a hugely important safety message to get across. Virtually every safety-related incident that occurs is due to lack of education. You can (and should!) play your part in combating this. You don’t have time in a beginner lesson to cover all the important safety issues – but you do have the time to give out a leaflet. Every one of your clients should be made aware of the SUP safe code – which is really easy to do, simply by giving out an information leaflet. The leaflets are completely free – just use the form below to let us know how many you need and we’ll send them you.


SUP SAFE Presenters Wanted!

As a qualified NZ SUP instructor, you can also play another huge part in improving SUP safety knowledge and making our sport safer. The SUP SAFE course is around 2.5 hours of classroom material, covering all aspects of SUP safety and knowledge, including practical/team exercises in interpreting forecasts, planning paddleboarding sessions, etc. The course can be presented in one go, or over several sessions.

Would you like to become a SUP SAFE course presenter? How you use the material is entirely up to you:

  • Some instructors get a grant from their district council to run free safety courses.
  • Some instructors run the course for a small fee from the participants
  • Some instructors run the course as a free session for their regular paddlers / local paddling community
  • Some instructors run sections of the course as wet-weather alternatives to on-water activities
  • Some instructors include sections of the course as part of paid activities.

As long as you’re getting the safety messages out there, we really don’t mind how you do it. If you can use it as a tool to build your business further, then that’s fine by us. Whatever works.

To become a sup safe presenter simply means one of our team getting together with you at some point for a few hours, to walk you through the course material and ensure you understand it all and how best to use it. This is completely free – there is no charge for any aspect of this process.

Please indicate on the form below if you would be interested in becoming a SUP SAFE presenter.


    Here’s the SUP SAFE leaflet, it’s A4 and folds to A5, so is small, neat and easily distributed. The funding for the printing and distribution of these leaflets is paid for by Maritime NZ Safer Boating Forum, for which we are extremely grateful.

    To view or download the full leaflet in PDF format, click here.

    Please note that the leaflet is about to be updated for the 2021/2022 season, and any leaflets requested will be of the new improved version.

    For more on how the SUP SAFE CODE is presented to the public, check out the video below, which is from the SUP SAFE courses.

    Completing your L1 conversion process

    Congratulations, you’ve completed the online stage of the conversion process. Hopefully it all made sense and has given you the opportunity to revise and refresh on a few things. Remember that you’ll have access to all the information here for the duration of your instructor qualification, and you’re welcome to revisit any of the lessons any time.  If you would like to discuss any of the material in the course please contact us.

    If you feel confident in the material, then please go ahead and complete the two online assessments below. The first is multi choice, and you can view the answers after you have completed it. This is to help you ensure that you have absorbed all the knowledge you need. The second is a written test, which we will grade after submission.

    Once you’re past those, you should contact us and book your assessment, if you haven’t already.

    So, here is a quick recap of the ‘homework’ that you have been set during the various lessons, and will need for your practical assessment.

    Delivering a safety briefing 

    Are you practiced and prepared to deliver a safety briefing, as per the Safety Briefing lesson. Have you downloaded and printed out the prompt card and practiced delivering the safety briefing? This will be a requirement at the assessment. 

    Dealing with problems

    Have you produced (ie written out) your own GAGA solution to the problem scenario detailed in the Dealing with Problems lesson ? 

    Delivering a Beginner Lesson

    Have you downloaded and printed out the prompt card and practiced delivering the Part B (the onshore section of the session), as detailed in The Beginner Lesson ? This will be a requirement at the assessment. 

    First Aid Certificate

    Remember you need to upload a copy of your current first aid certicate, as detailed in the previous lesson.

    Your personal details

    All that’s left now is to ensure that your personal details on this site are up to date (including a picture for your profile – not an avatar!), and to submit a brief CV of your paddleboarding instructional career to date, using the ‘assignment form’ below. Let us know where (and who for, if relevant) you’ve been instructing, and a rough indication of how much teaching that actually involved, and to what sort of level. This information will not be for public display, and it’s not going to be judged for spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation etc! It’s just very useful for us to keep a handle on what’s been happening and is happening around the country.

