How to SUP: Power Paddling

How to SUP: Power Paddling With Rob Rojas


Three years ago, Rob Rojas paid $400 for a 12’3” standup board a friend shaped in his garage and entered the Dana Point Ocean Challenge, winning the stock class and a sponsorship from Ohana Paddleboards. The 37-year-old Californian combines a big motor—he’s a former NCAA D-I swimmer who once finished a 241-mile canoe race in 36 hours flat—with a butter-smooth stroke. Here are his secrets. —As told to Jeff Moag

STANCE: Staying loose is really important. From your shoulders down, your whole body has got to be like a big spring: feet parallel, knees bent. Your legs have to be in a constant state of motion.

CATCH: Place the blade about 4 feet in front of your toes. The power phase of your stroke should go from there to your feet, and no farther. If you pull past your feet it’s just wasted energy and will actually slow the board down. That’s the biggest mistake new paddlers make.

DRIVE: The power stroke is 90 percent body, maybe 10 percent arms. Your reach and power come from twisting your body from the knees, hips, torso and shoulders. With your blade placed well forward, uncoil your body using the big muscles of the core. You’re pulling yourself through the water and the blade stays stationary. Keep the blade as close to the board as possible.

RELEASE: Once the blade reaches your feet, snap it out. I like to give a little flick at the recovery, twisting the power face away from the rail. That smooths the release and helps the board track straight without slowing me down. I also will shift my weight to steer the board. If I want to turn, I just put a little more pressure on one foot to dig that rail.

I work on technique in training. When I’m in a race or paddling for a wave, I’m usually just thinking about what four-time Olympic canoeist Jim Terrell told me—‘pull hard, pull often.’

Photos: JP Van Swae

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  • Nick

    Does anyone know what size blade Rob Rojas uses?

  • Michelle – a total newbie ;)!

    Almost embarrassed to ask this, but… do you only paddle on one side of the board then? I’ve observed some beginners trying out some rental boards and have seen them paddle on both sides, alternating quite often. It did not look efficient. I’m gathering, from seeing them struggle and reading this, that it’s more effective to focus on one side of the board…? Or is it just a matter of what’s comfortable? Thank you and great little “how to” article, Nathan and Rob!

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