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Stand Up Paddle BoardingStand Up Paddleboarding Tips

SUP Paddle Stroke Technique

The foundation of sup paddle stroke technique is rooted in understanding body posture and proper form. With these two elements as your base, it’s possible for any paddler – regardless of level or ability – to make gains and progress their skillset quickly. By focusing on core concepts such as stance, grip, power phase, recovery phase and timing, we can ensure maximum efficiency from each stroke.

Furthermore, mastering the basics will open new doors for exploration if you’re looking to take your standup paddleboarding game up a notch. Whether it be playing around in surf or taking part in long-distance races, having a good grasp of fundamental techniques puts you on the path towards success.


The Reach is the beginning of any good sup paddle stroke technique. It’s essential for creating a powerful and efficient stroke, allowing you to cover more distance with less energy expended. To get maximum reach, start by positioning your body correctly on the board – feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, knees bent, back straight. This posture will allow for optimal balance throughout the entire movement.

SUP Paddle Stroke Technique 2
Our friends at Thurso demonstrating proper body positioning for the catch

Reach forward as far as possible while keeping your arms locked at an angle close to 90 degrees from each other. Keep in mind that this motion should be fluid and continuous; no jerking or stopping during your reach! Keep the blade near the board – don’t swing it around far away from you. Activate your core for balance and aim for the water ahead of you at a comfortable and not extreme distance.


The catch is the start of your stroke, and it’s important to get this right. A good paddle-catch will set you up for a smooth, efficient stroke. Here are some tips for getting your catch just right:

  • Make sure your grip on the paddle handle is comfortable and secure.
  • Slice your paddle in the water with authority – don’t splash or slap.
  • Keep your elbows bent and close to your sides as you pull through the stroke; this helps maintain control over the blade and prevents unnecessary splashing.
  • Angle the blade slightly away from you/the board.
  • Slip the blade in smoothly – think of an Olympic diver trying to make no splash

When done properly, a good paddle-catch allows for an effortless transition from stationary to forward momentum without any wasted energy or movement. This consistent technique ensures that each stroke is executed efficiently while minimizing fatigue caused by incorrect form or harsh impacts with the water. Mastering this skill requires practice and patience, but if done correctly it will result in smoother strokes and faster times on the board.


The power phase is when you use your core muscles, back muscles, and arms to pull the blade through the water with maximum force. This is when you’ll feel the most resistance from the water, and it’s important to maintain a consistent, steady stroke. Remember to keep your upper body straight and engage your core muscles to maintain your balance on the board.

Powerful Efficient Propulsion
Engaging Smooth Control
Fast-paced Balanced Strength

To begin with, focus on engaging all parts of your body for maximum output. This means setting up correctly by driving through your legs and core muscles down into the board. Don’t just use your arms–you’ll tire out quickly, and risk overuse injury. Then use those strong leg muscles and hip flexors as you propel forward with each paddle motion. Make sure you’re using smooth transitions from one side to another — no jerky movements that can cost you energy or reduce speed. As you move forward, think about keeping a balanced position throughout the entire stroke so there are no unnecessary losses in momentum. Finally, make sure you control your paddle to prevent “flutter” in the blade.

In other words, when it comes to power paddle strokes, keep in mind that strong engagement of your core muscles to pull yourself rather than relying on your shoulders, with an emphasis on balance and control will help ensure a more dynamic yet efficient performance. With these practices incorporated into their regular routine any sup enthusiast can reap the rewards of increased power and improved speed out on the water.

SUP Paddle Stroke Technique 3


The release is an important part of the stroke technique in stand-up paddling. It’s what creates a smooth, efficient paddle stroke and helps you to move across the water with ease. Here are some key points about this phase:

  • Keep your body weight balanced between your feet
  • Avoid any jerky movements when pushing against the paddle blade
  • Extend your arm back as far as it can go while still maintaining balance – don’t extend so far back that you begin to lean or tip
  • Think of simply returning upright vs “pulling” the paddle upward out of the water
  • Try to slip the blade out of the water rather than shoveling or splashing out

When releasing the paddle, be sure to keep your torso upright and relaxed. A good way to do this is by engaging your core muscles – start from your lower abdomen and work up towards your neck. By doing so, you’ll maintain a strong connection with the board throughout the entirety of the stroke. The goal here is for no energy to be wasted during the process; everything should flow together smoothly.

In order to maximize efficiency, practice keeping track of where exactly on each side of your board you’re placing each paddle blade – focus on being precise! This will help ensure that each stroke produces maximum forward movement without expending too much effort or losing momentum. Furthermore, make sure that you don’t hold onto the shaft too tightly while pulling through – let it slide through your hands effortlessly instead! Once you’ve released both blades into their respective positions near the tail of your board, use this momentum to push off again at full power.

By perfecting these techniques in tandem, you’ll find yourself gliding over the surface with greater speed than ever before – all thanks to mastering proper release mechanics!

A Bearded Man with a Prosthetic Leg Paddleboarding


Once the release is complete, it’s time to move on to recovery. It’s one of the most important parts of sup paddle stroke technique and should be done with purpose and intent in order to maximize efficiency and power throughout each stroke. Don’t just flop through the recovery!

Paddle recovery begins with a strong core pull as your blade leaves the water. This will help set up for a powerful catch on the next stroke. Keep your body centered over the board while continuing to rotate through the hips during this phase.

The arms should remain relaxed during paddle recovery, extending toward their full length while maintaining an outward rotation from shoulder to elbow. If you feel tension building up in your shoulders or forearms, take a moment to relax them before starting your next stroke. Aim for smooth movements as you reach forward with both hands at once – don’t start paddling until you have completed recovery! By coordinating all these elements together, you can ensure that your sup paddle stroke technique remains efficient and effective every time you hit the water.

Keep practicing good habits like proper posture, intentional movement, and relaxation during paddle recovery so that each stroke becomes more comfortable and natural the more times you do it. Before long, recovering between strokes will become second nature and you’ll be able to focus on mastering other aspects of sup paddling such as stance dynamics or bracing techniques.

SUP Paddle Stroke Technique 4

Practice Makes Perfect

Good sup paddle stroke technique is essential for paddlers looking to maximize the efficiency of their strokes and get the most out of each ride. Done correctly, a well-executed stroke will give you more power, speed and maneuverability on the water. To master this skill requires practice and dedication, but with these five components – reach, catch, power, release and recovery – you can make great strides in improving your performance.

My advice is to take one component at a time when practicing and focus on perfecting that particular element before moving onto the next step. Break it down into manageable chunks so it’s easier to work through without getting overwhelmed by all the details. As long as you pay attention to what you’re doing during each stage of the stroke cycle, I’m confident you’ll soon be able to achieve an efficient paddle stroke with ease.

Finally, don’t forget that mastering any skill takes time and patience – so don’t beat yourself up if progress isn’t made right away! With consistent effort, combined with helpful tips from experts like myself (or even just fellow enthusiasts), anyone can become an expert in SUP paddle stroke technique – all they need is perseverance and commitment.

Hayley Gordon

Hayley Gordon has been surfing for over 20 years. Riding both shortboards and longboards, she's traveled the world to surf but mainly sticks to her two home locations of San Diego and Long Island.

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