Breaking Down the Stand Up Paddle Board Paddle Stroke: The Pull

Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) isn't just about standing on a board and moving through water; it's an art that requires mastery over the paddle stroke. The heart of this art lies in "the pull" phase, the segment of the stroke where the paddle is drawn through the water, propelling you forward with power and precision.

    paddling an inflatable paddle board

    Understanding the Paddle Stroke

    A paddle stroke consists of three essential components: the catch, the pull, and the recovery. Of these, the pull is where the magic happens—it's where you generate the force that moves your board. Whether you're navigating serene lakes on a recreational SUP or slicing through ocean waves, understanding and optimizing your pull can significantly enhance your paddling performance.

    paddling an inflatable paddle board

    Why the Pull Matters

    Efficiency and Endurance: A well-executed pull ensures you make the most out of each stroke, minimizing wasted energy and maximizing forward momentum. This efficiency is crucial for long-distance paddling, where conserving energy is key to endurance.

    Speed and Control: A strong pull phase contributes directly to your speed on the water. It also plays a crucial role in maintaining a straight trajectory, helping you control your direction with greater ease.

    Balance and Stability: A consistent, rhythmic pull helps maintain balance on your board. By engaging your core and larger back muscles, rather than relying solely on arm strength, you can achieve a more stable and comfortable stance.

    Perfecting the Pull: Technique Tips

    1. Start Strong: The pull begins immediately after the catch, as soon as your paddle blade is fully submerged. Aim for a quick, fluid transition from the catch to maximize the effectiveness of your stroke.

    2. Engage Your Core: Power through the pull by rotating your torso, not just pulling with your arms. This engages your core muscles, distributing the workload and increasing your power.

    3. Stay Vertical: Keeping your paddle as vertical as possible during the pull helps maintain a straighter path and reduces drag, enhancing both speed and efficiency.

    4. End at Your Feet: Conclude the pull phase when your paddle reaches your feet. Extending beyond this point can reduce your stroke's effectiveness and even alter your course.

    Tailoring Your Stroke to Your Board

    Different SUPs may require slight adjustments in your paddling technique. For instance:

    • Inflatable SUPs: Often wider and more buoyant, inflatable boards might benefit from a slightly wider grip on the paddle to accommodate the extra stability.

    • Solid and Touring SUPs: Designed for speed and efficiency, these boards pair well with a powerful, deep pull to capitalize on their streamlined shapes.

    Gear Maintenance: Ensuring Peak Performance

    Maintaining your SUP gear, from the integrity of your paddle to the condition of your board, is essential for a seamless paddling experience. Regularly inspect and clean your equipment, paying special attention to the paddle's blade and shaft, as well as the board's fins and deck pad.

    paddling a paddle board


    The pull phase is the powerhouse of your paddle stroke, a skill that, when mastered, can transform your stand up paddle boarding from a simple activity into a graceful, efficient movement across the water. With the right technique and a bit of practice, you'll find yourself gliding more smoothly, quickly, and with less effort, making every SUP outing even more enjoyable.