7 Quick Tips to Help You Paddle in a Straight Line


Table of contents

1. Make Your SUP Paddle Stroke Right
2. Holding the Paddle in a Correct Position
3. Looking Forward
4. Maintain the Right Stance on the Board
5. Body Rotation While Padding
6. J-stroke
7. Use the Correct Fin


SUP skills

As a beginner in SUP, there will always be parts of the activity that you need to work on and improve. Most people consider their SUP experience a success because they can stand and somewhat navigate their board. However, there are more techniques that need to learn than meets the eye, such as how to go straight on a paddle board. Don’t worry, here are some tips that will help you get more strokes per side and minimize yawing. We believe you can learn how to track perfectly straight and head exactly where you want to go with a little practice.

Make Your SUP Paddle Stroke Right

The key when paddling a stand up board is to keep the paddle vertical when pulling through your stroke, which means you’re putting maximum energy into the paddle shaft during your stroke. If you stroke with your paddle at angle your board will start to turn. Failing to have a vertical shaft during padding is one of the most common mistakes that paddlers make, but it can be easily fixed.

SUP skills

Holding the Paddle in a Correct Position

To head in a straight line, keep your paddle as close to your board as possible with each stroke. By not holding the paddle in a correct position you may be using it in a way that will push your board side-to-side in the water instead of straight ahead. To make it easier to understand, you just need to remember one thing: The closer your paddle is to your board in the water, the straighter you will go. Vice versa, the farther away your paddle is from your board, the more it will turn in the opposite direction. Also note that don’t touch or rub the edge with your paddle. Avoid scratching the rails of your board with your paddle stroke.

SUP skills

Looking Forward

If we look down we fall down, but it does also translate and help you to paddle in a straight line if you are looking forward. This is because you're aligning your body's torque, positioning, and weight placement, your board is more likely to go where you're looking. If you're doing a distance travel, always pick a landmark and lock your sights on it so that you don't find yourself zig-zagging off-course.


Maintain the Right Stance on the Board

Always stand on the broadest part of the board, which is in the middle. You should check if your feet are at the same distance from the edges before starting your journey. If one foot is too close to the edge, it is likely to tilt the paddle and lose balance, which would in turn make how to paddle board straight hard. One more thing, you should keep your feet shoulder width apart there.

SUP skills

Body Rotation While Padding

In order to keep equal weight distribution and attain a vertical paddle stroke, we need to rotate our body during the stroke setup. Body rotation also increases your functional reach, which sets you up for a more powerful stroke. Hence, we need to follow the four steps:

  • It is necessary to keep your knees bent all the time
  • Turn your upper body away from your paddle, towards your non-paddle side
  • Drop your paddling side shoulder. To exaggerate this movement, your head can go between the A-frame of your outstretched arms
  • Your top hand must go just over the edge of the paddle board. The paddle shaft and your top are will form the capital letter “A”. You should feel a stretch through your non-paddle side body
SUP skills


You’d better start with the conventional “J” if you want to learn the straight-line stroke method, as the mechanics of the J-stroke are easier to master. Plant your paddle blade a few inches from the edge of the board and pull the paddle closer to the board. Angle your stroke toward the board. Pull the blade slightly inward then let it run and exit close to the board. The slight inward angle at the beginning helps keep your board moving in a straight line. 

Most people pick up the conventional-J quickly. Unfortunately, they seldom evolve beyond it. The J-stroke is an okay traveling stroke but it's inefficient. 


Use the Correct Fin

Believe it or not, maintaining a straight paddle board direction can depend on the fin a great deal. For a beginner SUP board, it will help to use a fin with a larger surface area and wider base. A bigger fin with a larger area helps to push against water making the board harder to go off track. A smaller fin would make the board easier to turn. Staying with the fin, the position it sits in the fin box also contributes to tracking.

Tracking straight can be difficult for beginners. Remember, the more time you spend on the water, the better you will become. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a whole lot of practice.

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