Tips for Improving Your Paddle Stroke on a Stand Up Paddle Board

Follow these tips and you will definitely improve your paddle stroke.


Introduction to Paddle Boarding

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a popular water sport that is gaining recognition for its health benefits and versatility. Whether on a solid board or an inflatable paddle board, stand up paddling provides a full-body workout while allowing participants to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature. However, like any sport, the right technique is essential for an optimal experience. This article focuses on ways to enhance your paddle stroke on a stand up paddle board, whether you're using a recreational paddle board, a touring paddle board, or a multi person paddle board.

Understanding Your Paddle Board

solid paddle board and inflatable board with lightweight carbon fiber paddle

Before diving into the paddle stroke tips, it's important to understand the equipment you're using. Stand up paddle boards come in various designs, each serving different purposes and skill levels. There are solid boards and inflatable paddle boards, with the former being sturdy and the latter offering portability and storage convenience. Touring boards are designed for long distances, while recreational boards are perfect for leisurely paddling and yoga sessions on flat water. As an SUP enthusiast, it’s crucial to pick the right board for your intended use and skill level. Here's an excellent guide for beginners to understand the basics of SUPs.

Basic Paddle Stroke Techniques

touring board can also be recreational paddle boards with a paddle holder

Positioning the Paddle

The way you hold and position your paddle can have a significant impact on your paddling efficiency. The blade of your paddle should always be angled away from you and towards the direction you're moving. This might seem counterintuitive, but this design helps displace more water, propelling you further with each stroke.

For effective paddling, your hands should be positioned correctly on the paddle. The general rule is that when you lift the paddle over your head, your elbows should form a 90-degree angle. This ensures optimal distance between your hands, which results in better leverage during paddling. Find out more about paddle positioning in this detailed article.

Proper Body Posture

Maintaining proper body posture is vital for effective paddle strokes. Stand straight on the board with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly for better balance. Keep your back straight, engage your core, and look straight ahead instead of down at your board. This posture improves your balance, reduces fatigue, and makes paddling more effective.

The Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is the most common and important stroke in paddle boarding. It's what propels you forward. To execute the forward stroke, reach as far forward as you can with your paddle, submerge the blade fully in the water, and pull it back towards your ankle. The power of the stroke should come from your core and not your arms, which should remain relatively straight.

Here's a great resource on how to paddle board like an expert, covering everything from the forward stroke to more advanced techniques.

Advanced Paddle Stroke Techniques

The Backward Stroke

Also known as the reverse or stopping stroke, the backward stroke is used to slow down, stop, or move your board backwards. It's essentially the opposite of the forward stroke. Instead of reaching forward, you start the stroke by placing your paddle near the tail of your board and pushing the water forward.

The Sweep Stroke

The sweep stroke helps you change direction or turn your SUP. There are two types: the forward sweep and the backward sweep. The forward sweep is performed by reaching forward and sweeping your paddle in a wide arc towards the tail of your board. Conversely, the backward sweep starts near the tail and sweeps towards the nose of your board. Mastering these techniques will improve your maneuverability, and you can find a detailed explanation on how to turn your SUP here.

Enhancing Your Paddle Stroke

Increasing Stroke Rate

To increase your speed and cover more distance, you need to increase your stroke rate, which refers to the number of strokes you can make in a minute. This requires practice, but a good starting point is to ensure you're using the correct technique for your strokes. Proper form and technique will naturally increase your stroke rate over time.

Building Core Strength

As mentioned earlier, the power of your stroke should come from your core, not your arms. Building your core strength can drastically improve your paddle stroke, making your SUP sessions more enjoyable and less exhausting. Exercises like planks, leg raises, and Russian twists can help strengthen your core muscles. Also, engaging in yoga or pilates can be beneficial.

Improving Balance

Better balance equates to better paddle strokes. When you're balanced, you can concentrate more on your paddle strokes rather than on not falling off your board. To improve your balance, try standing on one foot, practicing yoga, or performing balance exercises on a balance board or BOSU ball. Here are some balance practices to improve your SUP balance.

Using the Right Equipment

Even with the best techniques, the wrong equipment can hinder your progress. For instance, using a paddle that's too long or too short can lead to inefficient strokes. Similarly, using a board that doesn't suit your skill level or the conditions can make paddling more challenging. Check out this guide for the best paddle boards to enhance your paddling skills.


touring paddle boards can be solid paddle boards or inflatable boards

Improving your paddle stroke on a stand up paddle board involves mastering the basic and advanced paddle strokes, enhancing your paddle stroke through increased stroke rate and core strength, improving balance, and using the right equipment. While it may take time to improve, remember that paddle boarding, above all, is meant to be enjoyable. With persistence and the r

ight techniques, you will see significant improvements in your paddle strokes and overall SUP experience.