How to Power Your Paddling


Want more power and balance when you paddle?

Stop paddling with your arms and start engaging your core (including your legs)!

I love that SUP is easily accessible, but I dislike the misconception that there’s nothing to it.

Stand up paddleboarding is a fantastic full body workout once you learn how to efficiently transfer power from your core to your board. Not only that, but feeling the strength of your body moving your board is empowering and confidence building.

Why Core?

The muscles in you core are bigger and stronger than the muscles in your arms. You’re so much more efficient with your energy when you use your strongest muscles move your board forward.

Think about it. Your arms, regardless of their strength, are no match for your full core and legs. Why not use your full body strength to make your paddling more effective, fun and powerful?

Engaging your full body while paddling your SUP can also help to reduce the risk of injury to your shoulders. Too much arm paddling ends up putting a lot of torque on the shoulders and can create imbalance in that area.

Here are 6 tips for engaging your core when paddling your SUP:

1.Keep your feet connected with the board and your knees soft.

Keep your knees soft and slightly bent so they can act as shock absorbers. People think of standing up straight to stand up paddleboard, but you actually keep the legs engaged in an athletic stance with your feet hip distance apart and your knees slightly bent. This will help you balance.

Don’t bounce up and down as you paddle. Your lower body should be relatively quiet yet engaged.

2.Arms Straight

This is counterintuitive to almost everyone at first!

Keep both of your arms straight (but not hyperextended) when you paddle forward.  The only way to move your board forward with your paddle while keeping your arms straight is to engage your core. Stop bending your arms and pulling the blade through the water. Instead, keep your arms straight and start to discover the power of your core!

3.Hands Stacked at the Catch

Stack your hands on top of one another so that your paddle is completely vertical when it enters the water (the catch). This will help your core wind up for the catch and also give you the most reach and purchase on the water. When the paddle is vertical when it enters the water it’s going to travel beside your board instead of out and away from it. This will keep you going in a straight line instead of veering.

Remember to switch sides when you’re paddling. If you paddle on one side only your board will veer.

4.Unwind and Hinge

For the propulsion phase of your stroke unwind the torso as you plunge the paddle down into the water with the weight of your body, almost like you’re falling on your paddle.

This drives the entire blade down into the water for greatest purchase and power. You’re essentially doing a little sit up/side crunch with every stroke!

This can be the most confusing part of forward stroke technique on a SUP. Watch the videos below to get a visual.

5.Your Hips

Please don’t push your hips forward with every stroke 🙂 As mentioned above, you’re in an athletic stance with your knees slightly bent and your hips should be back, like you’re in a little squat. Your hips don’t move much, but they are engaged isometrically.

6.Drop the Top Hand to Recover

Your propulsion phase should only last to just behind your foot. Forward strokes are a lot shorter than people think. To release the paddle from the water drop your top hand to slice the paddle out of the water and return to the catch.

Here’s a short video that demos effective forward stroke technique incorporating the points above.

And here’s a video I was featured in on SUP TV with forward stroke tips:

Are you an avid SUPer who wants to refine your technique, learn to trip and build your confidence by learning to teach? I still have 2 spots left in my ACA Level 2 Stand Up Paddleboard Instructor Certification Course happening March 19 – 21 in Asheville, NC. Click Here to learn more and register.

Want to become a SUP yoga teacher? Click Here to learn more about my SUP Yoga YTT happening May 14 – 16th in Asheville, NC.