How to paddle straight on a stand up paddle board?

SUP paddlers are always trying to perfect their technique, to become more efficient, it is the constant goal. More efficient, thus faster. In doing so a common paddler complaint found amongst SUP paddlers is that they “can not paddle in a straight line”, not matter how hard they try. SUP legend and BIC paddler Eric Terrien explains how this really is not a problem for us paddlers, in his tutorial Eric will change your mind set away from just concentrating on paddling straight, towards how to actually control the trajectory of your board.

Paddle straight: 8 myths of board control

1. The SUP board has a natural tendency to push towards the opposite side to that in which you paddle: TRUE.
The shorter the board, the more the board will have this tendency, this motion is called “the row effect”.

2. Pro paddlers paddle in a perfectly straight line: FALSE.
Pro paddler are technically very capable of doing this, but in a race situation they are always moving from side to side, so to exploit every little bit of water movement, sometimes only which they can see. At the same time they are searching to maintain the correct ratio between producing an effective paddling technique and maintaining the optimum trajectory of the board.

3. It is the paddle that helps me move forward: FALSE
To move forward, you advance the board by anchoring the paddle into the water and pull the board towards the paddle, not the opposite.

4. With wind on one side, I find that I always paddle on my downwind side: TRUE
Unfortunately this is true, and it can become exhausting. Fortunately techniques exist to paddle on the other side of the paddle so to regain some strength. I will describe them in the following paragraphs.

5. With wind on one side, and paddling in the wind I have to make an effort to put the board  in the axis of the wind before changing hands: TRUE.
When you pass the paddle onto the windward side the board nose will quickly turn even more leeward. In anticipation of this change hands again without waiting for the board to drift completely under the wind, otherwise the effort required to put it back on the course will be more difficult.

6. Pro paddlers always place the paddle into the water with the blade perpendicular: FALSE.
The pro paddlers are always having to make small paddle corrections, sometimes they have to put the paddle in the water with a small angle so to correct the board direction. Since we are trying to move the board towards the paddle, if I place my paddle with an open angle into the water, a little off from the nose, it will bring the nose back to my paddle (at the same time I am using using my legs) and to correct my trajectory. This is typically the movement that is used to paddle when I paddle on my windward side. In the absence of wind it also allows micro-course corrections without the need to change hands at this time.

7. If I press hard on one foot so to lighten the load on the board, it will turn the board: TRUE
If you engage your body weight more one one side, especially the side where you have the paddle, it will accentuate the board’s row effect. Then if we press the opposite side to the one we paddle, it will slightly counter the row. Once again, for optimum hydro-dynamical performance it is better to have the board flat whilst paddling, with slight pressure on certain strokes to make adjustments of trajectory.

8. Pro paddlers only change hands to manage the effort when paddling at speed, whereas beginners its to control the board direction. FALSE
Pro paddlers seek  compromise between the effort and the trajectory, and even if technically they do not need to change hands to control their trajectory, it is sometimes less expensive in energy to change hands to put the board back into the axis, especially in the chop.

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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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