    Please also feel free to tell us what your plans are for the coming season(s) also – we may well be able to offer some guidance or assistance, or connect you with other people or businesses in your area that could be of use to you. We are regularly asked for recommendations for instructors around Aotearoa. So we might be able to send some business in your direction.

    There will shortly be a register of L1 qualified instructors made available to the public, via this website. If you would prefer not to have your details shown on the listing then please indicate this in your profile settings.

    What Happens Next?

    Congratulations, you’ve completed the online section of the L1 Instructor Course!  It’s a lot of information, but you’ll continue to have access to it for the duration of your instructor qualification, and you’re welcome to return and review any of the lessons any time.  If you would like to discuss or query any of the material in the course please contact us.

    If you feel confident in the material, then please go ahead and complete the two online tests below. The first is multi-choice, and you can view the answers after you have completed it. This is to help you ensure that you have absorbed all the knowledge you need. The second is a written test, which we will grade after you have submitted it.

    You MUST complete these two tests in order to finish your qualification process.

    Remember too, your paddling ability assessment as discussed in the introductory lesson. Have you submitted the required video of you paddling? If your paddling skills are not up to the required standard you will not pass the assessment. 

    So, once you’ve done your homework, you feel confident enough in delivering a safety briefing and the part B section of the lessons, and your paddling is up to scratch, then please go ahead and  contact us to organise your assessment. 

    Once you have completed the practical assessment you’ll be able to download your certificate from this website.

    Your First Aid qualification (L1 conversion)

    Well done, you’re nearly finished, just a bit of paperwork to complete now.

    It is a requirement of your qualification that you have a current First Aid certificate. If you hold a current one (ie less than 2 years old) from a country outside of New Zealand, then this may be adequate. If you are going to use an NZ-based certificate, then it should be at very least the Essentials/Workplace qualification, NZQA unit standards 6401 & 6402. (Usually a one day course) We usually recommend taking it to the next level and also covering unit standard 6400, the Comprehensive first aid qualification. (Usually a 2 day course).

    First aid courses are available from many agencies in New Zealand, including:

    St John
    Red Cross

    and many others.

    Please upload a copy of your (current and valid) first aid certificate here, either in PDF or JPG format. If the certificate does not show clearly who the course has been run by and what was covered, please also upload supporting information in a separate document.

    Beginner mistakes (L1 conversion)

    Importance: Very high Understanding and knowing how to rectify the typical mistakes your clients will make is a vital and fundamental skill for the SUP instructor.

    Recognising the standard mistakes that beginners make is an essential aspect of L1 SUP Instruction. If you’ve already been teaching for a while you’ll probably have seen all these mistakes already, many many times! So if you think you’ve already seen everything there is to see, and can spot (and rectify) anything your average beginner can throw at you, and you know which ones are the most serious, then all good – feel free to move on to the next lesson. However, if you’d like to do a bit of refreshing on the subject, there is 35 minutes of very good revision material here that it will do you no harm to refresh on.


    We’ll start by looking at the more serious mistakes, that need to be rectified straight away. This section of the lesson will take about 15 minutes to view.

    Now we need to consider the less significant errors that you’ll encounter, and what to do about them. This video will take about 25 minutes to complete.

    Hopefully you now have a good overall feel for the sort of beginner errors you’re going to be dealing with, and what you need to do about them.

    The important take-aways from this are:

    • Beginners makes LOTS of mistakes!
    • Not all are of equal significance or importance.

    Some mistakes need correcting immediately, because

    • They are likely to cause the client to fall
    • They are likely to cause injury to the client
    • They will cause that client to be very slow in comparison to everyone else

    Others are less serious but, depending on how badly they are being displayed, may

    • prevent the client ever improving or developing
    • cause early fatigue

    To give another view on the most common mistakes, here’s a quick vid from Supboarder mag showing their ‘top 9 paddling’ mistakes, which aligns pretty much with our own descriptions above. (However, note the awful duck/asymmetric stance of the person in the vid! Let’s not be doing any of that!)


    Equipment for teaching SUP (L1 conversion)

    Optional: Equipment choices for teaching beginner SUP, and also the equipment that you the instructor should be using

    A SUP teaching operation must be able to supply each client with the correct equipment for their needs, in order to fulfil one of the fundamental duties of care.  Having the clients on the right kit also ensures that they will get the maximum benefit from their session, and hopefully be inspired to come back for more!

