Now that it’s officially spring and there’s no chance of the water freezing over again, it’s time to start getting back into the swing of things. So far I have been out a few times logging some miles. This is the time I need to work on getting my stroke back and dialed in for the upcoming season. Your stroke is important to focus on all the time, but it’s especially important early in the season when your muscle memory is rebooting. Tere are few things I concentrate on to keep my paddling technique in check.
Take It Slow
I was pretty amped-up getting on the water the first couple of paddles this season. I immediately started digging in hard and fast when I hopped on the paddleboard. It wasn’t long before I was totally winded, my shoulders ached, and my blade was splashing water all over the place because I wasn’t sinking it all the way down. To top it off, I barely covered any distance, making my entire performance a complete disaster.
The lesson here is that there are two ways to have fun- one is with reckless abandon, and the other is governed by some degree of discipline. Discipline in this case is having the wherewithal to slow down and go through each phase of your stroke in a controlled and deliberate manner. It will feel mechanical at first and maybe even uncomfortable, but the process is necessary in order to retrain your body how to paddle correctly. The fun comes in when you start reaping the benefits of good technique.
Reach, Hips, and Hold
When I started thinking about what I need to be doing it came to me in three distinct parts. First, I reach as far as can with my arms straight and my hands directly over one another. At the same time I draw my hips towards the back of paddleboard keeping my back straight. This is called hinging at the hips. Your back needs to stay straight and not hunched or rounded or you can injure yourself.
Once my arms are extended and I am reaching with the blade as far as I can toward the nose of the board, then I put the blade ALL the way down into the water. This is where I engage the core muscles that provide the power for the stroke. Remember, it’s our core muscles that do the work, not our arms.
At this point I force myself to HOLD that position for just a second before I begin to bring my hips forward again and draw my blade through the water towards my feet. By holding that second phase position I train my muscles to not begin the stroke until my blade is all the way down in the water. In time, the phases will become seamless but for now the idea is to create the least amount of water turbulence while getting the most power from the stroke.
Another common mistake that we all make time and again is not taking our paddle out of the water at our feet. If your blade is still in the water past your feet it will cause drag and kill your glide. The blade will actually be LIFTING water as you take it out and this will cause your paddleboard to be thrust downward into the water killing your speed.
When practicing my technique I consciously tell myself to release the blade from the water six inches in FRONT of my feet. Many times I end up taking it out somewhere between my toes and heels but the point is that you are training your mind and body to shorten the stroke. This is key for an efficient paddling technique.
These are a few basic things to try out when you get back on the water this season. Good paddling technique will reward you with better speed and glide while using less energy. You’ll be able to paddle faster and cover longer distances with less risk of injury. The experts often say “You need to go slow to go fast”. Give it a try and if have any questions let us know as we’ll be happy to help you out.