Hello all! My name is Robert Norman, I’ve been paddle boarding since 2015 and in February of 2017 I broke a SUP Distance World Record! I was able to paddle 111.8 Miles (180km) in 24 hours. One of the key factors in my success in paddling for that duration was my technique, I was favoring a technique that was both efficient in traveling distance and conserving energy in the long term. Today I wanted to share seven tips with you that I have implemented into my own technique!
Tip #1- Holding the paddle to maximize leverage.
Many people don’t give much thought to where their bottom hand is on the paddle shaft. A very simple guide on maximizing your pulling leverage is to hold your paddle normally, and place it on top of your head. Try to center your two hands and look at the bend in your elbows. Both elbows should be at a 90 degree angle when the paddle is centered on your head. I like to put a piece of tape, or tennis wrap in this location on the shaft to remind myself where my hand should be. You can deviate from this for comfort based on your arm length… but only by a few small degrees! Try to get used to this grip position and your pulling leverage will improve immediately!
Tip #2 - Use your entire paddle blade.
My favorite quote from Dave Kalama (Paddleboard legend) is “You pay for the whole blade why not use it all.” When you are paddling, make sure to submerge the entire blade in the water. Any part of the paddle not in the water is not going to help propel the board forward. Someone taking partial strokes has to take more strokes and work harder to keep up with someone utilizing their entire blade surface. So when you paddle, use your entire blade!
Tip #3 - Utilize the torso by keeping the arms straight.
When you have the blade planted and begin pulling water, remember to keep the arm straight and try to pull more with your hip pulling back, rather than your elbow bending. If you compare your bicep muscle to your entire hip joint, it’s a no contest on which is the bigger stronger muscle group. Utilize the larger muscles to maximize your pulling force without burning as much energy.
Tip #4 - Leverage and weight distribution.
When you start to plant your blade in the water and begin pulling, apply pressure on the top hand pushing the blade straight down. This is additional force that will propel the board forward. But, instead of thinking of using only your top arm to push down, lean forward and transfer your body weight onto the top of the blade. Pulling down over 100lbs with a single arm is a Herculean task, but leaning forward and putting 100lbs of pressure on the top of the paddle is a simple task. It takes a little more balance and confidence to pull this off, but try to think about leaning forward on the blade like a crutch when you are paddling.
Tip #5 - Clean Exit.
At the tail end of your stroke you need to remove the blade from the water. If you do this too late, its easy to scoop water and slow the board down, and if done too soon you're missing out on a large portion of the paddle stroke. Try to use your feet as a guide on when to exit. The blade has an angle offset keeping the blade positive longer, don’t be afraid to let the paddle blade pass your heels before the exit, but not much further than that!
Tip #6 Foot position.
The larger your standing base, the more power you can produce. So if you have your feet close together, and you get shoved, its much easier to lose your balance. If you have a wider athletic stance, with the same shove, your ability to withstand it increase. In SUP a shove would be a wave, wind, or bumping into someone. Your feet being shoulder width apart will make a big difference in stability, will lead to more power you can generate to paddle faster!
Tip #7 - Board comfort.
Learn your board! Try to walk around on it, paddle from different locations, turn the board in rough water, and get used to being the master of your craft. Investing time and effort to become comfortable on the board is an excellent foundational skill to have to really begin learning advanced techniques in the future!
Robert now offers beginner paddleboarding lessons in Inverness, Florida. If you are passing through or visiting that area, or even looking for a great weekly workout on the water, contact Robert at email@example.com or find him on Facebook to schedule your lesson!