This is the first in a series of SUP tips based on what we are seeing in our advanced distance paddling clinics. We have the awesome instruction team of Jared Vargas who just took 2nd overall at the Paddle for Humanity and has a great bag of drill tricks, and Morgan Hoesterey legendary distance SUP queen who is great at thinking up all kinds of torture (intervals and dryland) to make the group stronger. As we move into the Molokai Distance Clinic Scott Gamble who took 3rd overall at the Molokai to Oahu race will be joining us. On our longer Saturday open ocean runs we paddle alongside the group and give pointers. At this point Jared and Morgan have honed the group’s form and you see all the basics of shoulder stack, forward entry, burying the blade and untwisting for power being done well. Another important skill is directing how the paddle travels in relation to the board which can make a difference.
What I see alot of is the blade entry and path following the curve of the board like the red line next to the board. In most circumstances this is not what you want as it will cause the board to aim towards the the opposite side you are paddling on causing you to need to switch hands sooner and the board to zig zag through the water. Instead the paddle should travel straight back and to do this you need place the blade of the paddle about 6″ away from the board at the start. We also often see the blade of the paddle pitched out which will also cause the board to zig zag. It should be a perpedicular to the path of travel as shown by the “straight” blue line. All this seems obvious but you’d be surprised at how many good paddlers follow the board outline.
In some cases you can use the in and out paths of paddle travel and blade pitch to purposely steer the board off a straight path. This works for no rudder boards in a side wind or to steer into a bump. In this case the angle of the paddle path will steer the board to the direction is pointing and you can use this path on both sides of the board if needed. Likewise the blade pitch will do the same thing. Play around with this, it is another skill to master to make you a better paddler ~ Jeff