Some of you might have heard of SUP drafting, or the word drafting in other places. But what does it mean exactly? Well, it basically means when you are paddling on the water behind another paddler, it makes it easier for you to paddle since the paddler in front of you is pulling you forward. In a word, it’s basically using other paddlers to save your energy. It’s one of the most interesting yet controversial stand up paddle racing techniques.
SUP drafting used to be a controversial technique, but now more and more paddlers have accepted it as a useful SUP racing technique. Even though some paddlers are still not willing to accept it as a rightful skill, there have been SUP riders who use the SUP drafting to their advantage to maximize their performance in the race.
It is such an important skill that some SUP racers even start practicing it in their training session as a major SUP race technique. And it actually is pretty useful considering that it could make a huge difference in your performance in the game.
What’s so great about drafting?
Drafting allows you to use less energy to achieve a certain speed. With energy saved, you can outtake other competitors using the saved energy when you need to. And it’s a technique that’s not only useful in SUP racing but in a lot of other sports as well. Drifting can also be helpful when you are on a casual SUP trip with other paddlers. All you need to do is tuck behind another paddler and it will make paddling forward significantly easier for you.
How to do SUP drafting?
SUP drafting is useful and might look easy, but the fact is it’s going to take practice to really master it. Knowing how to do drafting correctly will give you the maximum effect of drafting, which translates to better performance in a race. To get the maximum effect of drafting, you need to paddle right behind another paddler and keep the nose of your paddle board just a few inches off the tail of that paddler’s board. Doesn’t seem to be that hard, right? But you do need to anticipate where and how fast the paddlers you are following are going in order not to be left behind when they accelerate or bump into them when they slow down. Pay attention to what side the person you are following is paddling on, it can give you a better chance at foreseeing which direction he might be heading. The wake that the board in front of you creates will affect your route, so if you have the chance, learn to counter that and practice more, and then you should be able to use the technique very well in the race.
If it’s a long distance race, it’s better if you take turns with others to lead on the front. By doing this, all paddlers can go at a higher average speed throughout the whole race. When taking turns, you or other paddlers will have time to take a break from all the heavy paddling. It would be nice if all the paddlers have the same mindset of sharing the load.
There are SUP races that have specific rules made for drafting to prevent overuse of drafting and paddlers from taking advantage of the technique and other paddlers. If you intend to participate in a race, be sure to check out the rules to find out what’s forbidden.
Drafting is a practical skill to have for stand up paddle boarding. It can be used in a SUP race as well as in your daily SUP session. To have better performance in a SUP race, you need to pay attention to other paddlers, obstacles in your way, the position of the buoys and markers. You can still benefit from drafting even if you are not interested in SUP racing. Drafting can make your paddling session more enjoyable with the company of other paddlers. If you are a strong paddler, you can help the weaker paddler by taking the lead and allow them to draft and give them the chance to improve their paddling skills. So SUP drafting is not a SUP technique that’s only useful for SUP racers but for every paddler.