How to Paddle Your SUP Board Faster

Whether you're looking to shave seconds off your race time or simply want to cover more distance on your paddle board, learning how to paddle faster can make your SUP experience more exciting and rewarding.


woman paddling a paddle board

Whether you're looking to shave seconds off your race time or simply want to cover more distance on your paddle board, learning how to paddle faster can make your SUP experience more exciting and rewarding. Paddling faster isn’t just about brute strength; it’s about technique, efficiency, and the right mindset. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you boost your speed on the water.

Perfecting Your Paddle Stroke

The Power of Proper Technique

Your paddle stroke is the foundation of your speed on a paddle board. Here’s how to optimize it:

  1. Plant Your Paddle Correctly: Start by fully submerging the blade of your paddle in the water. A deep, clean catch at the beginning of your stroke will give you more power.
  2. Engage Your Core: Instead of relying solely on your arms, use your core muscles to power your stroke. Rotate your torso as you pull the paddle through the water.
  3. Follow Through: Complete each stroke by pushing the paddle past your hip before lifting it out of the water. A full follow-through ensures maximum propulsion.

Improving Your Stance

woman paddling a paddle board

Finding the Right Position

Your stance on the paddle board affects your balance and power. Here’s how to position yourself for speed:

  1. Feet Placement: Keep your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, centered between the board’s rails. This stance provides stability and allows for efficient weight transfer.
  2. Bend Your Knees: Maintain a slight bend in your knees to absorb the motion of the water and maintain balance.
  3. Lean Forward: Lean slightly forward to engage your core and drive more power into your strokes.

Increasing Paddle Cadence

Faster Strokes, Greater Speed

Increasing your paddle cadence (the number of strokes per minute) can help you paddle your paddle board faster. Here’s how to do it without losing efficiency:

  1. Shorten Your Strokes: Short, quick strokes can increase your speed. Aim for a high turnover rate while maintaining proper technique.
  2. Stay Smooth: Focus on smooth, rhythmic strokes to avoid wasting energy on unnecessary movements.
  3. Use a Metronome: Consider using a metronome app to set a consistent cadence. Start at a comfortable rate and gradually increase the tempo as you improve.

Building Strength and Endurance

Off-Water Training

Improving your strength and endurance will help you paddle your paddle board faster and for longer periods. Here are some off-water exercises to consider:

  1. Core Workouts: Planks, Russian twists, and leg raises can strengthen your core, which is crucial for powerful strokes.
  2. Cardio Training: Running, cycling, and swimming can boost your cardiovascular fitness, allowing you to maintain a higher paddle cadence for longer.
  3. Resistance Training: Exercises like rowing, pull-ups, and bench presses can build upper body strength, enhancing your paddling power.

Utilizing the Right Equipment

Choosing the Best Gear

The right paddle and paddle board can make a significant difference in your speed. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Lightweight Paddle: A lightweight paddle reduces fatigue and allows for quicker strokes. Look for paddles made of carbon fiber or other lightweight materials.
  2. Streamlined Board: A narrower, longer paddle board with a pointed nose cuts through the water more efficiently, reducing drag and increasing speed. Racing SUPs are designed with this in mind.
  3. Proper Fin Setup: Experiment with different fin setups to find the one that offers the best balance of stability and speed for your paddling style.

Drafting Techniques

paddle board race

Ride the Slipstream

Drafting, or riding in the slipstream of another paddler, can reduce water resistance and save energy. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Position Yourself: Paddle close behind another paddler, about one to two board lengths away. Stay in their wake to take advantage of the reduced resistance.
  2. Stay Alert: Pay attention to the lead paddler’s movements and be ready to adjust your position as needed.
  3. Take Turns: If you’re paddling with a group, take turns being the lead paddler. This allows everyone to conserve energy and maintain a higher overall speed.

Mental Focus

The Power of Mindset

Your mental state can impact your speed on a paddle board just as much as your physical condition. Here’s how to stay focused and motivated:

  1. Set Goals: Establish clear, achievable goals for each paddling session. Whether it’s a target speed, distance, or time, having a goal keeps you motivated.
  2. Visualize Success: Use visualization techniques to imagine yourself paddling quickly and efficiently. This can boost your confidence and performance.
  3. Stay Positive: Maintain a positive attitude, even when you face challenges. Encouraging self-talk and a focus on progress rather than perfection can keep you pushing forward.


man paddling a paddle board

Paddling your paddle board faster involves a combination of proper technique, the right equipment, physical conditioning, and mental focus. By refining your paddle stroke, improving your stance, increasing your cadence, and building strength and endurance, you’ll see a noticeable increase in your speed on the water. Remember to stay motivated and enjoy the process—every stroke brings you closer to becoming a faster, more efficient paddler.