Cathy goes to Kalama Kamp Part-2 practical paddle board stroke tips

Ok, so you have read about what Kalama Kamp was like but you are probably much more interested in what we actually learned.  What are the tips that can help you paddle more efficiently?

paddle board stroke

I will outline a few of them here

  • Reach…no, reach more!
  • Dig deeper, earlier
  • Hinge more from the hips
  • Use your leverage
  • Keep the business in the front
  • Quiet your top hand
  • Hip thrust
  • Rhythm
  • Relax

Most of these tips you will see in Dave’s blog posts on Waterman’s Journal, but here they are as I interpreted them.

Your stroke is broken up into three parts, the catch, power phase and recovery.  The catch is when you plant your blade in the water. The power phase is the part when your blade is fully in the water and you are “doing the work”.  And recovery is the part when your blade is out of the water and you are preparing for your next catch.  The fluidity part of Dave’s teachings aims to meld these three phases as seamlessly as possible to create a cycle more than a distinct beginning and end.  Instead of really pulling your paddle through the water, you want to think about planting your blade and pulling the board past the paddle.

paddle board stroke

You start by reaching…no, reach more.  First extend your arm.  Then rotate your shoulders into the stroke, fully extending your bottom arm while your top arm remains bent at about 45 degrees.. This will allow your lower hand to gain even more length. Then hinge from the hip.   If you try this with a door frame as a reference point you can reach past the door frame a bit with just your arms.  When you rotate your shoulders, your lower hand will reach further, and then when you already you’re your arm and shoulders into the stroke, hinge from the hips (keep your back straight and relaxed).   Think you have it?  Now reach 4 more inches.

You want to fully plant the blade very early.  If you start pulling before your blade is planted in the water you will make a little splash.  You use the hinge from your hips as leverage to bury the blade rather than using your arms to push the paddle down in the water.

There are two basic paddleboarding strokes, the Tahitian stroke and the Hawaiian stroke.  The Tahitian stroke relies on very quick, short strokes, way out front, in the water early and out of the water early.  The Hawaiian stroke relies on much longer strokes that travel more of the length of the board.  Dave teaches a hybrid of these, still focusing on catching WAY out in front, but also removing the paddle earlier than most people would think, just about at your feet.

There is a drill that Dave calls the 50/50 and it demonstrates where the power of your stroke comes from relative to your feet.  You put a bamboo stake (or something similar) across the board under your toes and experiment with pulling your paddle out before you hit the stick.  Once you have a feel for that, paddle from the stick back.  You will find that you don’t really get anywhere with that back part.  Now move the stick under your heels and practice pulling it out before you get there.  That’s ultimately what you want to get the feel for.  He repeatedly told me to move my entire stroke 6 inches forward…reach further at the beginning and pull the paddle out earlier….”get the business done up front”.

Another point in maximizing your efficiency is not letting your top hand drop too much.  You should be able to keep your top hand in sight throughout your whole stroke.  It makes a small almond shaped motion.  The more you are moving your top arm, the more energy you are expending-needlessly-and the more energy it takes to get ready for your next stroke.

Then there is the hip thrust…you read that right.  At the end of the stroke when you pull the blade from the water, you thrust your hips slightly forward.  Basically, when you straighten up at the end of the stroke and do this slight thrust you are propelling the board past the paddle planted in the water.  If you bump your hip with your wrist you will start to get the idea.  Think of bringing your hip to meet your hand.  This will get you to pull the paddle out of the water early and get the hip thrusting forward.

Just prior to removing your paddle from the water, you want to twist your wrist to turn your paddle.  This is called feathering.  It ensures that as your paddle travels through the air on the way back to the reach, it is cutting through the air with the edge rather than the face which would provide resistance.

Develop a rhythm.  Practice your stroke very slowly.  Focus on each part of the stroke and when you have each component down, start to find your rhythm with them.  Keep it slow at first so that you really get the feel for it before increasing your cadence.  Focus on each phase of the stroke, breathing and making your stroke a fluid cycle.

Here is one of the drills that we did with Dave.  He stood in front of us and we tried to keep pace and form with him.

Now relax.  Your muscles shouldn’t be tight…you are not forcing anything, you are using body mechanics to get the most you can from your stroke.  Your grip on the paddle should be loose and comfortable.  Your knees should be soft, but not really bent, your back needs to remain relaxed and straight, the hinge comes from the hips.  Tension produces strain and our goal is to keep everything moving as smoothly as possible.

Any good coaching that you can get to fine tune your paddling stroke is good…but if you ever get the chance to work with Dave…TAKE IT!  You will rarely find a teacher who can talk to each student on their own level, whatever that level is.  He helped my stroke dramatically and he coaches such young standouts in the sport as Kai Lenny and Slater Trout, and he has something to offer to everyone in between.  Dave is a very down to earth, nice guy, a pleasure to work with.  I am confident that you will get more out of the day than you expect.

paddle board stroke


Tags: standup paddleboarding tips, standup paddleboarding stroke, standup paddleboard tips,paddle boarding technique, paddle board instruction, paddle board stroke, kalama kamp, kalama klinic, efficient paddle board stroke, paddleboarding tips

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