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Paddleboarding Technique: The Basics

Paddleboarding is such a great sport for anyone with its ease of accessibility, endless diversity and remarkable health benefits. Whether you’re athletic or not, once you’ve learnt the basics, the world really is your oyster on a paddleboard. To help you utilize your progression on the water, we’ve outlined the basics of paddleboarding technique.

Let’s Start With Going Straight

To help you preserve energy and have control over where you are going, it’s important to learn how to go straight. Firstly, you want to ensure your body position is central on the board, with your feet placed shoulder width apart on either side of the carry handle and the weight equally distributed. If you lean more on one foot, the board will automatically turn as you paddle. For those that are kneeling to start, the positioning is the same as standing, just with your knees in the position of your feet. To maintain equal weight distribution, keep your head and shoulders in line with your hips and feet. By keeping your gaze forward, this also helps to keep everything in line. Along with our body, our paddle positioning also affects our direction. During our paddle stroke with the blade in the water, it’s important to keep the paddle as upright as possible. When standing, your top hand should lightly grip the handle, with your lower hand holding the paddle shaft a little wider than shoulder width apart. For those kneeling, the top hand will move down from the handle and hold the shaft shoulder width apart from the bottom hand, to keep the paddle vertical in the water.

Once you’re in position, the next task is paddling. With your hands in position, keep your paddle stroke as close to the rail of the board as possible. This will keep your board going straight and reduces the frequency of having to switch paddle sides. If the paddle moves away from the board during the stroke, this will turn the board away from the side you are paddling on, but we’ll get to that next.

Changing Direction

Following on from going straight, being able to turn is key to being in full control of your board. As we mentioned above, if during your forward stroke, the paddle angles away from the board at around a 45-degree angle, this will slowly turn the board away from the side you are paddling on. For a quicker turn, you can use the reverse stroke, which also works for slowing down and stopping. It’s an easy one to remember as it’s just the forward stroke, but in reverse. Using your core, reach behind you towards the back of the board, place the blade in the water and draw the paddle straight along the edge of your board till in line with your feet. If you do this on the right side of your board, it will turn the nose of your board to the right. The next one is the sweeping stroke where the blade is going to enter the water as far forward on the designated side, draw a large semi-circle in the water with the paddle all the way round to the back of the board. If you draw the semi-circle on the right hand side of your board, it will direct the nose of the board to the left and vice versa.

Time To Pick Up The Pace

Whether you’re going for a leisurely cruise or a power paddle, it’s always good to know how to accelerate. It also becomes a fundamental skill if you are racing or SUP surfing! At the beginning, you’ll use short and quick strokes to pick up the pace. Once you’re speed has quickened, you will then switch to longer more powerful strokes to increase the speed further. For these longer strokes, you’ll want to reach as far forward as possible, pulling the blade in the water until it is in line with your feet. If you allow it beyond your feet, it will uneven your balance and cause you to become unsteady or turn.

It’s important to remember that as with any sport, these skills take time and practice to polish, but once you have the basics dialled; you’ll be impressed by the speed of progression.

For more on the basics of stand up paddle boarding, head to our How to SUP page with several video tutorials.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.