Paddle with Power
3 parts to learning to paddle an SUP well.
1. Balance - Imagine you are supported from above from a string tied to the top of your head and fixed to an imaginary beam. Now you do not need the board, let the board move you, do not push back against it. The motion of the ocean, will transfer force up through the board, absorb these "pushes" by letting your hips move freely. If the board rises up on one side, let your hip on rise up on that side, then follow it back down. It is very simple, yet I have met advanced surfers and kite-surfers who have not made this connection. The beauty of Stand Up Paddle is that it gives you time to learn board sports at a deeper level, and those lessons are immediately transferable back into your life.
2. Tracking - Before you can add power you need control, much like windsurfing,(and unlike kite-boarding) you do not get power until you have control. The secret to keeping the board going in a straight line is to keep the paddle Vertical throughout the power drive of the stroke, you do this by keeping the palm of the upper hand, (holding the T-piece) facing the surface of the water through-out the stroke. This will also have the affect of shifting the bulk of your upper body mass over the foot that is on the same side of the board on which you are paddling. This upper body weight shift has the effect of "sinking" the rail of the board and steering you back into the stroke.
3. Power - Comes from your stomache muscles - if you have studied any martial arts or Tai Chi, you will know that this is ideal. You can generate tremendous power with an SUP paddle, so first you must stretch and warm up so as to avoid injury. The methods below describe how you will add power to your strokes. Once you have the technique in your body memory and can build a rythm and time it to your breathing you will be able to travel long distances and even paddle into strong headwinds.
I have described 2 techiques below
1. Cuise Mode - I use this technique for warming up or for rest periods imbetween using the Race Technique. By adjusting the techniques you can very easily shift the work out to different parts of your body.
2. Race Mode - many times now, I wll actually begin students with the race technique as it is the most efficient and fastest way to propell an SUP to date, I have found that students find it easier to keep the board "tracking" in a straight line with this method also.
1. Cruise Mode - good for warm up, chatting or long distance. (Long Stroke)
How to Paddle Straight
Race Mode - This is the one that really counts. (Short Stroke)
I did not learn this until after I had spent about 1,000 hours or more experimenting. Then one night, at a freinds party, Andrew Miller, a Starboard Designer briefly descibred to me the technique that Annabelle Anderson was using and teaching. I started to integrete these ideas into my own paddle technique, then one day while returning from the local "Drifters Beach Cafe" I came into a fierce headwind while using a 9' x 30" board. That is when I worked out the secret of the Race Technique. I was able to effortlessly accelarate into the wind, using minimal strength and energy. Here is what I learned.
It is all about focusing the movement and energy where you get the greatest benefit.
Stand as normal, feet shoulder-width apart or slighltly wider, in the stading area of the board.
1. GRIP - Hold the Paddle - One hand on the T-piece, the other spaced so that your elbows are bent at 90 degrees when the paddle is held horizontally over your head.
2. ENTRY - Lock both arms straight, that means do not bend your elbows again, throughout the exersize (after you learned the technique you can relax this rule). Lean forward onto the balls of your feet, twist your body so that your are reaching as far forward with the Blade as you can with arms still locked straight. It will not be very far. Slip the Blade into the water, the Blade should "slide" into the water with almost no splash. It is a "blade" after all.
3. STANCE - This next part is the secret to going straight. - Your upper hand, the one holding the T-piece must be over the water, keeping the paddle vertical, as though you are trying to paddle underneath your board. This will force your weight onto the same side of the board as you are paddling on, which will engage the rail of the board and help you to go straight. (If you do the opposite and paddle far away from the board, watch how much you turn). Essentially the hands are aligned in the vertical axis, like you are performing the "C" in the YMCA (village people).
4. POWER PULSE - Now, for this next part, as you can not bend your elbows, you will be forced to use your stomache muscles. Draw the paddle through the water while breathing out. You can squat slightly as the blade enters the water and stand up slightly towards the end of the stroke, this engages your "Quadriceps", (the largest and most powerful muscle group of your body). The key here is to keep the stroke very short. As short as the blade of your paddle is long. I bring the blade of the paddle out of the water before it reaches a point level with my toes. (you can do a longer stroke after you have mastered this training drill) Tense your stomache as you do this, even though your arms are locked and there is only a slight contraction of the muscles in your shoulders, upper back and arms, these muscle groups are still working isometricaly, (a static contraction - holding tension with little or no movement). If you do this correctly you will get the best abdominal work-out of your life, and you will be flying across the water, which beats the hell out of sweating on the floor of the local gym or freinds garage!
5. EXIT - As the blade leaves the water you breathe in. The "pulse" which came from contracting your stomache muscles, (crunching) and standing up slightly(squat). Creates enough residue energy to carry the paddle out of the water and bring it back around in a tight circle for the re-entry. Be sure not to bend your elbows while learning this training drill. As the blade is about to leave the water, (after traveling a very short distance), you tilt the blade so that its outer edge is facing slightly towards the front of the board. Then you "slip" the paddle out of the water with a "flick" like momentum while rotating your upper body for the re-entry and the next "pulse".
In Strong wind I will stand more forward on the boarrd, crouch a little lower and shorten the strokes even more. I see strong wind and or current as an opportunity to get the most out of my work-outs and really test my tequnique. While warming up, chatting or just cruising I will let my arms bend more and use a longer stroke.
There are countless other training drills you can create to develop a deeper understanding and mastery of Stand Up Paddling. I recently had the opportunity to join a fun SUP race in Koh Samet with Zane Schweitzer, Conner Baxter, Bart De Zwart, Sean Poynter, they kicked my but, however, while they were not giving away all their secrets, the paddle technique they used was pretty much identical to what I have described above.
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After Watching the amazing performance of Starboard Team Rider Annerbel Anderson - I have been doing a full length stroke finishing with my back and the paddle almost horizontal, still keeping both arms locked straight through-out the stroke and re-entry. Avoid flicking water on the exit and bring the paddle back around for re-entry following the shortest route.
Paddle Technique by Amara Watersports - link to this article
About the author:
This artical is a summary of what SUP has taught me since 2006 - these thoughts are totally original and not cut and pasted from another site.
When I was 21, I sold my beloved motocycle to finace a 2 year full time study in Advacned sports and remedial massage. Many years later I completed a Personal Training Course in Sydney Australia. However, I spent most of my post Thailand life working up and down ladders and in roof spaces as an electrician, I often worked on live circuits so learned to focus and pay attention in the moment. I am fascinated on how things work, especially natural systems which are sustainable, perpetual, and use all available resourses, while wasting nothing - Craig Thompson