    It is also vitally important that the instructor too is using the right equipment, and carrying the right extras in order to be able to cope with any situations that may arise. 

    If your school already has its gear and you’re happy with the equipment you personally use when on the water in instructor mode, then you can bypass this lesson. However, if your school is looking at re-investing in equipment, or you’re rethinking your own gear reconfiguration, then there will be useful information in this lesson.

    The video will take about 40 minutes to view and discusses: 

    • What boards to use for clients, and the instructor
    • What paddles to use for clients, and the instructor
    • What leashes to use for clients, and the instructor
    • What PFD to use for clients, and the instructor
    • Other equipment for schools, such as wetsuits, footwear, clothing etc. 
    • What else the instructor should be carrying and wearing

    Check Understanding!

    • Do you understand what sort of boards should be used for beginner lessons?
    • Do you understand what sort of equipment you should be using and carrying, in order to be properly prepared as the instructor?

    If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, congratulations, you’ve finished the equipment section of the course, and you can now move on to the final section. If you would like to discuss any of the material in this section please contact us.

    The Beginner Lesson (L1 conversion)

    Importance: Critical! This lesson is very much the ‘meat’ of what the NZ L1 qualification is all about. You will be required to deliver some aspects of a beginner lesson at your practical assessment.

    Unlike most aspects of SUP teaching, the beginner lesson can and should follow a fairly rigid and formal structure, to ensure that everything is covered properly and to ensure the greatest possible chances of successful outcomes. No matter how experienced an instructor you are, we strongly recommend that you work through this lesson, as a refresher on the process.

    You may well find that the process we use in New Zealand differs from what you have been taught, or developed through your own practices. It’s principle it’s not a problem if you do things a bit differently, as long as you are still achieving the same learning outcomes, lesson efficiency and safety practices. However, if you are going to work for an established NZ Paddleboard school then there is every chance that they will operate their lessons as set out here, and they will expect you to do it the same way. For this reason, in your practical assessment we will ask you to demonstrate and follow the procedures detailed here. Once you have passed your assessment, if you choose to revert to your previous way of doing things, that’s up to you.

    Learning to deliver your lessons ‘the NZ SUP way’ should be seen as an opportunity to evaluate your own way of doing things, and – if it is the case – consider why you’re doing it differently. It may be that you’ve found a better way of working (in which case we’d love to hear about it!), or your specific circumstances simply don’t suit the process shown here. As long as you can justify it, it’s not a problem.


    The beginner lesson should be considered as five distinct phases.

    Pre Lesson Preparation
    This is the stuff that happens before the actual lesson itself, ie getting all the kit and paperwork ready

    Part A: Safety Briefing  & maybe a warm-up
    The absolutely vital safety briefing, as covered in detail in a previous lesson, and then perhaps some sort of warm up session, if appropriate. 

    Part B: On the Beach Instruction
    This is another absolutely vital part of the session, introducing the clients to their equipment and showing them how to use it. 

    Part C:  On the water Session
    The session itself, which has its own phases and flow. 

    Part D: Warming down & Following up
    The session does not finish when the clients step off their board at the end of their paddling, especially if you have any desire to see the clients again for further instruction. The lesson should be finished with a debrief and warm down. 

    Each of these phases is explained below, with its own accompanying video. Please excuse the poor sound quality on some of the film footage in these modules. Despite numerous attempts we have not yet managed to find a location that has perfect conditions and perfect silence! We will continue trying.

    If you wish to add further explanation, information and teaching above and beyond what is covered here when you are doing your own lessons, then this will not count against you in the assessment, although we recommend not over-doing the onshore stuff – your clients have come to paddleboard, not talk about it, so ensure that they do get a decent on-water experience!


    Lesson Preparation & Set-Up

    This section will take about 10 minutes to watch and covers:

    • Checks, equipment and paperwork considerations before the lesson 
    • Preparing the lesson site
    • Delivering the safety brief  
    • Doing a warm-up  

    We strongly recommend that you download and use the template prompt card that was provided in the Safety Briefing lesson, while practicing your own safety briefs.

