SUP paddle technique

Here are my favourite paddling tips that will hopefully make you faster….Got any better tips? Let us know what you think….

The speed at which you paddle, depends on 2 factors:

  • distance per stroke
  • stroke rate

To paddle faster, you need to increase either one, or ideally both. There is no one technique that fits all, it depends on your size, weight, fitness, shoulder flexibility, board and paddle type, but here is a collection of the tips about paddle technique that I found most useful…have another one? disagree? Drop us a line to info(at) or join the discussion on google+

#1 Reach, reach, reach

Remember, the first part of the stroke is the most effective part.

Throw your lower shoulder to the front and the top shoulder back in order to reach far out to the front.


#2 Push the blade in deep, using your whole body

The harder you push the blade in, the more effective the stroke will be. Don’t just use your arms, use your whole upper body to push the blade deep into the water and pull through. Use your upper body and shoulder rotation for power. You can practice this on land first. Take an alloy paddle, put it on the floor as if you were putting it in the water and try to break it with your body power. Then try it in the water. Try to paddle with a power on a scale from 1 to 10. Start with level 1 and after 5 strokes, move to level 2, and so on, up to 10. Can you feel the difference? As you keep practicing this, your “10” will increase over time, making you faster.


#3 Don’t loose time when pulling the paddle out

When you pull the paddle out too far back behind your body (“negative angle” = blade angle facing too far backwards), it gets harder to pull it out. What makes pulling out easier, is to quickly angle the blade to the side (90 degree turn towards the board), this will lower water resistance and make it easier to take the paddle out.

 #4 Don’t loose time when bringing the paddle to the front

A mistake many beginners make is bringing the paddle to the front in a wide, circular motion. While you are moving your paddle back to the front, your board looses speed. This means, the longer it takes to bring the paddle to the front, the more momentum and speed you will loose. Bringing the paddle straight to the front is much faster than doing a long detour over the side. Besides, a too strong circular motion can give you shoulder and spine problems.

Push the paddle down with your whole upper body and then, to take the paddle out, quickly put your body upright again, throwing your hips forward and shoulder backwards. When you feel your blade is hitting the water while trying to bring the paddle to the fron in a more straight way, forcing you to do a wide circle, you should check your paddle length. It might be too long….

Thanks to Annabel Anderson, for teaching me that….

#5 Don’t loose time when changing sides.

Eric Terrien showed me his technique. He uses the time where he is moving the paddle to the front (this is ineffective time anyway) to switch sides. While you are throwing the paddle to the front, slide your lower hand up the shaft (Eric slides the paddle between his thumb and his index finger.

#6 At the end of each stroke, take a little break and re-assess.

That’s another thing I learned from Eric. At the end of the stroke, briefly relax your muscles, assess your stroke (was it a good stroke? what could I have done better?) before you throw the paddle in at the front again. This brief relaxation will make you go faster longer.

Here is a nice video graphically analyzing paddle strokes from Quickblade: