You’ve purchased your paddle board, you’ve prepared all your gear, and now it’s time to hit the water. But how do you paddle and what is the best type of stroke to be using? SUP and paddle strokes are like cars and engines.
Neither works without the other. Yet pair the two up and suddenly you have an efficient mode of transport. Here, we’re going to discuss the different strokes you need to learn and how to actually paddle on a paddle board.
Top 5 Paddle Strokes and Techniques
The forward stroke is the first and the most important stroke you should learn, as this is the stroke that you use to propel your paddle board forward, which you’ll be using frequently.
To execute the forward stroke, while holding the paddle with one hand on the T-bar grip and the other slightly down the shaft, rotate your hips and shoulders so the paddle is over the water’s surface and the blade is angled forward.
Fully submerge the blade in the water so you are utilizing the full surface of the blade to push you forward. Then pull the blade back towards your feet. When the blade is in line with your heal, pull it out of the water and repeat.
To travel straight, you’ll need to alternate which side of the board you paddle on. There’s no set number of strokes per side; try about three or four strokes on one side, then switch to the other. When you switch sides, you reverse hand positions. The more vertical you keep the paddle, the straighter you will go.
Just as the name suggests, the reverse stroke is the reverse of the forward stroke. You use this stroke to help slow your board down, stop your board, turning, and to help you back up.
Like with the forward stroke, keep your arms straight. Place the paddle in the water behind your feet, close to the tail of the board. Once you have a submerged paddle blade, twist from your torso rather than pulling the blade forward with your arms.
Doing the reverse stroke on the right side of your board will cause the nose of your board to turn to the right and vice versa. If you reverse stroke on the right side of the board, hold the paddle shaft with your right hand and keep your left hand on the top of the paddle. Keep your arms and core firm and careful of your balance.
This is a helpful stroke to help you turn your board left or right while either stopped, moving forward, or backward. Bend your knees, lower your arms and place your paddle in the water with the blade facing the side of your board.
From here, sweep the carbon fiber paddle in a half-circle motion from the nose end of your board, towards the tail end. If you perform this stroke on the left side of your board, the nose will go right, and vice versa.
The sweep stroke asks the paddler to perform a wide arcing motion with their paddle. Depending on the wants/needs of the rider the sweep stroke can pull out wide from the board’s nose to tail or be a shallower, snappy maneuver.
There’s also a reverse sweep stroke. With this one, you start the paddling stroke next to the tail and draw a large arc with the paddle blade, ending the stroke at the nose of the SUP. If you do it on your right side, the SUP will turn to the right.
A draw stroke helps move your board in a sideways direction. If you want to pull up alongside a boat or dock, you can use the draw stroke to move your board towards it. Here’s how you do the basic draw stroke:
Start by rotating your shoulders in your desired direction and place your sup paddle in the water so the blade is facing the side of your board. Pull the blade toward you to move the board in the direction of the paddle.
Slice the blade out of the water by swinging it toward the nose or tail of the board and repeat the stroke. Keep in mind that the tail of the board has fins that will move slower through the water than the nose without fins. To help with this, place the paddle in the water a little farther back towards the tail.
5.Cross Bow Stroke
There’s the cross bow stroke (also known as the cross over turn) which allows for a quick sharp turn without slowing down or losing momentum. It’s great for making quick course adjustments while moving.
If you want to turn right, you need to paddle on your left side. Twist your body, bringing your paddle over the nose of your board to your right side. Rotate your core and place your paddle blade in the water.
Bend your knees and pull the blade towards the nose of your board. If your board is turning too much, you can bring your paddle back over to the left side and perform a sweep stroke.
If you want more effective and efficient stand up paddling then learning to put to good use all these paddle strokes is best practice.
With time, you’ll find these skills easier and you can move on to more advanced techniques. Lastly, have fun! Even in the learning process–enjoy yourself.