Improve Your Stand Up Paddle Stroke Technique

Larry Cain is a canadian sportsman who won the Olympic gold medal in sprint canoe in 1984. All the technique and science he has learnt over years of canoeing, he is now transferring to SUP.

In this series of 8 videos, Larry Cain breaks down the stand up paddle stroke into 5 different phases : Entry, Gathering, Catch, Middle stroke and Exit and turns each phase into a SUP drill that perhaps every paddler in the world should include in either their warm-up or SUP session everytime they hit the water.

Here we go:

1. Introduction to SUP Stroke Technique Drills

Larry Cain stresses that doing drills is one the best ways for you to improve your padde technique. They should be part of your every day SUP routine and you should repeat them religiously. He insists that drills must be an exaggeration of each particular element of your paddle stroke which should be repeated separately before moving on to the next element.

2. SUP Stroke Technique: Entry drill

Larry Cain insists on the importance of making your paddle go forward into the water and avoid what he calls “air catching” and splashing caused by the paddle coming back in the air before hitting the water.¬†Instead, you want your paddle to move forward into the water and for this you are¬†going to need to rotate your¬†shoulder and your¬†hips.

3. SUP Stroke Technique: Gathering drill

This drill is called the gathering drill simply because it is meant for you to gather the maximum amount of water behind your paddle. To do this you need to drop and bury your paddle forward bymoving forward your paddle-side shoulder and hip.

4. SUP Stroke Technique : Catch drill

This drill focuses mainly on your hip action right after the gathering drill during which you moved forward both your paddle-side shoulder and hip. The focus here is almost entirely on your fast hip action backwards. As you pull your hip back as fast and steady as you can, your inside leg is bent forward.

5. SUP Stroke Technique: Applying the catch drill

This drill is about applying 2. 3. and 4 together in a loop of exagerated paddle strokes in which you are meant to focus only on the front of your stroke, ie the entry, the gathering and the catching.

6. SUP Stroke Technique: the middle of the stroke

Another crucial point is brought up by Larry Cain here : the amount of body weight you put on your paddle at the front and the middle of your stroke and how you unload that body weight at the end of the stroke. To emphasize this action through the drill, you are meant to bury as deep as possible your paddle into the water in the middle of your stroke (1:40)

7. SUP Stroke Technique: Exit drill

According to Larry Cain, a good exit is about unloading the body weight you have put on your paddle throughout the stroke so far but also using it as a last push as you close your stroke with your hip (again !)


As this can be an intense exercise both for the mind and the body, alternate sets of drills with easy paddles and resting. The key however is to keep doing those drills and repetitions of those drills whatever your level.
Larry Cain is also a coach, writer, TV commentator and a contributor to various SUP related publications.

We recommend Larry Cain’s¬†blog:¬†

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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