How to hold your paddle – Live clinic with Seychelle

6th February 2021

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SUP race APP World champion Seychelle goes live with SIC Talk Stories talks about how to hold your paddle. This is a 25-minute stand up paddle clinic, so go grab your paddle and play along! Seychelle talks about basics for newbies but also to advanced paddlers.

Maintain a positive paddle blade angle

The very first thing that I talk about when I teach how to hold the paddle is to look at the blade. The blade always has an angle. When we hold a paddle the angle is always going to be facing away from us. Funny story, when I started stand up paddling, even I did what most people do the first time they paddle: I grabbed the paddle with the blade facing back towards me. The first impression we get is that we think the paddle is shaped like a spoon and that the blade is there to grab the water. But it’s not a spoon, it’s a blade and that angle has to go away. One easy way to avoid making the mistake is that most paddle brands put their logos on the front of the blade. This angle is going to help you at the catch to get your paddle buried a little more quickly. It’s also going to help you throughout the stroke to maintain a positive blade angle ie the surface area of your paddle blade that is presented to the water.

What is the right paddle length?

The typical paddle height is anywhere from head-high to 8 inches above your head. The length above your head is going to depend on the type of paddling, the style of paddling, your body proportions, the skill level, and the technique ie how you paddle. So if you are SUP surfing your paddle is going to be short ie maximum 2 inches above your head. If you are racing, typically your paddle is going to be 3 to 6 inches above your head. If you are more of a recreational paddler it might be more 6 to 8 inches. If you are a total beginner it might even be a bit longer. 
So how do I know if the paddle is the right length? The best way to know that is, when you’re paddling, when you are fully loaded under power, you want to have your arm and shoulder sitting in a comfortable position, what I call “integrity” of the shoulder.

Optimizing holding your paddle

Once you’ve positioned the top hand on the handle or the T-grip, the question is how far down should your bottom hand be? A good starting point is the 90 / 90-degree technique. Put your hands on the grip and the shaft, rest the paddle on your head and try and make a 90-degree angle with your shoulders. Use a mirror, your own shadow or ask a friend to help you.

The bottom hand can cripple a little bit up or a little bit lower from time to time. The lower it is to the water, you’re going to have more power, more control but it’s also going to require more effort and you’re going to have to get your body lower to have your blade fully buried. The higher up your hand is, it’s going to feel more comfortable, more relaxed, you can sty more upright, but it’s not going to give you as much control and as much power.

Once you’ve found your right bottom hand position, you can put a piece of tape on that spot and remind yourself where to put your hand.

However, your bottom hand position might change depending on the conditions. For example if you’re paddling upwind, I’m lowering my body, my bottom hand is lowering a bit too. If I’m getting really fatigued in the legs and want to be more upright, my bottom hand is going to go slightly up, and that’s going to help me be more upright.

Encourage your entire anatomy chain, starting with your five fingers!

When you hold your paddle, you want to have a relaxed grip but you want all of your fingers to be around the handle and around the shaft. You often see a lot of people with fingers outstretched on the top hand, so relaxed that they are not holding the paddle but only putting pressure on the handle without gripping it.

This is not how I do it, and again, not my way of the highway, I recommend to keep all of your fingers around the paddle and the shaft, still maintain a relaxed group. The reason why I do that is because, our body, every joint, muscule is connected and we have an anatomy chain that affect our body mechanics and the way that our muscles fire.  That chain starts with your fingers tip. Not using all of your fingers, is to me, almost like having a weak link in your chain.

The pinkie particulary, is actually part of the anatomy chain back of the arm into the lap across the opposite glute and down the opposite back of the leg. If you don’t position your pinkie around the paddle, it’s not like you’re not going to have your glute or your leg to engage but you’re going to optimize to paddle more effectively, with more power and encourage upper body mechanics.

The correct position can help with shoulder and elbow pain

Paddling is a complex full-body movement but the body is a master of compensation and is going to figure out how to do it but the wrong movement might lead to injuries.

Elbow injury is pretty common, The elbow is like the “middle child” of your arm, so if something is off in your fingers or is off in your shoulder, the elbow tendons are going to take the extra strain to make it happen. A 5 finger grip could help you with that elbow pain. So it’s totally worth trying. With shoulder pain, another thing that can help you is to main

We take a stroke every 1 1/2 seconds, so you take thousands of strokes at every session. It’s a long process to assimilate a complex movement so be patient as it takes time and many strokes to get your stand up paddle position right.

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