SUP Technique: Reaching for Increased Speed

9th August 2017


Hello again TotalSUP readers! It’s SUPerman back again with a new paddle tip. This one is another simple tip that will help you maximize your body to paddle better. Many of these paddle tips are going to be on better muscle engagement and postural cues to help athletes. Today, let’s look at the reaching phase of the stroke.

Reaching is setting up the blade at the front of the catch, before the blade actually touches the water. This is your body’s setup to initially plant the blade, and we know a good catch leads into a good stroke.  This is crucial to be in proper position to load the blade. There are two common errors to be in improper position: over-reaching and under-reaching.

Let’s talk about under-reaching first. This is where you’re not rotating your hips at all, and typically have too little bend at the hips and knees. This means you’re not loading your bodyweight onto the blade to apply your leverage. Instead, you’re using the small shoulder muscles to drive the blade through the water. If you pull down 100 pounds with your entire bodyweight, it’s a very simple task. Now imagine doing it while strictly only using your shoulders. This becomes much tougher and is what you’re doing to your body in an under-reaching position.


Next, let’s look at over-reaching. Many people think further is better: the longer the stroke at the front, the more you get out of it. While this is true to a certain extent, let’s understand our body’s kinetic chain.

This is the chain of joints as they work together in complete movements. In an over-reaching position your body is skipping a link in the chain to reach further than your center of gravity. This is because your upper body can’t get the weight over the top of the blade, causing your lower back to compensate to pull the blade back enough for your center of gravity to take over. So, when you are reaching too far, all the effort leads to a weak catch where your body is out of position.


Now, a proper reach is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. The goal is to establish pressure on the water through the kinetic chain. We want this initial chain to start at the large lat muscles under the shoulder.

Feeling the pressure of the water here means you are properly aligned to allow your hips and legs to carry out the power phase. Sacrificing a few inches of an over-reach for a much more powerful catch is more beneficial than having a very weak and poor posture catch that is longer.

To identify where your reach should be, on land, simply plant your blade in the sand and lean forward. If you feel pressure in your lat as you lean forward you are in a good position, but try to reach a little further to see if that pressure transfers. Keep reaching until you start to feel it in your lower back instead of those lats. If you feel it in your lats, that is too far!

Thanks for reading! Through TotalSUP, I am offering online coaching thst includes a video analysis of your stroke and a workout plan for 25$ if you are interested, please contact me at

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