Dave Kalama demonstrates a winning stroke. Photo: Shaina Kalama
Dave Kalama demonstrates a winning stroke. Photo: Shaina Kalama

How to Paddle Your SUP in a Straight Line

SUP legend Dave Kalama shares his perspective on proper stroke

One of the most common questions I get from paddlers when I'm traveling or racing is, "How do I stay straight when I paddle?" There are several things you can do to minimize "yawing," or put simply, weaving back and forth across the water. Using good technique is the best way to avoid injury and stay fit. — Dave Kalama

Vertical Power. The key when paddling a standup board is to keep the paddle vertical when pulling through your stroke. By keeping the paddle vertical when you pull, you're essentially doing two things: You're not angling the paddle, which drives you and the board in the direction you're angling; and you're putting maximum energy into the paddle shaft during your stroke.

Don't get frustrated. Because you're paddling to the side of your fulcrum point (where your feet are anchored), there's always going to be some yawing, but you minimize it by keeping the shaft straight up and down.Outside of the power phase of the stroke (where your shaft is vertical), it's also important to completely relax on recovery so you can maximize the extension on your reach.

Add power. One added benefit to a vertical paddle stroke is having to drive your top hand and shoulder over more, essentially putting more drive into that top hand, which means more power is transferred to the paddle. This translates to more efficient energy expended and, hopefully, faster speeds across the water.

Don't sweat the small stuff. It should feel a little awkward when you concentrate on this technique. If it doesn't, there's a good chance you're not doing anything different. Change feels funny at first, but with practice it'll become more comfortable. And your board will stay on line.

Eat well. I concentrate of keeping the bad stuff out of my diet. Minimizing junk food. Eat wholesome food and minimize the sweets. I can't say I completely cut them out, but no canned sodas. And no fast food. I also try and keep the bread and gluten to a minimum.

See also: Sean Poynter’s Pro SUP Surfing Tips