Drafting on Your Paddle Board: A Comprehensive Guide


Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is not just about serenely gliding over the water's surface. There's an aspect of this sport called 'drafting' that adds a competitive edge and strategic dimension to your paddle boarding experience. Whether you're cruising on a solid board or an inflatable paddle board, mastering the art of drafting can significantly enhance your performance.

Key Highlights

  1. Understanding Drafting in SUP: Drafting involves riding in the wake of another paddle board to reduce resistance and save energy. It's a critical skill for competitive and long-distance paddlers.

  2. The Physics Behind Drafting: Explains how drafting works by positioning your board in the 'draft zone' of the leading board, utilizing the smoother water for less resistance.

  3. Positioning Your Paddle Board: Tips on aligning your board closely behind another to effectively draft without making contact, highlighting the importance of skill and board stability.

  4. Benefits of Drafting: Drafting offers significant advantages, including energy efficiency for longer paddles, increased speed in races, and valuable learning opportunities from observing experienced paddlers.

  5. Drafting Etiquette: Discusses the unwritten rules of drafting in the SUP community, emphasizing the importance of asking permission and respecting other paddlers' space on the water.

  6. Mastering the Skill of Drafting: Encourages practice with friends or during training sessions to become proficient in drafting, enhancing your SUP experience whether in casual outings or competitive races.

paddling a stand up paddleboard

What is Drafting?

Drafting, in the context of stand up paddleboarding, refers to the practice of positioning your stand up paddle board directly behind another board to reduce your resistance against the water. The lead board creates a 'wake,' a pathway with less resistance, that the following board can use to save energy. Whether you're on long distance expeditions or racing against competitors, drafting is a valuable skill to acquire.

How Does Drafting Work?

The Physics of Drafting

paddle board race

When a paddle board moves through water, it pushes the water in front of it to the sides, creating a wake. This wake is an area of turbulent water behind the paddle board, but directly behind the board there's a 'draft zone' where the water is smoother. When you position your board in this zone, you face less resistance because the water is already moving in the same direction. This concept is applicable to all types of boards, whether they're inflatable paddle boards or solid boards.

Positioning Your Paddle Board

To effectively draft, you need to align your board's nose as closely as possible to the tail of the leading board without making contact. It's crucial to maintain a straight line and stay within the draft zone. Both your paddle boarding skill level and the stability of your board - be it a sturdy inflatable stand or a sleek racing board - play a role in maintaining the right position.

The Benefits of Drafting

Energy Efficiency

Drafting on your paddle board can significantly reduce your effort, as you'll be exerting less energy against the resistance of the water. This becomes particularly beneficial during long distance expeditions, allowing you to conserve energy and cover greater distances with less fatigue.

Increased Speed

In races, drafting can give you the advantage of higher speed with lower effort. By staying in the wake of the leading board, you can keep pace with faster paddlers while conserving energy for a strategic sprint towards the finish line.

Learning Opportunities

Drafting also provides an excellent learning opportunity, especially for novice paddlers. By following a more experienced paddler, beginners can observe their technique, from the efficient use of an adjustable paddle to the smooth transition between strokes.

Drafting Etiquette

Like all water activities, stand up paddleboarding has its own set of unwritten rules, and drafting is no exception. If you're planning to draft behind another paddler, it's polite to ask for their permission first. Keep in mind that drafting can be seen as a competitive move in some situations, so it's important to respect other paddlers' space on the water.

Drafting: A Skill Worth Mastering

stand up paddleboards

Drafting is undeniably a game-changer in the world of paddle boarding. With proper technique and practice, this skill can help you paddle longer, faster, and smarter. Whether you're using a solid board or an inflatable paddle board, incorporating drafting into your paddling sessions can take your stand up paddle boarding experience to the next level.

However, as with any technique, practice is key. Try drafting with a paddle boarding friend on your local lake or during practice sessions. As you gain more confidence, you can start using drafting in more competitive environments, or even during SUP races. Regardless of your paddle boarding goals, drafting is a technique worth mastering for any serious paddler.