    Now the lesson can start properly…


    On the beach – part 1

    In this section , which will take about 20 minutes to watch, we look at:

    • Introduction to the board & paddle.
    • How to paddle
    • How to change sides with the paddle
    • How to turn
    • How to stop!

    We strongly recommend that you download and use the Part B prompt card while following and practicing delivering this part of the lesson. 

    If you’re comfortable with this part of the onshore briefing, you can now move on to the next part.


    On the beach – part 2

    Now that we have shown them the basics of paddling, we have to show them a few other  really important things. In this section, which will take about 20 minutes to watch, we’ll look at the Part B beach teaching and practice for :

    • How to get on and off the board
    • Paddling in safe position
    • Doing the first stand up
    • Falling in and getting back onto the board
    • Carrying the board

    Again, we strongly recommend that you download and use the Part B prompt card while following and practicing delivering this part of the lesson, until the flow comes naturally.

    Despite the fact that it has taken rather longer to discuss and dissect the Part B material, it actually only takes 10 minutes or so in ‘real life’ with real clients. And it is 10 minutes incredibly well spent that will make all the difference in ensuring your lesson goes smoothly and successfully.

    Hopefully you now have a feel for how it flows. Once you have delivered it a few times it feels extremely natural and becomes easy to deliver. This format is used by virtually every successful SUP school in New Zealand – not because they are mandated to, but simply because it works so well!


    Onto the water!

    Now we’re ready to hit the water. In this module, which will take about 20 minutes to watch, we will look at:

    • The launch
    • The safe position work-through
    • The stand-up
    • Getting going
    • Foot faults
    • The session end

    This module is a bit more discussion-based rather than based on ‘live footage’ as there is a lot to talk about.

    And there you have it. After all the other learning and preparation you have completed in this course, you’ve now done the real thing, and introduced some newcomers to our great sport. Well done!

    One thing not covered in the video – how long should this phase of the lesson last? 45 minutes is a perfectly acceptable amount of time on the water for a first lesson, indeed you will often find that this as much as clients can cope with.

    But it’s not quite over yet. Just a few more things to consider…


    Warm Down & Follow Up

    Finally, once ashore, a couple of really important aspects to finishing the session and ensuring everyone got the most out of it.  In this module, which will take about 8 minutes to watch, we will look at:

    • The wrap-up
    • Onshore debrief
    • Warm Down

    These last few minutes will make a good impression with your clients and also leave you in the best possible position for either then packing up to go home, or preparing for the next lesson.


    In Summary

    So to summarise this very important lesson, we have looked at:

    • Pre lesson preparation
    • Setting up the lesson
    • The safety briefing & warm-up
    • The onshore work
    • Getting everyone onto the water
    • Safe Position Work
    • The stand Up
    • The paddling session
    • The end of the session
    • Post session

    This is undoubtedly one of the most important lessons in this course. Your practical assessment will require you to deliver one or all of:

    • the Part 2 onshore briefing, (using the prompt card if you wish)
    • getting the clients onto the water,
    • working with the clients in Safe Position,
    • getting the clients to their feet for the first time,
    • recovering the clients to shore at the completion of the lesson.

    Feel free to revisit the lesson as often as you require, in order to be properly prepared.

    PFDs for SUP (L1 conversion)

    Importance: Critical! This is essential safety knowledge that you must have, and pass on to your clients. It is also essential that SUP instructor fully understands the law in New Zealand regarding PFDs, to ensure they are operating legally, and to be able to properly advise their clients.

    Using a PFD while on a paddleboard is a legal requirement in most areas of NZ, and indeed the rest of the world. However, some PFDs are well suited to SUP, others are most definitely not. Understanding the pros and cons of the various styles, and their relevance and suitability to SUP is vital knowledge for the SUP instructor. Not just for their own work, but also when advising clients on sup safety in general.  There will be questions on this topic in the self-assessment test at the end of this course

    The lesson will take about 20 minutes to view, and discusses: 

    • Why do we wear a PFD?
    • The legal requirements in New Zealand regarding PFDs
    • The different types of PFD
    • The pros and cons of the different types
    • Which is best for different types of paddler

    Check Understanding!

    • Do you understand why a PFD is so vital to SUP safety?
    • Do you understand why we wear a PFD?
    • Do you understand the law in New Zealand regarding PFDs and paddleboarding?
    • Do you understand the different types of PFD?
    • Do you understand the pros and cons of the different types?
    • Do you understand which is best for different types of paddler?

