SUP Newbie Chronicles: How to Properly Turn and Steer your SUP

sup1Sure, 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.

2. Side­stroke
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. 

3. Back­pad­dle
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.