Step #2: Hone in on your paddle technique
With SUP being such a beginner-friendly sport, Gibree says that she commonly sees individuals paddling with incorrect technique, which can have negative consequences long-term. “Not paddling correctly can lead to muscle overuse and injury. Your entire stroke should be in front of you, and the majority of the power should come from core—not your shoulders or arms.
To break down how to properly paddle, Gibree recommends a three-part paddle stroke that includes a catch, power, and recovery phase. When the paddle enters the water—the catch phase— pretend as if you’re spearing a fish, keeping the shaft of the paddle as perpendicular to the water as possible with the blade full submerged in the water just out in front of the hands. Your arms and paddle will look almost like a triangle as you enter the water, with the bottom arm straight and a slight bend in the top arm, helping the hips to open up which is where much of your power will come from. “Slightly rotating your body as the paddle enters the water will give you better reach—without overreaching—and will also allow you to use your core strength in the stroke.
As your paddle starts to move through the water, the power phase begins. Gibree shares that this phase is all about using the power of the core, not the arms or shoulders, to avoid becoming tired too quickly. Use an 80/20 push-to-pull ratio to drive down with your top hand while unwinding the body to utilize the strength of the core, which includes hip muscles. To save your energy, make sure the paddle doesn’t pass your body. “Many beginners will pull the paddle all the way to the back of the board and waste energy by throwing the water up in the air,” says Gibree. “It’s key to remember that all of your power is in front of you—not behind.”
The final portion of the stroke is the recovery phase in which the paddle will “slice” through the air with a low release, grazing the top of the water to minimize wasting time or energy as you make your way to your entry position.
If you’d like a little extra help perfecting your stroke, consider working with a qualified SUP instructor or coach. Or, if you can’t work with someone one-on-one, Gibree recommends watching techniques videos online from the great Danny Ching, one of the greatest standup racers on the planet.
Step #3: Enjoy the ride
Equipment and technique are so important, but even more so is having fun with your SUP experience. Whether you want to enjoy the sunshine as you leisurely paddle or break a serious sweat with a challenging workout, Gibree says it’s important to get out there, paddle hard, and have fun.
As you hit the water this holiday weekend, remember the tag line of Gibree’s company: “Live. Laugh. Paddle.” It really doesn’t get much better than that.
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