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

Learn how to perfect "the pull" on your stand up paddle board.

Understanding the Stand Up Paddle Board

Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is a watersport that has captured the hearts of outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. Whether we're talking solid boards or inflatable paddle boards, the SUP's simplistic design opens up a world of possibilities on the water. Stand up paddle boards are versatile, offering options for recreational paddle boarding on flat water, touring paddle boards for long distances, or even a multi person paddle board for group fun. Understanding your paddle board and the paddle stroke is key to a smooth ride and getting the most out of your SUP experience.

The Paddle Stroke

recreational paddle boards are solid paddle boards

A paddle stroke has three essential parts: the catch, the pull, and the recovery. Each phase is important and plays a role in your board's stability and speed. But among these, the pull phase is the powerhouse of your paddle stroke. It's during this stage that you propel your board forward.

The Pull: The Heart of the Paddle Stroke

The Importance of the Pull

The pull is the main driving force behind your stand up paddle board. With a solid paddle board under your feet and a carbon fiber or fiberglass paddle in your hand, the power you generate during the pull phase directly affects how fast and how efficiently you move through the water. An effective pull stroke can help beginner paddlers build confidence, give advanced paddlers a competitive edge, and provide a challenging workout for those using SUP for fitness.

The importance of the pull phase in the paddle stroke cannot be overstated. It's during this phase that your board gains momentum and covers distance. A properly executed pull phase determines the pace at which you move through the water and the energy you exert. Incorrect technique or alignment during the pull phase can lead to inefficient paddling, meaning you will use more energy to cover less distance. It can also lead to the paddle board veering off course, requiring constant corrections that can be tiring and frustrating, especially for beginner paddlers.

Moreover, mastering the pull is essential for maintaining balance on the board. A strong, consistent pull creates a steady rhythm that can help stabilize your stand up paddle board on the water, providing a smoother ride. It also engages the larger muscle groups in your body, such as your back and core muscles, rather than just relying on your arm strength. This not only gives you more power but also reduces fatigue, allowing you to paddle longer and further. Whether you are on a recreational paddle board on a calm lake, an inflatable SUP navigating a river, or a touring board covering long distances, the pull is your key to efficiency, stability, and endurance.

Executing the Pull

entry level board with deck pad and kayak seat

Starting at the catch phase, where your paddle first enters the water, the pull phase begins. The aim is to pull the paddle through the water in a straight line, close to the board. Your torso should do the majority of the work. Rotate your upper body as you pull the paddle back, engaging your core muscles. This technique provides power and helps to conserve your arm strength for longer paddle sessions.

For optimal performance, your paddle should remain vertical throughout the pull phase. Keeping it upright reduces the risk of turning, giving you a straighter and more controlled path. The pull ends at your feet. Any further, and you risk pushing rather than pulling yourself forward.

Adjusting Your Stroke for Different Boards

Whether you're using an inflatable paddle board, a rigid board, or a touring board, adjusting your paddle stroke to match the board type can greatly enhance your performance. For example, touring boards are designed for speed and distance. A longer, deeper stroke would work well with these. On the other hand, a shorter board or an inflatable SUP would benefit from quicker, shorter strokes to maintain control and stability.

Maintaining Your Paddle Board and Gear

Proper maintenance of your gear, such as regular checks of the paddle holder, center fin box, and leash attachment point, is crucial for your safety and the longevity of your SUP equipment. A repair kit is a handy tool to have for on-the-spot fixes. If your board has removable fins, make sure they are secured properly before each session. Remember to rinse your paddle and board with fresh water after use to keep them in top shape.


inflatable board with lightweight carbon fiber paddle

Understanding the dynamics of the pull phase in a paddle stroke can enhance your SUP experience, regardless of your skill level or the type of board you use. So, the next time you take your stand up paddle board out, remember the techniques of the pull stroke. With practice, you'll be gliding through the water with more speed, control, and efficiency, making each SUP outing a rewarding adventure.