If you are interested in taking part in a SUP race, there are several paddle boarding skills you should know, one of them being the buoy turn. If you know how to do a good buoy turn, it will help you greatly in improving your performance in the game. If you want to do a fast and smooth buoy turn, it’s going to take a lot of practice, but you will be rewarded when you actually participate in a SUP game.
If you have the chance to use different boards, it’s better if you can practice the buoy turn on different boards because the buoyancy on the board is distributed differently on different boards. So your position on the board will be different when you are on different boards.
The key of a buoy turn is to step back and lift the nose of your board up. The purpose of lifting the nose up is to pivot around the reduced waterline of the board and the fins at the back of your board which are used for helping you go in a straight line.
When you are competing in a SUP race, you are likely to have other paddlers accompanying you. The principle is to start the turn early if possible, even by turning as little as ten degrees will give you an advantage when going around the buoy and help you turn faster. When you are about to turn around, try to get as close to the buoy as possible, this will help make the turn much faster. The closer you are to the buoy, the faster you are able to turn. And since you are close to the buoy, you will be leaving no space for other paddlers to be closer to the buoy than you, and you are forcing them to go further to take the turn, thus giving you a huge advantage.
When to start preparing for the turn?
When you are approaching the buoy and the buoy is about two boards length away from you, start to move your feet back to the tail of the board. While moving, put the paddle in the water like when you are taking a stroke will help make the process more stable and controllable. At this point, you should be pretty close to the buoy. When you get to the buoy, take a wide stroke on the opposite side of the buoy to help you turn. If another rider is in the way blocking you from taking the stroke, take a draw stroke in on the buoy side to turn yourself around.
When stepping back to the tail of the board, you need to find the most suitable position for yourself. If you are too far forward, you won’t be able to lift the nose up enough, thus making your turn slower and wider. If you are too far back, it will get unstable and you are likely to fall into the water and left behind by other players. And you will have to be dealing with a lot of other factors that might affect you in taking a buoy turn like wind, tide, the position of you and other riders, and the angle of which you approach the buoy. If you need to turn more than 90 degrees, you’ll need to step back a fairly long way on the board, ideally as close to the tail of the board as possible while maintaining balance and stability. But if you are able to prepare your board for the turn in advance, you might just be able to turn around with out stepping back that much long way. For any small turn that’s less than 90 degrees, just stepping one foot back and taking a few wider paddle strokes on the opposite side of the buoy might be enough to get you around the buoy efficiently.
Right after getting around the buoy, move your feet back to a normal paddling stance and start to do an explosive sprint to exit the turn as fast as possible and speed up. This makes drafting harder to maintain for your components behind you. Practice to find your rhythm and if you are able to time your paddle stroke perfectly, you will be much more stable when moving forward at a fast pace. Also, if you are feeling unstable, place the paddle blade in the water will help to stabilize you. Just focus and be mentally prepared for any upcoming problems.
If you really want to take part in a SUP race, make sure you have practiced enough and are proficient in both frontside and backside buoy turns. There’s no shortcut to mastering these skills. You will need to take time to practice stepping back and turning the board with long paddle strokes on both front and back sides. Usually there’s one side that you will feel easier to do, but you should practice both side to prepare for any circumstances. Also, it’s important to wear suitable clothing and the leash because it’s basically inevitable to fall into the water, more than once. Try and find the sweet spot on the board and stick to it.
Learning to do and practice the buoy turn is not an easy thing to do, but actually doing it in a SUP race is totally different. You’ll be under a lot of pressure that comes from other paddlers and you’ll need to learn to handle them well so that it won’t have a negative effect on your performance. It’s a real challenge to perform well in a SUP race. When you are approaching the buoy together with other paddlers, you might need to make other tactical decisions to find the best way to turn around the buoy.
Chances are you can’t have everything under control and go the way you want it to be when in a SUP race. Learn to adjust to different situations that might come up quickly. And most importantly, practice the front and back side turn to build a solid foundation for the game, and keep your mind sharp and think fast.
If you are tempted to try stand up paddle boarding, make sure you get yourself a high quality SUP board to get the best experience the sport can offer. For a solid choice of an inflatable paddle board, check out Goosehill Rainbow R inflatable stand up paddle board. It’s a featured board from Goosehill made with the SCE technology which makes the board rigid and durable. If you are stuck for a high quality paddle board, the Goosehill Rainbow R is the one to get.