SUP Technique : How to change sides effectively

Proper technique is essential for every paddler, how you paddle really can  make a huge impact when it comes to speed, efficiency and avoiding paddler burn out. BIC Sport ambassador Eric Terrien often described as a pioneer of Stand Up Paddling in France has put together a series of tutorials to improve paddle technique and performance.

How to perform an effective paddle change:

This month’s tutorial concerns the hand placement whilst paddling. Paddle technique is often centred on the propulsive phase, and about “manoeuvres”. Attention is often focused on buoys turns.  There are few technical articles that address the subject how to change hands efficiently. We generally change side every 10 paddle strokes and  at the rate of 50 paddle strokes per minute, in one hour there will be 300 changes. You have the potential to lose half a second with each change, equating to 1 minute 30 seconds of time.

Tip number 1:
If you are tired, you must change the pace, but avoid taking breaks during paddle transitions, it will take even more energy to regain the race pace.  It isn’t time to rest whilst adjusting your hand position!

Tip number 2:  Swapping the paddle between hands must become second nature, take the time to become used to changing sides. A technique can be finishing the stroke just before changing hands, and to attack the next stroke just after. Too many people make the mistake of not exerting enough force in the last paddle stroke just before changing, often thinking that it does not matter because they will change hands, and / or neglect the attack the first time with the “new” hand. Doing this will make the board  slow down, therefore the paddler will require more energy to get the board going again.

Tip number 3: Remember that during the hand change, the paddle will not move laterally from one side to the other, but diagonally. The paddle comes out of the water on one side near the feet, same as on a normal stroke, and re-enters the water on the other side far in front and cleanly.

Tip number 4: Remember to twist your wrist with the lower hand at the end of the move, at the same time as the upper hand releases the handle, to create a forward momentum of the paddle and towards the opposite side.

Tip number 5: As you make this move, we will try and make the change far in front, with the arms  straight, in order to anticipate the following move.

Tip number 6: Avoid crossing your hands if so you will get tangled with your paddle. The hand that is highest needs to slip under the lower hand that still is holding the paddle. This will allow the lower hand (which is the future high hand), to slide along the handle without losing contact with it, which would be impossible if the hands were crossed.


Tip number 7: Keep in contact with the paddle, this can be done by keeping the handle in between the thumb and the index finger.

Tip number 8: Be careful not to miss the handle with the opposite hand when you are paddling at speed. That’s why it’s important to keep in contact with the paddle when you raise the paddle. If you do not focus or pay attention then it can lead to missing the handle  and the paddle hitting you in the face! No joke, especially to those to whom it is has already happened.  The moment the paddle hits you in the face is the time when the blade is meant to be in  the water, so best have both hands in place and ready!

Tip number 9: It is important to attack the paddle stroke after this change of hands, it is the same as if it were a normal paddle stroke. Find a good position with your paddle on the water and it will allow you to move the board forward.

Tip number 10: Share this article if you liked it, and comment if you have questions or remarks. But pay attention to your paddle change phase on your next training session!

About the Author

Helen Trehoret

SUP, OC1, V6, Surfski ... and field hockey coaching, Helen is a busy British mother of two who lives in Bretagne, France with a passion for all things Ocean. Helen runs Barrachou SUP, a SUP tour company specialized in excursions around Bretagne and Scotland.

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