One of the things that every paddleboarder would like to do better is to paddle faster without getting tuckered out so easily. First time paddle board lessons will usually instruct you on where to stand on the board, how to hold the paddle, some safety tips and maybe some basic paddling technique. Going on that, you might think all you have to do next in order to go faster is to paddle faster- right? Wrong. Paddling faster does not necessarily translate into going faster especially if you have not practiced the proper technique for going faster. What you want to do is to harness more power and efficiency from your stroke by using more of your entire body and less arm motion.
Going faster at a consistent pace on your paddleboard is not going happen until you have your stroke dialed in. What this means is that you have to correct technique and rhythm worked out first BEFORE you begin to trying to paddle harder and faster or else all that energy will be wasted with minimal results. So lets go over a few items we talked about in our last paddling technique post but in more detail.
- From the neutral position (simply facing forward and not in motion), bend your paddle-side knee inward and lean forward turning your hip towards the nose of the board. As you do this your torso and shoulder will naturally turn forward on that side with your knee and hip.
- Make sure your hands are stacked. That is, your top hand should be directly over your bottom hand so the paddle shaft is straight like this | and not like this \. Also, your lower hand should be more than half-way down the shaft for maximum leverage taking undue stress and pressure off your shoulder joints.
- As you reach, keep your lower arm fully extended and straight. You do not need to try and reach all the way to the end of the board- just an arms length ahead.
- Plant the blade deep in the water, all the way up to the shaft BEFORE you begin to your stroke.
Now you are in an ideal position to unleash the maximum amount of power and energy. Your body, from your knees through your torso and shoulders are wound up like a huge spring ready release. This is the part where counter-rotation comes into play. As your paddle-side moves back towards the neutral position the opposite side of your body will move forward. After you do this a couple of times you should feel a very recognizable rhythm starting to take hold. Lets look at it point by point.
With your lower arm outstretched and paddle-side hip and shoulder turned forward move your hip and shoulder back while keeping a comfortable, not too tight, grip on the paddle.
- At the same time drive you upper hand shoulder into the handle of the paddle so that that side of your body is now turning forward as your paddle-side is turning back towards the neutral position.
- As your top hand shoulder moves forward your arm should straighten which will give you maximum leverage taking pressure off your joints and transferring that energy down into the paddle where you want it.
If done correctly, the feeling you should be getting is one where the board is moving past the paddle and not the paddle past the board. Your entire body is now involved in the stroke and you are accessing the most amount of leverage, control and power. Now, onto the next phase.
This phase of the stroke ties the first two phase together into one smooth and coherent movement. The most important thing to remember is to keep practicing and focus on where your paddle is in relation to your feet and hands.
- As your paddle draws up to the point where your feet are flick the handle towards the inside of the board (this will be counter clockwise on the right side and clockwise on the left side) with the blade still fully submerged. This move will release the blade from the water and allow you to pull it up effortlessly.
- As you flick the blade, lift it straight up and out of the water in one easy motion. There is no need to yank. If done correctly you should feel and hear your blade POP out of the water.
The recovery brings you back to the catch- the point at which our lower arm is fully extended and the blade is completely submerged in the water.
- As you lift your paddle out of the water keep it close to the side of your board. Remember, the short distance between two points is a straight line- that’s what you want between your release and catch.
- Keep your blade turned as you begin your catch phase. The edge of the blade, NOT the face, should be leading so that it slices through the air and quickly reaches the forward position without any wind resistance.
At this point, you will be turning your paddle-side hip and shoulders forward again. Keep your lower arm straight and open the face of the blade back up. Do it right before submerging it all the way down into the water. This can be a little tricky if there is a strong head wind but keep practicing and you will be able to time the motion perfectly soon enough.
As you continue practicing these four movements you will start to feel a rhythm develop. This feeling is your muscle memory taking over. At this point, you begin to dial in your particular style of paddling. Run with it. Let your mind go into a trance and feel the rhythm as the four separate phases meld into one motion. This is what the end-goal should feel like. Now you are entering the next level of paddle boarding… and it feels good.