SUP Paddle Technique

Correct SUP Paddle Technique when Stand Up Paddling will ensure not only stroke efficiency, (meaning you can paddle faster, for longer durations), it is vital in helping prevent soft-tissue injury.

Each paddle stroke can be broken down into simple stages.

  • Entry
  • Catch
  • Power Phase
  • Exit
  • Recovery

Hand position
If your hands are positioned too far apart or close together your paddle stroke will be inefficient. If you hold the paddle above your head then your elbows should be at a 90° angle.

The positioning of your feet is a key factor in effective paddle technique. When correctly positioned, they ensure a secure foundation on which to build your paddle stroke. Essentially your feet should be a shoulder width apart with one foot a couple of inches in front. This slightly ‘engaged’ stance provides additional stability from front to back and allows for maximum reach at the entry phase of the paddle stroke.

SUP Paddle Technique – Stages

From a standing position, extend your arms out leaning forwards slightly onto the balls of your feet. Arms should be kept fairly straight (but not locked) with a very slight bend/relaxation through the elbows, with the paddle and arms forming a triangle. A slight body rotation allows your top hand to be positioned over the water so as you reach forward so your hands should now be aligned on a vertical axis.

The entire blade should be set into the water cleanly with little ‘splash’, right up to the neck of the paddle where the blade connects with the shaft. The rails of your board will now be engaged, as your weight has been distributed onto the same side of the board you are paddling on, this will help keep you straight. The paddle blade should be kept at a 45° angle during the “catch” phase of the stroke.

Power Phase
Keeping your elbows fairly straight, you should now engage your core muscles, using your torso, (twisting at the hips and bending at the waist) to draw the paddle through the water. The best way to ensure that you have the correct technique is to think of this phase as pulling yourself and your board past your paddle, rather than drawing your paddle past you. Another tip is to Squat very slightly as the blade enters the water and stand up slightly towards the end of the stroke. This results in the engagement of your Quadriceps. The most powerful point of this phase is achieved when the blade is vertical in the water!

The paddle blade should be lifted out of the water just after it becomes level with your heels/hips. Leaving the blade in the water too far past this point is inefficient in terms of energy and simply displaces water under the tail of the board having a negative effect on stability. Lift the blade out quickly and cleanly with the minimum of splash and without raising your arms excessively high.

Once it’s clear of the water, rotate your top hand to turn your blade so that there is minimal wind resistance as you return it back up to the correct position for re-entry. This rotating of the paddle is known as ‘feathering’.

Keep looking straight ahead during all the above phases!

Your SUP Paddle Technique will improve with lots of practice. Eventually each of the above phases will become a natural and automatic process and will be adjusted slightly to adapt to your specific SUP discipline, be that racing, downwind SUP or leisurely social paddles,


ASI Instructor, Director of SupAdventureUK, providing SUP Holidays, Paddleboard Lessons and Sales, Stand up Paddle Activities.

Posted in SUP Guide