Jim Terrell, perfecting his paddle efficiency one stroke at a time. Photo: Black-Schmidt

Jim Terrell’s Four Fatal Stroke Flaws

And How to Fix Them

Jim Terrell has dedicated his life to the paddling stroke and the tools to accomplish it the most efficiently. He started paddling canoes with his father when he was three, building paddles when he was 11 and would go on to become a four-time Olympic canoeist. He was making outrigger paddles in his garage when SUP took off. Since then, the founder of Quickblade Paddles has been making some of the best equipment in the business and working on technique with the best paddlers as well. Here, Terrell gives us the top four stroke flaws and how to fix them.—WT

Jim Terrell: I break the stroke into four phases. The catch, when the paddle enters the water. The power, where you're actually putting pressure on the paddle blade to drive yourself forward. The exit, when the blade is released from the water. The recovery, where you're gliding and resetting for the next stroke.

1. Not digging the blade deep enough on the catch. Most people understand you have to reach far but the most important thing, no matter how far you reach, is to enter the blade fully in the water as early in the stroke as possible. People tend to pull back before they set the paddle and it cavitates, where you pull a hole behind the blade. To minimize that inefficiency, the concentration should be on pushing downward. You should feel a good connection with the water before you pull. The quieter your paddle is in the water, the more efficient you are.

2. Not using the big muscles of the legs and torso during the power phase. A good paddler does all the work with their body, not their arms. The legs and the torso are where the power are. So you need to learn to engage and use what I call rotational forces using those big muscles instead of the small muscles of your arms. This will give you the best distance per stroke.

3. Not standing up early enough in recovery. On the exit a lot of people pull, bend down, stay low in the stroke, take pressure off the blade and then they sit up. If you do that, you're stalling the momentum of your body and your board going forward. If you watch good paddlers, even if they bend down a lot, they're still sitting up and bringing their hips back under them early. You want to get your hips under you earlier in the stroke.

4. Over feathering the blade on the release. We feather the blade on the recovery because it travels through the air in a more aerodynamic position. But some people feather too far and put a downward force on the blade. They are giving themselves tendinitis because they are contracting muscles in the wrist over and over again. Keep the wrist straight and let the paddle roll down naturally. Minimize the big circular motions with the top hand; it should stay in a similar area while the bottom hand goes in slight oval patterns.

You should end up with nice, efficient, long strokes.

Originally from SUP mag’s 2016 Gear Guide.

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