It’s one of those never ending summer days and you’re spending it gliding across the river on your stand-up paddleboard. You catch yourself slipping into a state of flow, until the faint echo of a man’s voice hits your ears; you look up and see a tan man on shore yelling at you to “turn your paddle around!” Brow furrowed, you look to your friend in the hope that he’ll confirm you’re not only doing this whole SUP thing right but damn well, too. He looks at you skeptically and tells you to, indeed, turn your paddle around; “That’s why you’ve been going so slow.”
Save yourself the strife of feeling like a total newbie, the unnecessary argument with your friend, and the slowness of an improper stride by simply learning the most basic, least talked about element of stand-up paddleboarding: how to hold your paddle properly.
Hold the paddle so the blade slopes away from you:
When beginners pick up a paddle, it’s common for them to hold the paddle so that the angle of the blade is sloping toward them. This seems to be human nature; the paddle simply looks like it should scoop the water, right? Wrong, thanks to physics. Holding the paddle this way pulls up on the water, creates drag and slows you down. Holding the paddle with the blade sloping away from you pushes down on the water, creates lift and allows you to glide smoothly along the water.
Know which arm goes on top:
This element of paddleboarding seems to come pretty naturally to us new folk, but it’s no less important to master, so let’s get the basics straight. If you’re paddling on the right, your left hand must be on the top of the grip, and vice-versa. You’ll switch your top grip each time you switch sides and it will become a seamless effort as long as you learn this right the first time before developing any bad habits.
Paddle with your core, not your arms:
Your core is much stronger than your arms, so aim at paddling by twisting your torso and using your core muscles, as opposed to pulling yourself with the sole strength of your arms. To do this most efficiently, stand on the board with a slight bend in your knees and look out at the horizon, not down at your feet.
Push down, pull back:
To get the most out of each stroke, simply push the paddle so it’s fully immersed in the water, pull it back to your ankle and then out of the water. Think about pulling yourself past your paddle instead of just pulling your paddle through the water.
Practice good posture:
Stand straight, not stiff. Don’t lock your knees, keep them slightly bent. Keep your back straight, not hunched, and hold your shoulders level. All of this will help you in keeping yourself and your paddle properly positioned.