One great thing that sets Stand Up Paddling (SUP) apart from other sports is that it is a fun way of getting around – circumstances permitting of course! It is also a very efficient means of travelling – it doesn’t get much simpler than a floating board, a paddle and powered by you. Getting the ‘power’ element right is crucial – technique is as important as brute force.
Arms- When you hoist the paddle above your head, then your elbows should stick out at a right angle. If too far apart than this, then your paddling is inefficient. Get some tape and mark out where the bottom of your hand should be.
Feet- Getting your foot placement right is one of the key factors in an effective paddling technique. Your feet are the foundations for your arms and paddle – a weak foundation makes an unstable paddle technique. Done right, your feet should be a shoulder width apart and one a couple of inches in front of the other to keep you balanced.
The paddle stroke can be broken down into these distinct stages:
The Catch. Have your arms fully extended, and then aim to place your paddle about a foot in front of where it would enter if in a vertical position. Get your paddle blade deep into the water before you start pulling back.
The Stroke. Where the power comes in. Focus on pulling yourself past the paddle, rather than pulling the paddle past you. Keep your lower arm almost straight and twist your shoulders for good positioning and to ensure that you really put maximum power into your stroke. A perfect stroke is done in one consistent motion.
The Return. When your blade is level with your feet then it’s time to think about pulling it out of the water. By the time it’s completely out it should be only about two feet behind your body. Aim to lift the blade out quickly out of the water and at an angle away from you. Do not lift your arms up too high, and once it’s clear of the water, twist your blade to reduce wind resistance.
Some SUP boards travel in a straight line better than others, thus requiring you to switch paddling sides less often. Longer, narrower SUPs tend to travel in a straighter line as will boards with larger fins. A shorter, wider board (designed with surfing in mind), is designed to be more maneuverable and thus have you change sides more often to keep going straight.
A few more tips…
Never look at your board. If you follow the line of your board (which isn’t straight) with your paddle then you’ll naturally paddle in an arc and stray away from the ‘straight’.
Tilting your board. If you dig in the rail (edge of your board) on the side you are paddling on then the board will deviate less. And if you’re on a longer or narrower board then you’ll need to tilt your board less than on a surfier SUP Yoga.
A final piece of advice – keep on (practicing) paddling… The more time you spend on the board the better your technique will be. Good technique takes a while to master and makes a whole lot of difference. Good SUP technique will have you deal with waves much more effectively, or streaking ahead the next time you take on a race!
Related Post: Going above and beyond ordinary yoga with SUP