    If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. There will be questions on this topic in the self-assessment test at the end of this course. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson.

    Leashes for SUP (L1 conversion)

    Importance: Critical! This is essential safety knowledge and you absolutely should refresh your memory on all aspects of leashes, especially as some recommendations have recently changed here in New Zealand.

    The leash is 99% of SUP safety, but it’s critical that the right leash is worn for the conditions. Incorrect leash choice for the conditions has caused fatalities in New Zealand. The SUP instructor must have an excellent understanding of leashes, not just for their own work, but also when advising clients on sup safety in general.  There will be questions on leashes in the self-assessment test at the end of this course.

    The video will take about 20 minutes to view, and discusses: 

    • Why do we wear a leash?
    • The potential pitfalls in wearing a leash
    • Attaching the leash to the board
    • The different styles of leash
    • Which is best for which conditions

    Check Understanding!

    • Do you understand why a leash is so vital to SUP safety?
    • Do you understand why the wrong type of leash can be a grave threat to safety?
    • Do you understand the different types of leash and the pros and cons of each
    • Do you understand which type of leash is best for which conditions?

    If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. There will be questions on leashes in the self-assessment test at the end of this course. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson

    The SUP Paddle (L1 conversion)

    Optional revision. The basics of the SUP paddle.

    As you have been paddling and instructing for a while now, you probably have a pretty good understanding of SUP paddles. However, most SUP instruction qualifications around the world do not include any teaching regarding paddles, so if you do want to refresh your knowledge, then this lesson will give you everything you need.

    It is vital for the SUP instructor to have a basic understanding of SUP paddles, if only to ensure that their clients have the right size and style of paddle for their requirements. However, as the paddle is such a fundamental part of the SUP experience, it’s good to also have knowledge of the different constructions, options, blade shapes and how to advise a customer on purchasing a paddle. 

    This lesson will take about 30 minutes to complete.

    The video discusses: 

    • Why the SUP instructor needs to know about paddles 
    • The parts of the paddle
    • Understanding blade shapes
    • Understanding adjustment mechanisms
    • The correct height for the paddle
    • Paddle constructions
    • How to advise a customer on what paddle to purchase.

    Check Understanding!

    • Do you understand why the SUP instructor needs to know about paddles?
    • Can you name the various parts of the paddle?
    • Do you know how to advise on the correct height for the paddle?
    • Do you understand the pros and cons of the various paddle constructions?
    • Could you give a customer some general advice on what sort of paddle to purchase?

    If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson

    SUP Board Design & Dimensions (L1 conversion)

    Optional Revision. Understanding of board design and dimensions in order to ensure that your clients are on the right boards for their requirements.

    As you have been working with paddleboards for a while now, you’re probably fairly comfortable with understanding SUP board design and dimensions. However, not all SUP instructor qualifications offer any detail or insight on this aspect of paddleboarding. So, if you’re a bit rusty on it, and/or could do with a top-up, then working through this lesson will get you up to speed with everything you need to know.

    Being able to interpret the measurements and appearance of a board in order to understand what it does and who it will be suited for is a vital skill for the paddleboard instructor – particularly when it comes to the question of board stability. The lesson will take around 30 minutes to complete.The training video discusses: 

    • The anatomy of the paddleboard
    • The importance and relevance of the main parameters
    • How these factors determine the stability of the board

    The knowledge in this lesson is not just for when you’re dealing with the questions of your clients, but also for when you are assigning boards to clients, and understanding how they interact with them on the water during your sessions.


    Check Understanding!

    • Do you know the names of the various parts of the board?
    • Do you understand what the rocker profile is?
    • Do you understand what the length of the board tells you?
    • Do you understand what the volume of the board tells you?
    • Do you understand what the width of the board tells you?
    • Do you understand what the thickness of the board tells you?
    • Do you understand which dimensions are primarily responsible for determining the stability of a board?
    • Could you give advice as to what dimensions of board would be appropriate for, say, a 100kg person wanting a general purpose all rounder?
    • Do you understand how changing other aspects of the plan shape affects stability?

    If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson