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Stroke Technique for SUP -- Any advice?

I was taking @Garrett and @beau downwinding, and some basic advice regarding stroke technique is really key to better enjoying standup paddling.

The key points are:

  1. You’re not pulling the paddle through the water. You want to be thrusting the board through the water while the paddle slips as little as possible.
  2. Keep the shaft vertical when pulling the blade through the water. To do this, keep your top hand OVER the water, off the side of the board. Think of the blade almost going under the board. If the top hand is over the board, then the blade is farther away from the board, and that will make the board turn, which is good when you want to turn, but really hurts your ability to go straight quickly.
  3. Enter the blade into the water well in front of you, with both the top and bottom arms about straight, and a relatively straight line from your bottom arm to your top shoulder.
  4. Start pulling the paddle out of the water when the paddle crosses your foot. All your stroke power comes from the the time the blade is in front of your feet.

I really like this new video from Jim Terrell of Quickblade:

Here’s part one of the series:

There are also a bunch of excellent tips on paddle technique on this site:


Including a Kalama video on his paddle drills.

@Igor, great article.

Here’s the Kalama part:

Here’s a summary of the tips:

  1. Reach, reach, reach: Remember, the first part of the stroke is the most effective part.
  2. Push the blade in deep, using your whole body
  3. Don’t lose time when pulling the paddle out
  4. Don’t lose time when bringing the paddle to the front
  5. Don’t lose time when changing sides.
  6. At the end of each stroke, take a little break and re-assess.

Great videos. It’s surprising to me how little the paddle blade is moving through the water. Makes sense to think of moving you and the board forward instead of pulling the paddle backwards.

Good stuff here! I like to add another visual and that is pulling your body to the shaft of the paddle through the thrust of your hips. If you can do all the above and add this… look out, you’re going to add some extra smoke on the water!

When paddling SUP or paddling with your hands on a prone or surfboard, the key is that you’re using your body effectively to thrust the board forward rather than the paddle or hand backwards. Imagine that the paddle or hand is gripping the water, and your body/board move around it.

Another key to not having the paddle/hand slip through the water is smooth pressure rather than an jerky or rough action. Be smooth!