It’s February and the lakes are frozen but not for long! Spring has been coming earlier each year and there is little doubt that the weather will be getting warm very soon. Warm weather means paddleboarding season is coming back in full swing. Personally, I can’t wait, because it means I can snowboard AND paddleboard on my little lake down the street in the same week. But the best thing about getting back into the swing of paddling is rediscovering all the little twists and turns that make paddling such a hoot. Good technique is essential so here’s a few standup paddleboard tips that you can keep in the back of your mind as you get back out on the water this season.
Everyone develops their own personal style over time but it should take place within the context of a few well-regarded fundamentals. Specifically, I am talking about paddling technique, and we don’t want to start the season off with a sloppy form- it may set a bad precedent that will be harder to correct later on. Besides, who wouldn’t want to use less energy and get more power, glide and speed for their efforts?
Before we get into the actual stroke lets quickly go through the basics of how to hold a paddle and foot placement on the board. The paddle is held with one hand over the top of the handle and the other on the shaft. When you raise the paddle above your head both elbows should be squared off at a 90 degree angle, like this |_o_|. Your hands placed at this distance apart will give you maximum efficiency from of your stroke. You can even put a couple of pieces of tape in those areas to remind yourself where your lower hand should go.
Your feet provide the stability that the rest of your body relies on. They should always be at least shoulder width apart. Once you get your balance dialed in you can offset your feet a couple of inches. This will give you overall better balance and control.
There are three stages to every stroke: the catch, the stroke and the release/return. The catch happens when you put the blade of the paddle in the water. Both your arms should be extended fully with no bend in the elbows. Lean forward a little so that the blade goes into the water a little beyond the point where your arms are extended. Put the blade all the way into the water, right up to the shaft. The shaft should always be completely perpendicular to the water. If you put the paddle into the water on an angle you will push the nose of the board off of the direction that you want to go. Keeping the paddle square to the water allows the board to travel in a straight line. This means you will be able to paddle with more strokes on one side before having to switch over to the other side.
Here’s a nice short video on using your core muscles to paddle.
The stroke begins when the blade is fully submerged in the water. With your knees slightly bent, pull the paddle evenly with both arms extended along the side of the board (also known as the rail). When you begin to pull the paddle through the water slowly twist your torso in the direction that your hands are moving. This action engages the core muscles of your body and greatly reduces the stress on your shoulders and arms. Every stroke should involve turning your torso. It will add more power and allow you to paddle longer and faster without getting overly fatigued.
The release and return happen when the blade of the paddle travels just past your heels. Any stroke that goes beyond that point (past the heels) instantly becomes counterproductive because all of the energy that moves the board forward is harvested in front of the feet. As your blade begins to approach your feet gently turn the handle inward and drop your top hand towards the board. The blade will release from the water and slide out without any resistance. You should be able to feel the release happening if done correctly. Once the blade is out of the water keep it turned so that the leading edge is facing forward. This will greatly reduce any wind resistance that would slow you down. Once both of your arms are fully extended again, turn the paddle back so that the face of the blade is fully open and begin your next stroke.
One more thing, paddleboards have curved sides. The waist juts out farther than the nose. If you pull the paddle along the contour of the board your stroke will be in the shape of an arc. This will cause the board to turn off course. To compensate, start your stroke slightly away from the nose of the board and pull it back in a straight line towards your feet. This will help will help you keep your course.
So there are a few things to think about when you get back on your paddleboard after the ice thaws and the warm winds arrive. Check out our blog for upcoming standup paddleboarding tips and all kinds of other fun SUP and snowboard stuff. Looking forward to seeing everyone out on the water again this year!
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