This is part three, to read part one and two, please follow these links:
Paddle Technique: Part 2 – The three ingredients of a powerful stroke
First off: I don’t consider myself an expert and am always open to trying different things and learning from others. In this technique series, I’m merely sharing things that have worked for me, not saying that the technique I’m describing is the only right way to do it.
I jumped right into the power phase in part two. After showing a customer the “three ingredients of a powerful stroke” and watching him apply it, I realized that I left out a very important part of the power phase: using that power to propel yourself forward, not sideways.
A common mistake is holding the paddle at an angle and pulling it in an arc and not close enough to the rails.
All this tends to make the board turn (or yaw) instead of propelling it forward.
To minimize yaw and maximize forward propulsion, the paddle should be pulled through the water as vertically (straight out of the water) as possible and be pulled back in a straight line, ending as close to the rails as possible.
To pull the paddle through the water vertically, the top hand needs to be above the bottom hand and over the side of the board. To get into this position, which might feel awkward at first, the top shoulder is “stacked” above the lower shoulder. The upper body leans out over the paddle while the hips move in the opposite direction to keep the weight balanced over the center of the board while the lift created by the stroke also supports the body weight leaning over the side. The wider the board is, the more you have to stack the shoulders to get the paddle vertical.
Steering stroke vs. power stroke
Pulling the paddle in a wide arc and away from the board will make your board turn more quickly. This is called a steering stroke and works well if you want to turn the board or adjust your course. To move forward as fast as possible, the paddle needs to travel straight through the water. This will make the board yaw less and will allow you to take more strokes before changing sides. Remember that every time you change sides with the paddle you loose a little momentum, so taking more strokes per side should translate into more speed.
This sketch shows the way I try to move the paddle through a regular stroke relative to my feet. When paddling, the blade is actually planted in the water and stationary during the power phase, while the feet move towards and past it.
Here are the steps:
Reach as far forward as possible (more on that later).
Catch- make sure the blade is fully planted in the water before applying the power pulling straight back with the paddle as vertical as possible. Since the widest point of the board is usually in the middle, where you stand, a straight line will start away from the rail and end up with the shaft right next to the rails when it reaches your feet. As I release the paddle, I tend to direct the blade outward a little (making a J shaped stroke) which also reduces yaw.
A common misconception seems to be that following the rail of the board with the paddle is the most effective way to stroke. Since the rail is not straight, if you are following the curved outline of your board you are actually making a curved stroke, not a straight stroke. I focus on pulling my paddle straight back when racing. On shorter surfing SUP’s, which are designed turn on a dime and are hard to paddle in a straight line, you can actually plant the paddle a little further out and pull it towards yourself to reduce yaw and how often you have to switch the paddle.
Ok, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading, Aloha!
For more tips from Robert, visit his Zen Waterman blog at http://zenwaterman.blogspot.com/.