The ultimate aim of putting a paddle in the water whilst standing atop a stand up board is to make headway in a forwards direction as efficiently as possible. The basic stand up paddle board stroke is therefore super important, obviously. A SUP paddle is THE defining piece of equipment you use, being arguably more important than your stand up paddle board. Without a paddle you’d be just ‘standing on a board’. This is why due thought and consideration should be given to the paddle when choosing your SUP gear initially. A poorly engineered, low quality type will serve you no purpose.
There’s more technique involved in a SUP paddle stroke than you’d imagine. Have a search online and you’ll find countless articles and videos detailing the stand up paddle board paddle stroke. For the purposes of this explainer, however, we’ll keep things simple.
With the paddle blade’s rake (see earlier article on how to hold your paddle) facing away from you reach forwards so you’re almost on tiptoes, bending at the hips, before plunging the paddle’s blade deep into the water – completely submerging it – is the aim. You should be trying to almost fall onto your paddle (without actually falling). With timing, the pulling part of the stroke will serve to keep you upright. Using your body’s bigger muscles (lower back, glutes and thighs) pull your body and board towards the paddle trying not to rely on your arms. If you do over-use your arms then you may damage your joints and muscles. Try to keep your head up looking at the horizon, but not hyper-extending. Looking down towards the water, board or paddle itself may cause you to ‘break’ at your core and not be as efficient as you otherwise could be.
Having pulled the paddle blade to level with your hips it’s time to recover (lift from the water), twist slightly (feather) before swinging it back to begin again. Of course, at some point you’ll need to swap sides and mirror the move along the opposite rail.
Tip: if you feel you’re overexerting yourself during each stroke (listen to your body) then back off the power and/or cadence slightly. As long as your paddle blade is immersed through the whole stroke then that’s ample. You don’t need to go hell for leather every session.
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