Cathy goes to Kalama Kamp to fix her paddle board stroke-Part 1

This is part 1 of a 2 part post about my experience at Kalama Kamp.   Part 1 is about the general experience and the format for the clinic.  Part 2 will get into specific tips and tweaks to make your stroke more efficient.

paddle board stroke

When I saw that Dave Kalama was going to be hosting Kalama Kamp in CT, I recalled something that I read a year or so ago that said if you ever have a chance to work with Dave, TAKE IT! It took about 90 seconds for us to decide that I was going to go. I immediately sent the e-mail to hold my spot in the Sunday clinic.

To say I was excited would be an understatement.   In the days leading up to the Kamp I periodically burst out with “I’M GOING TO KAMP SUNDAY!!!” while using all of my reserves to not jump around the house in an embarrassing show of glee.

Dave Kalama is considered by many to be one of the pioneers of modern day paddleboarding, along with Laird Hamilton.  Together they brought this ancient Hawaiin art to the mainstream.  He is also considered to be one of the best paddleboarders in the sport’s recent history.  He is the co-inventor (again with Laird) of tow-in surfing, which provides surfing access to some of the world’s biggest waves.  And he is probably the world’s premiere downwinder.  He is also a great teacher, hosting Kalama Kamps and Klinics around the world and serving as a coach to Kai Lenny and Slater Trout…two of the sport’s most promising up and comers.

My expectiations for the day were to:

  • Have fun!
  • Meet Dave Kalama and learn more efficient paddle board stroke techniques from one of the best paddlers ever
  • Get paddling tips
  • Meet new people who share my love for paddleboarding

Well, those expectations were met and exceeded many times over.   Here are some of the things I got from the clinic

  • Had tons of fun!

  • Met Dave Kalama who is incredibly down to earth, a great teacher and a legend in our sport
  • Worked with one of the best paddlers EVER to revolutionize my stroke and make it WAY more efficient than what I was doing before
  • Got lots of paddling tips, from tips on turning to little tweaks to the stroke to increase efficiency and prevent injuries
  • Met great people and learned about their paddling experiences and some of the New England races.
  • Got to try some incredible boards
  • Saw how an established shop runs their operation

Dave started off the day talking about theory…why he paddles the way he paddles.  He demonstrated as he talked, and showed in action the concepts he described. While showing us each phase of the paddle board stroke on the edge of a dock, we could see it broken down piece by piece.

If you have read any of Dave’s writings about paddling or if you have ever had the good fortune to work with him, some things will probably resonate with you…the concept of “reach” probably being the boldest in your mind.  He started off the morning on the dock demonstrating how to achieve the most reach from your stroke.  Hint…it involves using your arms, shoulders and hips.  You need to reach with your arms, rotate your shoulders, and hinge from the hips.  When you put these three elements together you begin to get the concept of what he is talking about. Each paddle that you embark on involves thousands of strokes.  Many of the adjustments he suggested will gain us a fraction of an inch to a couple inches of glide for each stroke.  Compound that gain over the course of an entire paddle and you are no longer looking at minimal gains…they really add up!

paddle board stroke

When you involve your arms, shoulder rotation and hips you use big muscle groups,. This allows you to use leverage rather than power, utilizing your body weight to propel you through the water rather than “muscling” through a stroke.  You use less effort and spread out any stresses over more muscles so you will be able to last longer on the water and minimize the chance of overuse injuries that often come from putting too much stress on a single muscle.

Rhythm is another prominent theme with him.  We spent a portion of the afternoon trying to smooth out the steps we learned in the morning.  When Dave paddles it looks smooth and effortless.  It is definitely something to aspire to.  Establishing a rhythm making your stroke more of a cycle than having a distinct beginning and end makes a lot of sense when you see it in action.  There is nothing jerky about this motion and it becomes a continuous flow.

Dave is a firm believer in technique as the cornerstone of your stroke.  Many people compensate with power, but in so doing, they never take full advantage of the efficiency that good technique can provide.  When you apply power, technique often breaks down.  In Dave’s opinion, the best way to increase your speed is by following the steps below.

  • Technique-make sure you are maximizing your technique on each stroke
  • Cadence-increase the strokes per minute to increase speed
  • Breath-feel your breath and make sure it is in sync with your rhythm
  • Power-if all else fails, you can add power, but add it incrementally…when you add power, technique tends to break down and you don’t want that.

We each had two videos taken during the Kamp.  That gave us the opportunity to see what we actually do vs. what we  them think we do.  It also gave Dave an opportunity to isolate the most important pieces for us each to work on.  It was interesting to see the difference between the first and second video.  There are so many pieces to work on that he suggested taking two at a time.  As you conquer one item, you can add another, but inevitably you will forget items that you have already reigned in.  Time to put them back on the list.

After a lot of practice and feedback both on and off the water, we took to a group paddle up the river.  This gave us a chance to put it all together and really get a feel for what he was talking about.  Now when I fall back into my old stroke it feels like I am standing still hardly getting anything done.

Thanks Dave!  You have completely changed the way I paddle, for the better.  Now I have to work on fine tuning all of the elements and working on the “smooth” part.

Part 2 of this post has specific tips and tweaks that we learned at Kamp.



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

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