SUP Paddling Technique and Tips

Gusts of wind play a key role in almost all water sports. Thanks to them, windsurfers and kitesurfers can set their boards in motion. The exception to this rule is Stand Up Paddleboarding — because here, the user is in charge of propelling the board. In order to achieve this, you’ll be using a special.

The Paddle

A SUP paddle has a fairly specific asymmetrical shape with the blade (the end fin) slightly bent to one side. This structure is to facilitate the acceleration of the board. Although your intuition might tell you to point this indentation towards you, it’s exactly the opposite! The paddle feather should be tilted towards the bow of the board. Why? Because by dragging the paddle along the board, we change the angle of the paddle’s inclination, and thanks to this slight bend, the feather stays perpendicular to the direction of movement for longer, which generates a greater repulsive force.

Choosing the Right Paddle

Before discussing the rowing technique itself, you should focus on selecting the best paddle possible for yourself. For beginners, the length of the paddle will be a very important factor. As a general rule, SUP beginners should use paddles that are 20-35 centimetres longer than their height. So, if a person measures 180 centimetres, the ideal paddle length is 200-215 centimetres. If you plan to swim for a longer time, you should have a relatively light paddle. Here, it is especially worth recommending models made of carbon fibres.

Stepping on the Board

When you’re boarding for the first time, it’s best to start from a kneeling position. This is the safest position, and it provides the greatest stability on the board. You position yourself more or less in the middle of the deck so that you have the board handle between your knees.

Positioning Yourself on the Board

Stand with your feet slightly apart, with the handle of the board between your feet. It is supposed to be a free stride, neither too wide nor too narrow. Try not to stiffen the legs; let the knees act as our natural shock absorber. Immediately once standing upright, start rowing! Always remember that the board is most stable when rowing. Don’t look down at your feet; just look straight ahead — it also greatly improves the sense of balance. Spend a moment in this position, and try to row a little, free for now, without any sudden movements. Once you feel confident, you can begin to slowly get up.

The Grip

When it comes to the basics of rowing, start by learning the right grip. At the very end of the paddle, there is a special handle — you can conveniently place your hand on it. With your other hand, you need to grasp the shaft of the paddle approximately 50-60 centimetres from the handle (the exact distance depends primarily on the person’s height). Do not squeeze the lower hand on the paddle; just put your fingers around it slightly. It is also worth remembering to straighten your elbows while rowing. Thanks to this, you can increase your range of motion, which will translate into rowing efficiency. Your silhouette should resemble the letter Y.

The Posture

Another very important point is posture. If possible, avoid slouching forward, and make sure to keep your back straight. This applies to rowing while standing and while kneeling. As for the movement itself — the paddle should be extended far forward, then put into the water and vigorously pulled along the side. Activate your core, simultaneously slightly twisting the shoulders, hinging at the hips, and leaning forward to extend your paddle blade toward the nose of your SUP. For the port side, the right hand should be on the handle and the left hand on the paddle shaft. The reverse is true for right-hand rowing, so remember to change your hand position every time.

Tips on Paddling

The correct paddling technique will provide us with better speed, less fatigue, and more even course keeping, which minimises the risk of injury. There are quite a lot of reasons to take this point quite seriously.

Make sure to row with relatively straight arms and freely bent knees. This is not meant to be a marked deflection, just a loose position, without stiffening your legs. Start the movement by reaching forward with the feather, drag the paddle along the side, take the feather out of the water a bit behind the heels.

We do not drag the paddle’s movement far towards the stern because it will not give us any additional energy, but it will only change the direction of the board. When the board turns more clearly, change the side of rowing (and the position of the hand on the oar). Remember not to slouch the spine while rowing — this could lead to an injury after some time! Leaning forward, we incline the whole torso; we do not bend it! To go as straight as possible without changing the side of the row, keep the oar as even as possible in the vertical plane. We will succeed if we tilt the top oar handle slightly towards the water (so as not to lead it over the centre of the board).

The last piece of advice is crucial. Rowing, like cycling or skiing, just has to be learned. So, we encourage you to exercise regularly and improve your technique.

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