How to Master 'The Catch' on Your Stand up Paddle Board Stroke

Key Highlights:

  1. The Essence of 'The Catch': Understanding this pivotal paddle board stroke phase for optimal propulsion.
  2. Equipment Selection: Choosing the right paddle and board, including the benefits of lightweight carbon fiber paddles.
  3. Technique Tips: Detailed steps to perfect 'The Catch', from paddle positioning to the pull-back phase.
  4. Practice Strategies: Incorporating land practice, video analysis, and professional instruction for improvement.
  5. Enhanced Fitness Routine: Leveraging 'The Catch' for a full-body workout, emphasizing core strength and balance.
  6. Maintenance Advice: Importance of regular paddle board care for performance consistency.


Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has taken the water sports world by storm, due to its ease of entry and the great workout it provides. A key component of SUP is the paddle stroke, and one of the most critical parts of the stroke is 'The Catch'. It's the initial phase when the paddle enters the water, and it sets the pace for the rest of the stroke. Mastering 'The Catch' can significantly improve your paddle board experience, whether on a solid board or an inflatable paddle board.

    multi person paddle board and solid paddle boards

    Understanding 'The Catch'

    What is 'The Catch'?

    In the context of stand up paddle boarding, 'The Catch' refers to the point in your paddle stroke where your paddle first makes contact and enters the water. This is the start of your power phase and the part of the stroke that propels your paddle board forward. As such, an effective 'Catch' is crucial for optimal speed and efficiency.

    Importance of 'The Catch'

    A well-executed 'Catch' ensures a solid, clean entry of the paddle into the water, minimizing splash and wasted energy. This enables the paddler to move through the water with greater efficiency and control, regardless of the type of board, whether it's touring paddle boards, recreational paddle boards, or an all around paddle board - even an entry level board.

    Steps to Mastering 'The Catch' on Paddle Boards

    1. Paddle Positioning

    First, make sure your paddle is in the correct position. For stand up paddle boarding, the paddle should be upright with the blade's angle facing away from you. This will allow you to reach forward and immerse the paddle deeply into the water. A lightweight carbon fiber paddle can be beneficial to master the paddle stroke.

    2. Reach Forward

    Extend your top arm and reach forward as far as possible without losing your balance on the board. The further you reach, the more water you'll be able to pull through, thus propelling your board further with each stroke.

    3. Insert the SUP Paddle

    Submerge the entire blade smoothly into the water, aiming to avoid creating a splash, which can disrupt the fluid motion needed for an efficient stroke. Your paddle should be vertical when it enters the water.

    4. Begin to Pull Back

    Once the paddle is fully submerged, begin to pull back with your top hand while pushing forward with your lower hand. This dual-action creates a powerful stroke that will propel your board forward. The most effective strokes are those where the paddle remains relatively close to the side of the board.

    The Role of the Paddle Board

    inflatable boards with paddle holder

    While mastering 'The Catch' is mainly about your paddle technique, the type of paddle board you're using can also impact your performance. For example, inflatable paddle boards often have more buoyancy and stability, making them a good option for beginners who are still perfecting their technique. On the other hand, solid boards can be faster and offer more control, which advanced paddlers might appreciate. The solid paddle board tends to give you a longer glide.

    The size and shape of your board also play a role. For instance, longer, narrower boards are often better suited for long distance paddling, while wider boards offer more stability, making them ideal for beginners or for activities like SUP yoga. Whatever paddle board you use make sure that you are centered in the middle of your deck pad before you start paddling.

    Practical Tips for Perfecting 'The Catch'

    Practice on Land First

    Before hitting the water, it's a good idea to practice your paddle stroke on land. This allows you to focus on your technique without having to worry about balancing on your board.

    Record Yourself

    Consider recording your paddle stroke to better analyze your technique. Seeing your form from a different perspective can help you identify areas that need improvement.

    Take Lessons

    Taking SUP lessons from a certified instructor can provide you with personalized feedback and instruction, helping you master 'The Catch' and other aspects of paddle boarding more quickly.

    Incorporating 'The Catch' into Your Fitness Routine

    Stand up paddle boarding isn't just a relaxing pastime; it's also a highly effective full-body workout. By focusing on the 'Catch' and refining your technique, you can turn every paddle board outing into a strength training session. The power that drives 'The Catch' comes from your core muscles and your back, not just your arms. With each reach, you're engaging your core and lengthening your spine, promoting good posture and strength. Your lower body also plays a role in maintaining balance on the board during this phase of the stroke, helping to tone your legs and glutes.

    Maintaining Your Paddle Board

    While technique is crucial, the condition of your paddle board can also impact your ability to master 'The Catch'. Be sure to regularly maintain your board whether it's an inflatable paddle board or a solid board. Check for any damages before and after each use. For inflatable paddle boards, ensure that it's properly inflated before hitting the water - an underinflated board may lack the stability you need to execute a proper catch. For solid boards, periodic waxing may be necessary to maintain optimal glide on the water. Remember, a well-cared-for board is a crucial partner in your journey to master 'The Catch'.


    touring board is an inflatable board with a kayak seat

    Mastering 'The Catch' can significantly improve your efficiency and speed while paddle boarding. Remember, a solid catch starts with a good forward reach and a smooth, clean paddle entry into the water. With practice, you'll develop a more powerful and effective paddle stroke, enhancing your overall SUP experience, no matter what type of paddle board you're using.