Where you stand on your SUP board can have a profound effect in terms of performance and feel – not least it can be the difference between staying dry and getting wet. Stance, as much as anything, is trimming the board. It’s also a way in which narrower SUPs, or lower volume types, can be paddled. And if you’re into river running, downwind SUP or paddle surfing then altering your stance accordingly – riding a wave vs paddling on the flat for instance – is key.
Parallel SUP stance
Parallel SUP stance is the classic, staple and most common form of standing atop your board. It’s the one that every paddler does first – mostly because that’s what they’ve seen every other SUPer do. With the centre line of the board running directly through the middle feet are placed either side of this. Ideally, the rider in question will have sussed how far forwards or back (the sweet spot) to actually perch. The board’s nose should be slightly above the water with the tail engaged. Too far back and the rear sinks, causing drag, whereas too far forward and the nose digs in causing inefficient straight-line momentum and slow speeds.
With lower volume boards it’s often the case that the back two-thirds of your board may be underwater. The trick here is to be far enough towards the front that the nose is lifting but not burying. A different stance will be required (see below).
In terms of paddling position and efficient stroking a parallel stance isn’t always the best. During the ‘pull’ or power part of the paddle stroke riders need to twist and rotate at the trunk to the where the blade is submerged. Due to being squared off this isn’t always easy to achieve. In which case (again) a different stance, or tweaking of, may be required.
With an offset stance paddlers will have determined whether they’re most comfortable riding ‘goofy’ (right foot forward) or ‘regular’ (left foot forward). It’s then a case of dropping your preferred trailing foot a tad behind the leading. This may feel slightly odd to begin with but in many cases can lead to a better paddling stroke – on the dominant side.
Of course, being twisted one way will mean an inefficient paddle stroke on the opposite side. To combat this and keep your SUP tracking straight and true employing a J-stroke may be required. Pulling through the main part of the paddle riders finish by sweeping out wide before the recovery. This pushes the board’s nose back in the opposite direction thereby helping to steer a straight course. It’s not foolproof, however, and you’ll probably have to paddle on the opposite side at times. What it should lead to though is less rail to rail changes.
Offset paddling stance can be used to good effect when piloting narrow, low volme stand up paddle boards.
Regular/goofy paddling stance
Taking an offset SUP stance to its extreme riders will go full left or right foot forward, depending on preference and comfort, along the board’s centre line. This gives a great angle of attack for paddling on your dominant side, but as with offset, it’ll require an efficient J-stroke or ability to ‘rail the board’ to keep tracking correctly.
Stand up paddle surfers, downwind bump runners or foilers tend to favour this for when they’re actually riding moving water. Being able to paddle and engage the rail of the board (or foil edge) is reason to paddle like this.
If you can offset your paddling, or ride both regular and goofy, then possibly you’ll find favour with SUPing switch stance. Being able chop and change between right and left foot forwards is super efficient for actually paddling. The downside is having to change sides. This requires practice as you’ll need to jump or hop between each footing which can upset the board’s trim if not done correctly, as well as resulting in a dunking.
For those with time to practise it’s worth having a go at switching your stance around. Who knows, you may find this the most comfortable form of paddling.