How to Turn Your SUP
Here's a guided step-by-step tutorial on how to perform three different types of SUP turns from beginner to advanced.
Now that you’ve mastered paddling your SUP in a straight line with you remaining upright, it’s time to think about turning. I mean, you’re going to need to turn around and head home at some point, aren’t you? There are a few different options to turn your SUP that depend on your skill level.
As you’re starting out, the thought of turning your SUP can we a bit daunting but it really doesn’t need to be. The “Sweep Turn” is an easy place to start. It won’t take you too far out of the rhythm that you’ve developed paddling in a straight line.
To initiate this turn, start with your feet spread apart a bit further than they were prior to turning. You will also want to bend your legs a bit. Now submerge your paddle blade completely underwater on the side of the board that is the opposite of where you want to turn and start your stroke up near the nose of the board.
Rather than pulling the blade straight back towards the tail of the board, you will want to sweep the blade out away from the board in an arching motion which will finish at the tail of the board.
If you read our article “Keeping your SUP in a Straight Line” you will recognize this motion as one we suggested for keeping your SUP in a straight line when you are dealing with wind pushing you around. On a windless or light wind day, it does a fine job of turning your SUP.
As you become more stable on your board, there are a couple of options for turning your board quicker than the Sweep Turn. The first is the “Backward Sweep Stroke”.
With the Backward Sweep Stroke, you will place the blade of the paddle on the side that is the direction you want to turn. You will then flip the blade around so that you are scooping the water which will give you more torque and let you turn quickly.
This is a great technique if your goal is to turn around and head back in the direction you came from. If you are avoiding an obstacle and don’t want to completely lose momentum, the “Crossover (or Crossbow) Stroke” is one you will want to master.
In this example, if you want to turn left but are paddling on your right side, simply keep your hands in the same position but move your blade to the left side of the nose of your board and push the blade towards the nose of the board, then lift it over the board and finish the turn with a sweep stroke on the right side of the board.
The “Pivot (or Step Back) Turn” is one that every advanced paddler should have in their arsenal. Whether your goal is to spin around quickly to catch an incoming wave or you need to get around a race buoy, the Pivot Turn will get the job done quickly.
Practice this one in deeper water as you are likely to fall a few times before you get it down. From a normal SUP stance, you will want to step one foot back so that you are in a surf stance. You will then put most of your weight on your back foot so that the nose of your board raises slightly above the water.
Just take a small step back in the beginning until you are comfortable with the motion and keep your front foot close to the middle of the board. Now do an arching sweep stroke toward the tail of the board on the opposite side from which you want to turn.
You will be amazed at how quickly the board turns with the nose out of the water. Once the turn is complete, move forward on the board and continue paddling.
For any of these turns, make sure that you are wearing a leash so that the board doesn’t get away from you if you fall and if you feel unsteady, keep the paddle in the water as it will give your balance a little extra support. Keeping your knees bent and staying low will also keep you more stable than standing straight up.
Pick a hot summer day to challenge yourself with these turns and remember that falling is a huge part of learning!
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