Paddling a SUP is simple enough in theory, but in reality a lot goes into a sound SUP stroke. Proper technique is critical even for the strongest paddlers and makes all the difference when it comes to speed, efficiency and avoiding fatigue. To help maximize your paddle's potential, let's break down the five phases of a proper SUP stroke.
Phase One - The Reach
Every good SUP stroke starts with the reach, the phase of extending the paddle forward for placement. To accomplish this with maximum efficiency, activate the core and twist the shoulders slightly, hinging at the hips and leaning forward to extend your paddle blade toward the nose of your SUP.
Aligning the shaft parallel with your SUP's rail, create an A-frame between your body, the shaft and your lower arm, setting the blade next to the nose as far forward as you can comfortably reach.
Keep your back straight and bend you're stroke-side knee slightly to maximize extension before placing it in the water.
Phase Two - The Catch
Phase two of a quality stroke is the poiont at which the paddle meets the water. After reaching as far forward as comfortably possible, fully submerge the blade in the water aligned perpendicularly to the rail of your SUP for maximum resistance on the blade.
The key here is a smooth insert. Focus on making little to no splash, as water displaced above the surface means less resistance and drive going into the next phase.
Phase Three - Power
Propelling the standup paddleboard forward past the submerged paddle blade, also known as the power phase, is the section of a SUP stroke that most influences speed. Good stroke technique in this phase is paramount for a faster paddling experience.
Once you’ve accomplished a quality catch, activate your traps and obliques as the primary force of the coming pull, keeping your lower arm straight and the paddle shaft vertical.
Pull your body forward to the blade rather than pulling the blade back to your body, and end the stroke at your feet as extending any further decreases efficiency and risks deceleration. A wavering blade also decreases efficiency, so do your best to keep your pull as steady as possible.
Phase Four - Release
The release is the point at which the blade exits the water after the power phase. To do this properly, exit the blade next to your feet to avoid deceleration between strokes (note: the image above is an example of taking the power phase a little too far. Aim to reach the picture stage alongside your legs rather than behind them.)
For the cleanest, most efficient exit, lift the paddle by dropping your upper hand down and inward rather than pulling your lower hand up and back. Try to keep the blade as vertical as comfortably possible upon exiting to avoid pulling the blade up through the water and in turn losing efficiency.
Also avoid twisting your paddle before exiting the water as this will offset the flow for an awkward recovery.
Phase Five - Recovery
The recovery phase is the transition between one stroke and the next. Once the blade is released, twist your wrists inward with the thumb of you lower hand rotating back to turn the shaft 90 degrees and feather the blade for a smoother, faster recovery.
The recovery phase is an opportunity to give your muscles a break, so let your shoulders relax as you swing your paddle back into the reach phase (a light paddle will drastically improve performance with this phase).
A smooth, rhythmic recovery is key to setting up your next stroke, so focus on technique rather than speed here.
Photos and video courtesy of Black Project SUP
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