How fast you move, where you move, and how far you move all depend on your paddling while SUP paddleboarding. You are in complete control of your movement when on that paddleboard, which can be both a relief and a source of overwhelm, especially for beginners. So how exactly should you position your paddle blade in the water and by how much? That’s what we’ll be clarifying in this article here.
First things first - how to hold the paddle
THE most important thing to get right when you’re just starting off with SUP paddleboarding is holding the paddle correctly. It may seem like a totally obvious thing - how hard could it be, right? But you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong right in the beginning. And there’s absolutely no shame in holding it wrong your first time - we’ve all been there!
Let’s first look at a paddle. The more familiar you get with the paddle, the easier it will be for you to utilize it to your best capabilities. Some paddles have a blade on either end, but most paddles only have one blade at the very end of the handle and shaft. The blade itself is usually bent slightly - this is so you can scoop up the water and move the board with the blade.
The two most common mistakes being made when holding a paddle are holding it with the blade pointing in the wrong direction or having their hands too close together. To hold it correctly, the blade should be bent away from you. Your natural inclination will be to hold it the opposite way with the blade bent towards you, but you will find yourself not going in the direction you want if you do so.
How to position the paddle in the water in order to go in the direction you want
What we want to focus on when paddleboarding is conserving energy while paddling. There is an efficient way to paddle, and a way that will cost you massive amounts of energy and lead to you feeling tired and frustrated. That’s why something as simple as which way the bent portion of the blade is facing can make all the difference.
For example, if you hold the bent paddle towards you, you’ll find your arms tiring quickly since you’re working against the water and not with it. Now, how would you ideally position the paddle? First, you have to figure out which side you’re going to start off placing the paddle in. Are you going to paddle to your left or your right first?
Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll know how to position your hands on the handle. So if you’re starting off on the left, your left hand will be on the bottom of the handle, with your right hand on the upper part. If you’re starting with your right, it’ll be the other way around. When you position your paddle blade, you’ll want the bent side facing away from you, and you’ll want to go under the surface of the water, and back.
Initially, you should reach your paddle about 2 feet ahead of you to the side of the board and then paddle forward. When completing your paddle stroke, you’ll want to lift the paddle back out of the water after pushing it towards your ankles. If you paddle vertically, you’ll remain going straight. If you paddle at an angle, then your board will slightly turn depending on what side you’re paddling.
In order to stop your paddleboard or to go back, you simply reach behind you with the paddle, hold your paddle deep into the water, and pull the blade forward. Now you know exactly what direction to paddle in order to go where you want to.
How deep should your paddle blade go?
How deep your paddle blade goes will determine just how far your board will move, and also depend on what direction you want to go into. Keep in mind though that the deeper you paddle, the faster you will tire. Moving a paddle deeply through water will take more energy and strength than doing short shallow strokes.
The deeper you paddle, the further you will move. Since you are scooping up more water, you’ll find your board moving steady and far as you paddle deeply. If you paddle with short strokes, on the other hand, you will conserve your energy better, but also move slower and have to use more strokes in order to get as far as if you did deeper strokes.
It’s completely up to you what you prefer to do, but if you’re a beginner and you don’t have too much upper body strength, it’s recommended that you stick with shorter shallow strokes. If you have a lot of experience with kayaking, for example, you’ll be used to doing strong deeper strokes and you can go for the strokes that propel you forward.
Finding the right paddle for you
Something that is easily overlooked when paddleboarding is the choice of the paddle. Finding the right length of a paddle will help tremendously with your paddle blade positioning, making it feel more natural and helping you get the angle right. You’ll also want to make sure that the grip is comfortable for you, so your hands don’t hurt after paddling deeply for a while.
At the end of the day, all aspects of paddleboarding, even the smallest of details, can make it easier or more challenging for you to SUP paddleboard. Choosing the right paddleboard, the right paddle, etc all can impact your experience. The most important factor is and will always be your comfort. The more comfortable you are, the better you’ll do. If the grip feels perfect to you, the length of the paddle allows you to easily reach forward as well as backward, and the board itself allows you to balance easily - all of that will help you become an expert SUP paddleboarder in no time!