SUP Stroke Technique: Getting the Paddle Down into the Water

Paddleboarding is a great full body exercise sport and the more you do it the stronger you get.  But many people make the mistake that because they are feeling and looking in good shape that they can ride faster by simply paddling harder. But in reality, it doesn’t work this way. One the most common problem I see people having when they are trying to pick up speed is getting the paddle down into the water. And this issue applies to not just for going as fast as you can, but for all the times you are paddling, whether it be working out or just cruising.
The key to paddleboarding is not found in brute strength, but in efficiency.  To paddle efficiently your entire blade needs to be submerged in the water so that the full extent of its surface area is working for you and not wasted by sweeping thin air. Many people will understand this to mean that at some point during the power phase of their stroke the blade needs to be all the way down.  That is a mistake.  The blade of your paddle needs to be completely submerged BEFORE you begin the stroke’s power phase. Try these things the next time you head out:

-Bend forward from the hips with your back straight and your arms stretched out toward the nose of the paddleboard.  SUP Instructor Dave Kalama refers to it as hinging from the hips because bending sometimes causes people to hunch their backs.

-As you go to put the paddle in the water consciously use your body weight to drive the blade all the way down into the water.   Remember to hinge from the hips and keep your arms straight so that your back remains straight.

-Once your paddle blade is totally submerged THEN thrust your hips forward keeping your upper arm straight. As you come back to your starting upright position your paddle will draw back towards your feet.

One thing you want to watch for is the tendency to bend at your knees to get your paddle into the water.  This will not give you the power you need to gain more speed. Whereas hinging at the hips will because this is what engages your core muscles. Your core muscles will be the engine that drives you forward as your hips and hands draw closer together during the stroke.  But this technique only works effectively if your blade is all the way down into the water.

When you start practicing this technique stay conscious of keeping your arms as straight as you can throughout the first part of the stroke.  This will force you to use your core muscles as your hips move forward.  Then visualize your top shoulder driving outwards towards the nose of your paddleboard at the same time you’re bending at the hips so that your shoulders align vertically and your paddle is straight up and down to the water.

Practice these steps slowly at first in sets of 5 or 10 strokes. Feel how different the strokes are to the way you normally paddle.  Then try again going a little bit longer each time until it becomes part of your natural rhythm.  In time, you will have a brand new stroke that offers you much more power and glide without sapping your energy.  There are several more things to keep in mind as you practice this technique:

Make sure your hands are far enough apart on the paddle.  At least shoulder width apart (about half way down).

Do not paddle past your feet.  All the power is located in the area from the nose of your paddleboard to the toes of your feet. Paddle past your feet and you LOSE power.

-In the beginning paddle slowly and stay conscious of your hips, back and shoulder alignment.

Finally, to make everything you need to know work together seamlessly it is really important to take a lesson from a certified instructor at your local shop.  They will be able to pick up on the little things that you are doing wrong and give you easy tips to correct them.

Good luck!




Tags: sup lesson ri, standup paddleboarding stroke, paddle boarding technique, correct paddling technique, getting the paddle down into the water, sup stroke technique

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