How to Engage Your Core When Paddle Boarding

When a beginner first get on a stand up paddle board and doesn’t have any instruction, they tend to use their arms only for taking a stroke.

It's a common mistake for those who just start to learn how to paddleboard.

And when you only use your arm to paddle, you are wasting a lot of your energy moving the water instead of your board.

It will make your strokes very inefficient and your board go very slow.

It might even make you feel like you are not strong enough for stand up paddle boarding.

But if you know how to use your core for paddling, then you will be able to make your strokes more efficient and powerful and no energy will be wasted.

All your energy will be properly transferred to the board and you will find that you are actually moving much faster than before when you only use your arms.

So if you want better performance in stand up paddle boarding, it’s important to know how to make good use of your core.

In this post, we will go over a few things to show you how to correctly engage your core when you are paddle boarding.

paddle boarding with your core

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  1. How to properly hold your paddle

The first thing to learn to use your core in stand up paddle boarding is how to hold your paddle correctly. It’s something that a lot of beginners ignore. You might not be paying enough attention to it because it’s a basic part and doesn’t seem complicated. But it's possible you are holding it wrong. Here’s how to hold your paddle right. First, put your top hand on the T-grip and have your other hand on the shaft. And then put the paddle on top of your head. Look to the hand that’s on the top of the paddle and with your elbow at an angle of less than 90 degrees and then look to the other hand and slide that hand up the shaft until that elbow is a little less than 90 degrees. The reason why you need to hold the paddle this way is that it separates your hand wide enough that it allows you to engage your core and transfer the energy of your stroke from your core to your paddle and down through your feet to the board. And it eventually helps to propel the board forward. If you place your hands too closely when paddling, it’s really hard for you to use your core and you will still be paddling with just your arms. And by doing this, you are actually moving more water and less of the board.


To test how much more powerful it is to use your core for paddling, you can find a friend who’s powerful and has a strong arm to help you. Ask your friend to hold your paddle blade and then use your arms only to paddle, you will see that it’s very easy for your friend to stop the paddle blade. And then engage your core in the paddling process, and you will find that your stroke is much more powerful and your friend won’t be able to stop the blade and the stroke. By engaging the big muscles of your core, your strokes will be much more powerful and able to make your board go much faster.


  1. How to engage your core in the three most basic strokes in SUP

If you are able to use your core correctly in every part of your stroke, you will be able to go much faster with every stroke and your performance will be improved. In stand up paddle boarding there are a few basic strokes and every kind of stroke can benefit from better utilization of your core. Here’s how to engage your core in some basic strokes.


2.1. Engage your core in the reverse sweep.

The reverse sweep is the most basic stopping stroke. To really engage your core, you need to get down, bend your knees a little more and start rotating back towards the tail. And at the same time, plant the blade completely in the water, unwind from the core, turn your feet towards your paddle and when the paddle is out of the water, you've taken a reverse sweep successfully with your core.


2.2. Use your core in the forward sweep

The second stroke is forward sweep which is turning while in motion. To use your core for the forward sweep you need to bend your knees a little more and start rotating your body. This is the part where you engage your core for the stroke. Plant your paddle completely in the water, and unwind for the purpose of turning your feet away from your paddle.


2.3. Engage your core in the forward stroke

The third stroke is the forward stroke. It’s a basic stroke to propel your paddleboard forward. If you are able to engage your core properly in forward strokes, you can make your whole paddle boarding experience much more efficient. Here’s how to do it. Take a good neutral stance and keep your arms straight because keeping your arms straight leaves you no choice but to use your core. Once your arms are bent when paddleboarding, you will start to waste more energy moving more water. But by keeping your arms totally straight, you can engage the core better. Plant the whole blade in the water and start pushing down with your top hand.


Here’s another tip on engaging the core and the forward stroke. When paddling forward, think about moving your feet forward. It’s like pulling your feet and your body forward and towards the paddle.


The key to a powerful stroke is engaging your core. Always use your core to move your board. Once you do that, your performance will have a big leap forward.


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