How To Improve Your SUP Paddle Stroke

Improving your SUP paddle stroke is essential for efficiency, speed, and overall enjoyment on the water. Whether you're a beginner or looking to refine your skills, understanding the mechanics of a good paddle stroke can significantly enhance your stand-up paddleboarding experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to perfecting your paddle stroke, ensuring you get the most out of every outing.


paddle for a paddle boardProper Paddle Grip and Orientation

  • Paddle Orientation: The angled part of the paddle blade should face away from you, contrary to the common beginner assumption. This positioning aids in more efficient strokes and better propulsion.
  • Grip Technique: Hold the t-grip at the top of the paddle with one hand, and place the other hand on the shaft, forming an "A" shape, ensuring your arms are at a 90-degree angle for optimal power transfer.

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The Five Phases of the SUP Paddle Stroke

  1. The Reach: Extend the paddle forward with a slight hinge at the hips and a twist in the shoulders, maintaining a straight back. This initial extension is crucial for setting up a powerful stroke.

  2. The Catch: Immerse the paddle blade fully in the water at an angle perpendicular to the SUP for maximum resistance. Achieve a smooth entry with minimal splash to conserve energy and maintain momentum.

  3. The Drive (Power Phase): Engage your core and back muscles, keeping the lower arm straight and pulling your body towards the paddle rather than pulling the paddle towards you. This phase is where the bulk of your forward momentum comes from.

  4. The Release: Lift the paddle out of the water just past your feet, using your upper hand to guide the motion and minimize resistance as you transition to the next stroke. Avoid lifting too late to prevent deceleration.

  5. The Recovery: Rotate the paddle blade (feathering) to reduce wind resistance and prepare for the next stroke. This phase is about efficiently transitioning between strokes with minimal energy expenditure.

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Tips for Efficient Paddling

  • Momentum is Key: Similar to cycling, momentum on a SUP helps with balance and stability. Keep a steady pace to make balancing easier.
  • Switch Sides Regularly: To maintain a straight course, switch paddling sides periodically. This also helps evenly distribute muscle exertion.
  • Practice Feathering: Mastering the feathering technique during the recovery phase can significantly reduce wind resistance and improve stroke efficiency, especially in windy conditions.
  • Focus on Form: Pay attention to your posture and form throughout all phases of the stroke to maximize efficiency and prevent fatigue or injury.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Overreliance on Arms: Utilize your core and back muscles for paddling power, rather than just your arms, to enhance endurance and stroke effectiveness.
  • Poor Timing in Switching Sides: Ensure a powerful final stroke before switching sides to maintain momentum and streamline the transition.
  • Ignoring Wind Conditions: Wind can greatly affect your paddling. Adjust your technique and recovery phase to minimize wind resistance.
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Improving your SUP paddle stroke is a continuous process that requires practice and attention to technique. By focusing on the proper paddle grip, mastering the five phases of the stroke, and implementing these tips, you’ll find yourself paddling more efficiently, faster, and with greater enjoyment. Remember, the goal of paddleboarding is to have fun on the water, so don't be too hard on yourself as you learn and refine your skills.

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