Stand Up Paddleboarding: The Crossbow Turn


When you first start out paddleboarding you normally learn to turn by pushing hard off the nose of the board or dragging the blade behind you and toward the front.  There’s nothing wrong with doing it either of these ways, and sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where they may even be preferable to other methods.  But, there are other ways to turn your paddleboard that can be much more efficient and quicker. For example, if you find yourself in location where you need to turn fast and without making a big arcing half-circle. This is where the crossbow turn, or sometimes referred to as the crossbow draw stroke will be very useful. It may seem a little confusing while you’re first learning it, but with practice it will become easy to remember.

Let’s start with a general description of the turn and then break it down into parts.  The crossbow turn happens when you turn your hips, shoulders and head towards the opposite side of the paddleboard from the side you are paddling on. Then draw the blade towards the nose. The key to the crossbow turn is toNOT switch hands as you turn towards the opposite side of the paddleboard from which you are paddling on.


Turning Left or Right

To turn to the left, paddle to the spot where you want to turn by paddling on the right side of the paddleboard.   Without switching your hands turn your hips, head and shoulders as far as you can to the left.  If facing straight ahead is 12 o’clock then you want to be facing at 9:00 o’clock.

To turn to the right, paddle on the left side and then turn hips, head and shoulders are all the right.  You should be turned to the 3 o’clock position. You will always turn in the direction opposite the side you were paddling on.

The Set Up

To get set up for a crossbow turn lift your blade out of the water and without switching hands twist your entire torso, shoulders and head to the opposite side you were paddling on.  As you do this, your bottom hand on the paddle with cross underneath your top hand.  Once you are fully facing 90 degrees to the side you can then reach out and place your blade in the water.  The back of the blade will now be facing towards the front. The farther out you place your blade in the water, the easier you will turn.


To practice 
the set up try this. Paddle as normal and then hold the paddle at shoulder height directly out in front of you with arms straight. Now twist at the hips a full 90 degrees keeping your arms outstretched.  Next, drop your lower hand (the one closest to the blade) until the blade enters the water.  This exercise will help grasp the whole concept of the crossbow turn.

The Draw

Once your blade is fully submerged you will want to sweep it forward towards the nose of your paddleboard.  Make as wide of an arc as you can and when the blade gets to the front rail go over the top of the nose and continue the arc sweep on the other side moving the blade towards the back of the paddleboard. When you’re done you should have completed a full 180 degree arc through the water and your board should now be facing in the opposite direction.


The crossbow turn is just one more skill you can put in your toolkit and use it in a variety paddling styles. It will help you not only turn faster and more efficiently, but also enhance your paddling technique, balance and overall board control.  For more instruction on how to make a crossbow turn and other stand up paddleboarding skills check out your local shop for lessons and tips!


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