SAN DIEGO, California - In stand up paddle boarding, having a good paddle stroke is crucial to seeing results and improving skill level. Many of stand up paddling's top athletes stress that the paddle stroke is one of the most important, if not the most important, tool to master when paddling. We caught up with many of stand up paddling's best athletes to get some tips on how to have a great paddle stroke. We spoke with Mo Freitas, Boardworks athlete Slater Trout, SIC Maui athlete Lina Augaitis, Starboard athletes Connor Baxter and Dan Gavere, Naish athletes Kai Lenny, Chuck Patterson and Casper Steinfath, as well as FCS SUP's Candice Appleby and SUP Think Tank's Annabel Anderson. Here are the top 5 tips that they say will help to improve your paddle stroke:
1. Right Paddle For You
Find the right paddle for you. What this means is to find a paddle with the proper length in proportion to your height as well as having the correct blade size. If you have a paddle that is too long or too short, or too big or too small, it can hinder your performance potential and can even cause injury.
A loose rule you can follow to make sure the paddle is the right length is to place a "shaka" above your head and use that added length to measure your paddle up to.
"Have a paddle that fits you perfectly (use a shaka over your head, for I don’t like my shoulder being pinched)" - Kai Lenny
"Make sure you have a blade size that is appropriate, be kind to yourself." - Annabel Anderson
2. Proper Posture
Georges Cronsteadt | Photo Courtesy: SIC Maui
Having the proper posture is key to keeping injury away and staying stable. You want to keep your back relatively straight without too much bending of the back. With more bending comes a higher risk of injury.
"Keep good body posture, upright posture, bend at your hips and do not roll your back too much." - Casper Steinfath
"It's all about legs, not bending the back." - Connor Baxter
3. Loosen grip
Candice Appleby | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League
Make sure that you aren't holding onto the shaft of your paddle too tightly. By loosening your grip, it can and will help tenfold and will allow for you to get a better reach and can save you a lot of time and energy when paddling.
"Loosen your grip (make ‘ok’ symbol) and it will help give you a better reach." - Dan Gavere
Andrea Moller and Livio Menelau of team SIC Maui. | Photo Courtesy: SIC Maui
One of the main ingredients to have a great paddle stroke is to get as much reach as you can per stroke. To get a good reach, use your body (rotation, core, legs) and dig deep to help cover that extra few inches.
"Extend your arm as much as possible. The more you can grab the better for better reach." - Mo Freitas
"Lean your body weight forward to fall into the stroke, use your body weight and leverage to get up." - Connor Baxter
5. Abide by Jim Terrell's Paddling Principles
Jim Terrell | Photo Courtesy: Quickblade Facebook
Jim Terrell of Quickblade Paddles (who is also a 4-time Olympian) came up with four principles, which are widely known throughout the industry, about the paddle stroke which have helped to guide and mold some of the best paddlers in the world. They are the "Catch Phase," "Power Phase," "Exit Phase," and "Recovery Phase."
Lina Augaitis sums up these four phases for us:
- The Catch Phase: Bury the blade in the water.
- The Power Phase: Lean your body weight into the stroke to generate the most power.
- The Exit Phase: Take the blade out around your feet or just behind, but not too far behind.
- The Recovery Phase: Keep the blade close to the water.
Using these five tips can and should help you towards getting a great paddle stroke. Remember, practice makes perfect so with time and effort your paddle stroke should be where it needs to be in no time!
Were these tips helpful? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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