The beauty of SUP is that speed is often optional. In many case, simply being on the water is pleasure enough. In fact, many paddlers feel the slower you go, the more you can enjoy your surroundings. The more meaningful the experience becomes.
That being said, there are times when you’re trying to cover a large distance in a limited time and faster speeds are needed. Competitive races are the obvious examples of this, but it could also be as simple as trying to paddle back to your car in time to make it to your best friend’s wedding ceremony (we’ve all been in situations like this).
Inexperienced paddlers sometimes think that speed comes from churning the water with rapid paddle strokes. In reality, this just tires you out and doesn’t necessarily get you anywhere faster.
To really boost your speed, you need to experiment with both your stroke distance and stroke rate. Depending on your build, board and paddle, there will be a combination of those two factors that will achieve the best results.
Here are some other tips that can help you refine your technique and get the best results.
Avoid wide paddle turns
You’ve probably been driving around town and seen trucks that warn, “Caution: makes wide turns.” When big, lumbering trucks turn, they lose most of their speed and take up a large area in the process.
The same can be said for paddling. When you’re bringing your paddle forward from the back of your stroke, time is of the essence. Every second that passes will cause your board to lose momentum. Plus, a wide swinging motion will consume extra energy and tire you out quicker.
Remedy this by keeping your paddle closer to the board. It’s more efficient all around, so you can move faster in the water and conserve precious energy.
Maximize your strokes
Remember how important stroke distance is? Focus on extending your reach or you could be shortchanging yourself with every stroke. The caveat here is that you shouldn’t reach further than is comfortable. You don’t want to injure yourself.
Once you’ve reached the front of your stroke and your paddle hits the water, dig deep. Use your whole body to power the paddle, not simply your arms. This is where you take full advantage of your reach and really see results.
Know your surroundings
It always helps to get the lay of the land (even on water). Identify landmarks and keep your eyes peeled for hazards. Talk to someone who is familiar with the area. If you’re racing, preview the course on your board before the action begins. The more intel you have, the more you can focus on your paddling and play to the strengths of the specific water you’ll be paddling.
Plan a course
Once you’re familiar with the area, it’s important to decide on your route. This is most important with racing, but also applies to any time when you want to improve your speed. All the advanced techniques in the world won’t help you if you don’t know where you’re going and the best way to get there.
There you have it - four simple tips to increase your paddling speed. For more tips, subscribe to our monthly newsletter!