Sure, steering your stand-up paddleboard around obstacles sounds easy enough — and in theory, it is — but doing it effectively is another story. Another chapter altogether is the simple yet important technique of turning your board effectively. Yes! There’s a difference between steering and turning an SUP. And you’ll want to master both of these paddleboarding elements early on so you don’t get left behind when friends turn back to shore. Take a look at the following four tips for effectively turning and steering your SUP.
1. Steer Clear
Think of it this way: steering is for all technical purposes, the same as turning (just doing so ever so slightly). Therefore, learning how to steer your board will help you turn it more effectively. To steer yourself clear of a water-logged obstacle on your right, you’ll want to move slightly to the left. Do this by paddling on the right side of your board so that it moves in the opposite direction. The next tip will help you remember the equation, but before too long it should become second nature.
Sidestroke is the most basic way to turn your board, and you can master it quickly by following a few general rules. Slide your paddle into the water with strokes that are much shorter and much quicker than those you’d use to propel yourself straight forward. To make this easy turning technique even easier, try looking over your shoulder in the direction you’re trying to turn instead of gazing down at the water.
We’re willing to bet that backpaddle will become your favorite method of turning once you’ve mastered it because it’s the quickest way to turn around. While you may naturally discover it once you’re more comfortable on the board with the mechanics of basic sidestroke, you can also learn it early on and implement it when you’re ready. To backpaddle, put the paddle into the water on the same side of the board as the direction of your desired turn and pull the blade of the paddle backwards. You’ll want to grip the paddle tightly and you’ll need to use the strength in your torso to make this backward paddle stroke. You may gain a bit of momentum as you turn, so once you’re heading in the right direction, dive the paddle into the water and paddle normally to set yourself straight. This is the only turning stroke in which you paddle on the same side as the direction you’d like to turn.
4. Sea (or C) Stroke
To make one big turn (or to turn your board around entirely), plant your paddle blade in the water toward the top, front end of your board, and make one long stroke toward the very end of your board. Just as in steering and in side stroke, this C‑shaped stroke will turn you in the opposite direction of the side your paddle is in the water on. The motion of making a giant C with your paddle will cause your board to make a more serious turn, so this stroke is useful if you’re aiming to go in the entirely opposite direction.