If you are looking for ways to improve your paddling, we have three tips to help you on that road.
1) Move around on your board. The more comfortable you are moving around on your paddleboard, the better. You should practice moving in all directions and with a variety of stepping styles…there’s the shuffle, cross stepping, and hopping. Try them all out. Don’t be afraid to fall. You will very likely get wet. That’s just part of learning. So pick a day when you have the intention of getting wet, and go for it (because once you’re wet, who cares how many more times you go in?)
Developing comfort moving around on your board will help you in a variety of conditions. When it’s windy you may need to move around to get more or less of your paddleboard in contact with the water. If you are out in swells, you might need to move back and forth to catch bumps. You also may need to move back to avoid pearling, when the nose of the board gets submerged underwater. Getting comfortable moving around on your board will improve your overall balance and increase your awareness of how the board reacts to your movement and the water. It will also make you less likely to panic or react harshly when something throws you off balance. You will more naturally make the appropriate adjustments so you can paddle with more confidence and handle more varied conditions.
When you play around with this, keep your paddle in, or on the surface of, the water. This will give you a lot more stability and you will actually be working on bracing without even realizing it.
2) Get the blade deep…mantra to self “deep blade, deep blade, deep blade, …” if your paddle is all one color, try putting a piece of electrical tape around where the blade and the shaft meet and make sure you get that tape all the way in the water. Exaggerate it if necessary to develop the muscle memory. Getting your blade all the way in the water will help you on most strokes. And it’s an essential element of having an efficient forward stroke. You pay for the whole blade so you should USE the whole blade. You will be amazed and how much more power you can get when you get that blade fully submerged.
3) Use bigger muscles…think less arm and more big muscles. You want to incorporate your core muscles- hips, glutes, abs, and lower back into your strokes. Getting these muscles strong and involved will give you more power and put less wear on your smaller muscles, joints, and connective tissue. Just like with getting your blade deep in the water, a constant reminder to self could be “use more torso.”
On your forward stroke, using your body weight to sink the blade fully, and using your core to help pull your board past your planted blade will reduce the risk of injury and make you more efficient. You need to be careful to protect your lower back when you work on this. Focusing on hinging from your hips rather than bending at the waist can help. When you bring your hips forward through the stroke you will give yourself a little forward boost too.
If you are feeling each stroke in your arms and/or shoulders, you know you probably aren’t using enough torso. Each forward stroke should feel like an abdominal crunch on the side you are paddling on.
Even on turning strokes, you want to involve your torso. On a sweep stroke you can get a bigger arc and much more power through your stroke if you rotate your torso rather than just muscling it with your arms, and it will take much less effort.
While you want to be sure to use bigger muscle groups than your arms, you don’t want to get your legs too involved in the process. They are certainly important for stabilization and movement on the paddleboard, but they are not the best source of power for a sustained stroke. Get that from your core.
These are just three tips to keep in mind each time you go out. We’ll have more to come next week. Pick just one or two things to work on each time you go out and try to really get a feel for them. Focusing on too many things at once will not allow you to thoroughly dial in any of them.
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