Paddling a Tippy Board

Paddling from Sandy Beach to Portlock Point, the last stretch of the Molokai Channel race, is extremely challenging. The water is rough and you have open ocean swells coming in from the channel mixed in with huge chop almost as big that has reverberated off the cliffs so that swells are coming at you from all angles while you are trying to catch and ride bumps. Sometimes a chop will come at you from the back and side and take your feet out from under you. After regrouping at Portlock Point one day I asked Aaron Napolean for tips on paddling through that kind of water. He said the key is to go fast and outrun the ones coming at you from the back! Not an easy task for someone without the last name of Napolean but he is absolutely right. Paddling a stand up is like riding a bike, the faster you go the more stable the board becomes. In rough water I now do everything I can to make sure the board keeps momentum. I find shorter strokes at a higher rate helps because it keeps the board moving and keeps you centered over the board more than a deep powerful stroke. If you do fall I find its helpful to get up to speed first on your knees then stand in a quick movement without breaking your stroke cadence. Better yet if you can stand after catching a small swell or bump to keep you moving during that critical moment from kneeling to standing. These are pointers for riding a normal board in very rough water. The same applies for riding a tippy board in calmer waters. However, in smoother waters you can do a deeper pull. To compensate for putting a lot of weight on the stroke side you can shift your butt to the other side like the photo of Jim Terrell above. The key in smooth and rough water (besides going fast) is to keep the board level and quiet. You don’t want the board bobbing left and right with your stroke because this slows the board down. A smooth and level flow though the water is fastest. My 18′ coastal board is 25-3/8 wide with rolled rails and no hard edge. This board exaggerates any bad technique so the importance of proper weight shifting while paddling is ampified and where I got the basis for this tip. You might try paddling on a tippier board than your own every now and then to improve your skills. It will make you faster and more comfortable on your own board.

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