The “catch” phase of a good stroke involves insertion with minimal splash.

Beginner SUP Tips: Building the Perfect Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is one of the best ways to stabilize yourself. Now that you're standing, take few strokes on either side. Feel the board become more stable as you start to track through the water. Now, let's improve that stroke to make your life easier.

Be loose. Getting calm and comfortable is really important. Your body is your shock absorber: feet parallel, knees slightly bent, your legs reacting to current and bump in the water. Be comfortable and remember to have fun.

Reach. Reach the blade next to your board about four feet in front of your toes with your lower arm extended, using your top hand as a guide. Reach only as far as is comfortable during your stroke. Keep the elbow of your top arm close to your head to avoid shoulder stress.

Catch. After reaching as far as possible, place the blade smoothly (think no splash) next to your board.

The “power” phase of your stroke shouldn’t extend past your feet.

Power: The power phase of your stroke starts where you plant your paddle. Pull smoothly through the water, bending at the waist with the stroke ending at your feet, and no farther. If you pull past your feet it's wasted energy that actually slows the board down.

Get Technical. The perfect stroke is 90 percent body and 10 percent arms. Your reach and power come from twisting your body at the hips, torso and shoulders, using your core to drive your stroke through the water. With your blade placed, uncoil your body using the big muscles of the core and again, bending at the waist. Essentially, you should be pulling yourself through the water while the blade stays stationary. Keep the blade as close to the board and as vertical as possible; this will keep you tracking straight. And try to look where you're going, not down at your feet.

The “recovery.”

Recovery: Once the blade gets to your feet, start your recovery. Try feathering the blade by dropping the shoulder of your top arm, twisting the power face away from the rail. That smooths out the release and helps the paddle move aerodynamically back to the catch. Remember to extend your reach. There is no rush. Take your time and dial in your stroke. And we probably don't need to remind you: have fun.

See Also

Beginner SUP Skills: Getting to Your Feet

Safety: Choosing the Right Leash For Your SUP