SUP Technique: Understanding Paddle Speed and Board Glide

Hello again TotalSUP readers, it’s SUPerman back with another paddle tip! This one isn’t exactly a “right or wrong” type of paddle tip… more of something to think about and experiment with. Today we are talking about stroke speed (the time and length your paddle is in the water), and understanding your boards glide.

The better understanding of how your board is gliding and how your paddle stroke affects that, the better you can understand how to make adjustments to maximize your long distance pacing. Every paddler is different in their size (reach and weight) and every board is different in its buoyancy in the water, weight, nose shape, length and some other factors. It’s hard to say in general terms what to do exactly to help someone.



So let’s look at clip number one. Here I’m taking a very short paddle stroke and I’m paddling fairly quickly because of it. My time in the water is very short, but I’m paddling faster. Now looking at clip two, my paddle stroke is much longer in length and time. I’m maximizing how much I’m getting out of one stroke but I’m hindered because it takes longer to complete.

So after seeing the two contrasting paddle stroke speeds and lengths, let’s better understand our boards. A longer board inherently glides further, a shorter board glides less. Typically this is why an athlete on a longer board has faster race times than athletes on a shorter board. Knowing this, we can apply the two paddle strokes from before to the different board lengths.

On a 12’6, the shorter, higher pace stroke is typically a slightly better option. The board glides less, so you actively have to work to get the blade into the water more consistently to keep it moving. If your blade isn’t in the water pulling, the board will slow down faster than a longer craft and makes it much harder to maintain speed.

Now to the opposite let’s look at an 18ft unlimited board. It can glide much more efficiently because of its much longer length. Because of this a longer stroke will allow the board to propel much further, and the time your paddle is in the air isn’t wasted since the board is still maintaining its glide longer.

A longer slower stroke is acceptable in this case because the paddle craft is able to maintain the glide. If you paddle an unlimited like a 12’6 you are almost fighting the glide the board naturally has instead of utilizing it. You can cut your stroke rate down 25-30% and still maintain a higher speed than a 12’6.

Now here let’s look at the final video. This is my stroke length and speed that I like on my 14ft board here. Knowing your paddle craft, understanding when your stroke is too long or short to maintain its glide is the key to improving overtime. This is something I’ve adjusted a bit and will continue to do going forward! Understanding when my stroke is too short or too long is helping me make the changes to get more out of each stroke.


So, give it a go. Keep the idea in mind that your strokes per minute and stroke length make a huge difference to your overall speeds. Using a Speedcoach from NK Sports Performance will allow you to see your strokes per minute, and distance per stroke… these numbers can help you figure out when your stroke is its most efficient.

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

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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