It’s no secret that stand up paddleboarding is a great core strengthening work out. The synchronized movement of your upper body and hips engages every muscle in your torso from the biggest to the smallest. Your legs hold your balance as they react to the moving water and keep your weight centered over the board. Your whole body is engaged in the motion, giving you a comprehensive workout. But alas, many paddleboarders, especially beginners, do not have a correct paddling technique. As a consequence, they are not benefitting from the full core work out that paddleboarding offers. Here are some tips on good stand up paddling technique that will make you a stronger and more efficient paddler.
From Arms to Core
The first thing we want to concentrate on is shifting the workload from your arm muscles to your core muscles. The core muscles include pectoral, abdominals, oblique, and gluteal- basically, the entire middle section of you body. Your core muscles are much larger and stronger than arm muscles, and they can sustain an even pace without getting worn out for a much longer period of time. Think of your arms only as apparatus for holding and maneuvering the paddle. Your core should be doing all the work that actually moves the board forward through the water. Here’s how to make that happen.
Bend from the Hips and Extend Out
Your hips act as a hinge that allows you to extend out towards the nose of your board. It’s this extension of your back that you want to feel each time you make a stroke. Bend from the hips towards the nose of the board and at the same time extend your arms as far forward as you can reach. Your lower arm should be completely straight and your upper arm should also be straight with no bend in your elbows. You can imagine making an A-shape where your body is the left of the A side, your paddle the right side, and your lower arm the cross bar. Remember to not arch your back but keep it in line and extend as far as possible out toward the nose of the board.
Push your Blade Down into the Water
In order for your stroke to be effective your blade needs to be fully submerged in the water. If your blade is not all the way down you will be skimming the surface and your stroke won’t generate the power needed to efficiently move the board forward. This will affect not only your speed but also your tracking, meaning how straight you are paddling. Once you are fully extended forward and in the A-shape position, consciously push down on the handle with your body weight in one fluid motion. This will make the blade entry into the water feel natural and offer a greater amount of efficiency to your stroke. Also, feel the pressure of the handle in the palm of your hand as this will train your muscles to automatically depress the blade fully in the water once your hips and back are fully extended foward. At this point you can begin your stroke, but not until the blade is fully submerged.
Move Your Hips Forward and Release the Blade at Your Feet
The final phase is to move your hips forward with your blade fully submerged until it reaches your feet. Avoid the urge to pull with your arms. One way to know if you are doing it correctly is that you should be feeling forward pressure on the soles of your feet as if they want to slide towards the nose of the board. It should feel as if you are moving your board past your paddle. Keep your grip on the paddle loose and apply steady pressure. Don’t force your stroke but work with your core and forward hip movement to slide the board through the water.
Once your blade has reached your toes, release it from the stroke by turning it parallel to the board and pulling it up. Turning your blade parallel to the board while it is submerged will allow the water to release and continue travelling past your board. This prevents the blade from dragging and destroying all the speed and power you have generated with your stroke. Once you have the blade out of the water, bend your hips again and extend into your A-shape position, push the blade down and pull with your core using your hips to generate the power of your stroke.
When first practicing paddling technique it is important to start out slowly in order to feel everything that is happening. You want to build up a rhythm. The repetition will allow your muscles to “remember” the movements and refine your technique each time you go out. So now, go out there and practice! Learning to paddle with good paddling technique will add a whole new level of fun to your SUP experience.