August 19th, 2018

Paddleboarding for some, can be a relaxed way to explore your local waterway. Some decide to surf them on the exposed Coast, others even follow the current of Rivers, inevitably going with the flow. Whatever means of paddling you do, there are always the fundamentals, which we will dive into here, adding some more advanced techniques for those who are keen.
Let’s break it down.

Forward Paddling (How to paddle efficiently in a straight line)

The forward paddle stroke is always the core to any other technique, let’s face it, without a solid forward stroke, we will be paddling in circles. After nearly a decade of being on a floating board, I’m still and will always be working on my forward stroke efficiency.

1) It starts with a strong platform – Parallel stance in the middle of our board, feet shoulder width apart, slight bend in the knees.
2) Shifting our weight forward slightly onto the balls of our feet. With straight arms, hinging at the waist, reach forward with the paddle and plant it in the water, as forward as possible.
(Advanced tip: We can rotate our hip, on the paddling side, towards the front of the board to give us further reach and the untwisting of the hip, as we stroke, adds to our overall power)
3) When planting the paddle in the water, the paddleshaft is straight up-and-down, vertically. *This is the key to tracking properly. Think about stacking your wrists. keep it tight against the edge/rail of the SUP.
4) As I transfer my weight forward on the paddle, my top arm pushes down on the handle of the paddle as my bottom arm aids with a slight pulling action, from top (front) of board to just past our feet/hips. The majority of momentum is gained from the top 50% of the board.
5) For acceleration and speed, try paddling with short but quick and shallow strokes.

Sweep Turn (How to steer your board left & right)

The sweep stroke or sweep turn, is the fundamental of all turning while paddling.

1)  Standing in parallel stance,  lowering our center of balance by squatting. Twising our hip, closest to the paddle, towards the nose of the board. Which allows us to reach further forward.
2) Planting our paddle as far forward as possible, we want to paddle in an arcing motion away from the nose of our board. The paddle stroke will form a “C” shape in the water.
3) The lower we are in our stance, the wider we can push away from our board and the quicker we will turn. As well, if we connect this stroke from the nose to tail of our board, we will need fewer strokes to turn us and will be able to turn faster because of it.

This stroke can be applied as a “Reverse Sweep” as well, from Tail to Nose, which is one way to turn, while in place. In addition to turning the board, a reverse stroke applies backward momentum. It’s not recommended if you’re trying to keep your forward momentum or for paddling into the wind. To maintain your momentum, stick to the sweep, which is a variation of a forward stroke.

T’ashii guide Kirstie, demonstrating how to initiate the Sweep Turn, planting the paddle at the nose of her board.

Now for some tricks! (Try a fun challenge. Build skills towards controlling your board & ultimately catching waves in the surf zone)

A  3-step progression:

1) Moving around on the board

With a wide stance feet hip-width apart over the rails (the long sides of the board), practice rocking the board side-to-side. Transfer weight from left foot to right and back. Knees should stay bent, acting like shock absorbers for when you’re feeling unstable.  Method 1: Try hoping lightly forward or backwards on the board with both feet. Method 2: Try shuffling feet forward or backward on the board, walking one foot at a time. Tip: What are some ways to stabilize yourself to avoid a fall in the water? Getting low by bending both knees to lower your center of gravity. For recovery, drop one knee down to the board, coming into a crouch position to stabilize. Keep your paddle in the water to use it as a brace (second point of contact).

2) Staggered Stance

This stance allows you to imitate a tripod when you incorporate use of the paddle. This stance is great for more advance skills such as paddling over surf or swell, stability in chop and whitewater.
1) Keeping feet wide over the rails (the long sides of the board), jump lightly or shuffle your feet into a surf stance. In the surf stance, one foot should be slightly back, toes of both feet pointing forward on a diagonal. Tip: Avoid feet that point completely to the side of the board as your centre of gravity will shift and any forward hinging at the hip will lead to leaning over the side edge, or losing balance and falling off side of board. 2) Bend knees 2) Practice transferring weight from side to side, and rocking from front to back.

Using the staggered stance, while touring, gives added stability in swell and currents.

3) Bringing it all together: Pivot Turn

First off, the key to a successful pivot, is being comfortable moving around on the board. The goal of the pivot is to be able to turn quick without falling. For racers, it allows them to pivot around a buoy, fast and efficiently. For paddle surfers, it allows them to turn quickly for a wave, in order to catch the wave.

1) Get into a wide surf stance or some variance of the staggered stance, your balance point and weight should be back, standing over the tail section of the board.
2) Add the side sweep. By standing at the back of board and adding the turn, the momentum will lift and swing the nose of the board, allowing you to pivot, or turn on a dime.
3) To stabilize yourself, shift weight forward on the board, use the brace and use the “drop knee” for balance.

Practicing the Pivot turn will help tie all of the skills together. It’s fun and can really boost your confidence while racing, touring and in the surf.


I hope we were able to offer some insight and skills that even a seasoned paddler can appreciate!
The T’ashii Team