The Fundamentals Of SUP Technique

Winter in the northern hemisphere is pretty much the unofficial off season for stand up paddle racing. It’s a great time to recover from the previous season and to think about training for the next year of SUP racing. Don’t waste another off season without ensuring you have solidified the fundamentals of your SUP technique. Whether you are an experienced pro or a first-time racer, the fundamentals of paddling are key to your success as a SUP athlete.

A solid base will ensure you can paddle longer, faster, stronger and prevent injury. Who wouldn’t want that?


There is a reason Tiger Woods revisits the basics of his swing when trying to improve his game. He is one of the best golfers to have ever lived but will spend hours practicing very basic elements of golf. Use the information below to familiarize yourself with the basics of SUP technique or to give yourself a refresher before your next race. A great way to see improve is to have someone film you from the front and side angle while you paddle at 70-80% effort. Watch the video to see where you can improve in each part of the stroke. Use our guide below to understand the proper SUP technique you should be working toward. This exercise will take less than a few hours and we guarantee it will make you a better stand up paddler. You can also send us your video to get a personalized, in depth program for improvement through our SUP Technique Stroke Analysis.


sup technique stroke analysis

Screen shot from the SUP Technique Stroke Analysis.





Realize that we are not ‘pulling’ the blade through the water as we paddle. Instead, we are planting the blade in the water and bringing ourselves up to the stationary blade. Imagine a cross-country skier planting their poles and bringing themselves forward to the poles. The poles do not drag through the snow but remain firmly in place.  This visualization will help you when implementing proper technique.



The distance you are reaching forward to put your blade in the water. Reach as far as possible each time you stroke. Sometimes reach is over-stressed. You need to reach only as far as you feel comfortable. If you are off balance you will be counter-productive in your stroke.



The part of the stroke when the blade enters the water.  Make sure your have reached as far as you are comfortable. Allow the blade to completely enter the water before you begin your power phase. The catch should be as clean as possible with no splashing.



This is where you are applying the power to your stroke. Use your entire body for this part of the stroke. Remember our arms are much weaker than the rest of our body. Use the rotation of your torso, hips and shoulders to drive your paddle. Do not pull too far back as this will decelerate the board. I like to think about my arms like ‘jellly’ to get them to relax during this phase. This helps me to concentrate on engaging my bigger muscle groups for my power output. Lightly grip your paddle without using your thumb to work on not using your arms during slow technique practice.



After the power phase you will be releasing the paddle from the water. Similar to our catch, we want as little splashing as possible. Feathering the blade is helpful in creating a smooth release and setting yourself up for the catch. You can achieve feathering by dropping your top shoulder, by ‘breaking’ your wrist inward, or a combination of both.



Relax your entire body during the recovery phase. This will help create a rhythm and allow your body to reach as far forward as you are comfortable to set up the next stroke. Use the recovery phase to concentrate on your breathing and technique. Do not think that this phase is not as important as the others because you are not exerting yourself. The ‘rhythm’ of your stroke can be dialed in during this phase thus affecting your entire technique.



When practicing your stand up paddle technique you are not working to make performance gains. This means do not paddle like you are trying to race. Slow down. You should be paddling at no higher than 60% effort in the very beginning and then slowly increasing intensity as you progress. Technique work is designed to build a foundation for stand up paddle efficiency. We want to put in the least amount of effort for the most amount of reward. The more efficient our paddle stroke is, the faster and longer we can paddle with less fatigue.

SUPAA members receive 10% off of the SUP Technique Stroke Analysis. Once you have your technique dialed its time to start training for your next race. Maintaining a focused training program is almost as important as working on your SUP stroke technique. Stay tuned for an article on forming a SUP race training program. For a great idea of where to start with your program today, check out the preview of our 9-week SUP training program.