Sup Technique – 5 Do’s and Don’ts by Kelly Margetts

Kelly Margetts, Australian professional SUP racer and coach shares with us his 5 Stand Up Paddle Technique Do’s and Don’ts!

Photo credit - The Marko Photo ©

A little bit of background…

kelly margetts totalsupI get asked a lot how at 43 I can still keep racing at the level I do. How I keep mixing at the front of the pack with the best in the world. How I stay injury free. What my secrets are.

Well there are no secrets. There are no substitutes for hard work. A good training plan, good nutrition, the right equipment, and having fun are all key factors in my program, but without constantly working on my technique and learning to use my body in the most efficient way possible, none of my accomplishments thus far could be achieved.

It’s important to understand your body, your stroke, and to learn to create full-body connection in order to start to break power-blocking old habits, to be able to constantly keep evolving as a paddler.

When I look at technique it’s not about everyone paddling the same way. For example, if you look at the top 10 paddlers in the world over the last 5 years, you’ll notice some very visual differences in the way most paddled, but their boards speeds are all very similar. Why is that? It’s the little things they all do the same way which has their bodies “connected” you don’t notice. It’s these small, but simple adjustments that can make the difference in your speed, power, and efficiency, taking you to that next level, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or elite paddler.


For those in the racing side of the sport, board speed is the main thing most of us are ultimately concerned with, so let’s take a moment to look at it more closely.

What is speed? By definition it is “the rate at which someone or something moves or operates” I’m sure everyone can paddle faster in short bursts, but can you do that over and over again, or for an extended time? And at what cost? Does your technique break down, or completely go out the window to achieve this speed?

What are you sacrificing to go fast?

►Do you get tired quickly when training, racing or paddling with a friend?

►Does your board all of a sudden feel a lot more unstable than when you started?

►Are you getting sore feet? Lower back? Forearms? Elbows? Or the most common: Shoulders?

►Do you feel like you change sides with your stroke more often than others, or the board tracks one way more than the other?

►Do you feel like you have to increase your stroke rate to keep up?

►Do you have trouble maintaining speed in rough water?

►Does your paddle quiver through the water?

►Do you understand all 5 phases of the stroke?

If any of these questions relate to you, then its time take a to look at your technique.

Creating an efficient, powerful technique is actually energy saving. Who doesn’t want to paddle faster with the feeling of using less energy? We are all given the tools to do this by creating that full body connection. So where do we start?

5 Dos and Don’ts to get started

I’ve put together 5 Dos and Don’ts to help you get started, but firstly understanding what you are trying to achieve with the stroke is very important. We are not simply pulling the paddle through the water. Rather, we are trying to set our blade deep off the catch and propel ourselves past the blade entry point to create glide in the board.

This is why to me, the ‘set up phase’ (the body position at the front of your stroke before the paddle enters the water for the catch-phase) is so important; having the body in the most kinetically efficient position to activate all the right muscles to produce the most amount of power.

So my 5 Dos and Don’ts are going to look at a base technique of flat-water rhythm paddling, and the body position required to achieve this. I always like to start at the bottom of the body for two reasons, one because it’s our connection to the unstable surface, and two, without a solid, connected base we reduce power output from everything else above the hips.


I. The Feet: Feet should be shoulder width apart and angling roughly 15 degrees out from parallel.

feet stand up paddle

►Don’t grip your toes or allow weight to shift between feet, or forward onto toes during your stroke.

►Do create an even platform on both feet with weight evenly dispersed between four connection points.

II. The Knees: Our knees are important connectors between our feet and hips, and are one of the first spots we lose or break our power connection.

knee stand up paddle

►Don’t allow the knees to cave inwards during the power phase of the stroke, or bow too far out like riding a horse. Also don’t make them too rigid and stiff against the board and water.

►Do keep the knees connected but relaxed. The knees become your shock absorbers in rough water, and they should be positioned above the feet with a slight bend so that you can just see your toes.

III. The Hips: Our hips are the main connection point between weight moving side to side, and power driving forward to back.

hips stand up paddle

►Don’t over rotate your hips when setting up for your catch, or allow your hips to push out to the side or backwards, through the power base of your stroke.

►Do keep your hips balanced above the knees so when we get a deep catch, we simulate pulling our hips past the paddle entry point with our whole body connected.

IV. The Arms: Our arms are simply positional levers to our power.


►Don’t bend your bottom arm through the stroke. This isolates smaller muscles to fire. Also don’t lock out the top arm straight, this shortens your connective reach for the catch.

►Do keep bottom arm extended out of the armpit through set up, catch, and power phase of stroke to activate the latissimus dorsi muscle of the back. Do have slight bend in top arm. This activates downward power out of top shoulder, and allows more reach.

V. The Shoulders: This is where most injuries come from. Poor shoulder position puts you at risk, but is also the final point of connection between your paddle and your large back muscles.


►Don’t shrug shoulders up around your ears or roll forward during the stroke. This action isolates smaller muscles creating them to over work. Also, don’t leave shoulders still or stagnant making the arms do all the work.

►Do keep shoulders relaxed and down with a long neck. Allow extension through your stroke by opening up the chest, rolling the bottom-arm shoulder forward, and top-hand shoulder back. This in turn activates all your larger, powerful muscles in your back, and creates full connection utilizing the elasticity of the body offering you a more efficient stroke.

The practice

Now we’ve worked through body position it’s time to put it into practice. One of the best ways to help improve and refine the finer points of the paddle stroke is through video. I’ve teamed up with Paddle Power Trainer to offer one-on-one SUP technique analysis. Simply go to to sign up. Then send me a short video of you paddling from a couple of different angles (all of the information is given in the email you will receive after signing up), and I’ll break down your stroke, give you personalized advice, and drills to improve your paddling efficiency. I offer three sessions of new videos, over whatever amount of time needed, to get the most out of your body and stroke. Sign up today and change your paddling forever.

Paddle Power Trainer

Paddle Power Trainer (PPT) also offers scientifically proven, progressive, interval based training programs to increase paddling conditioning for all levels of paddlers-SUP, Prone, OC1, and is used by many of the top paddlers around the world.

The PPT uses concentric and eccentric resistance to increase the speed of muscle memory through the full range of movement in the SUP stroke, and is the best off water training device for technique and interval training in all weather conditions and locations.

The new website covers everything about interval training, the PPT training device,  and offers full video analysis, so sign up today!


About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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