SUP Stroke Technique Tips: Five Phases of Proper Race Stroke Technique

Proper stroke technique is essential even for the strongest paddlers, and makes all the difference when it comes to speed, efficiency and avoiding fatigue.
By Mike Misselwitz 2 years ago

SUP Stroke Technique Tips #1

Five Phases of Proper Stroke Technique for Flatwater & SUP Racing

Let’s start by breaking down the sup paddle stroke into five phases. The act of standup paddleboarding is simple enough in theory, but doing it right is actually quite complex. Proper stroke technique is essential even for the strongest paddlers, and makes all the difference when it comes to speed, efficiency and avoiding fatigue. To help maximize your paddle’s potential, let’s break down the five phases of proper SUP stroke technique.

Phase One: The REACH, Extending your paddle forward for placement in the water

  • Activate the core and twist the shoulders slightly, hinging at the hips and leaning forward to extend your paddle blade toward the nose of your SUP.
  • Aligning the shaft parallel with your SUP’s rail, create an A-frame between your body, the shaft and your lower arm, setting the blade next to the nose as far forward as you can comfortably reach
  • Keep your back straight and bend you’re stroke-side knee slightly to maximize extension before placing it in the water.


Phase Two: The CATCH, Inserting your paddle into the water

  • After reaching as far forward as comfortably possible, fully submerge the blade in the water aligned perpendicularly to the rail of your SUP for maximum resistance on the blade.
  • The key here is a smooth insert. Focus on making little to no splash, as water displaced above the surface means less resistance and drive going into the next phase.

Phase Three: POWER, Propelling the standup paddleboard forward past the submerged paddle blade.

  •  With the catch complete, activate your traps and obliques as the primary force of the coming pull, keeping your lower arm straight and the paddle shaft vertical.
  • Pull your body forward to the blade and end the stroke at your feet, as extending any further decreases efficiency and risks deceleration. A wavering blade also decreases efficiency, so do your best to keep your pull as steady as possible.


Phase Four: RELEASE, Exiting the blade from the water

  • Exit the blade next to your feet to avoid deceleration between strokes.
  • For the cleanest, most efficient exit, lift the paddle by dropping your upper hand down and inward rather than pulling your lower hand up and back.
  • Avoid twisting your paddle before exiting the water as this will offset the flow for an awkward recovery.


Phase Five: RECOVERY, Transitioning between strokes

  • Once the blade is released, twist your wrists inward with the thumb of you lower hand rotating back to rotate the shaft 90 degrees to feather the blade for a smoother, faster recovery.
  • The recovery phase is an opportunity to give your muscles a break, so let your shoulders relax as you swing your paddle back into the reach phase (a light paddle will drastically improve performance with this phase).
  • A smooth, rhythmic recovery is key to setting up your next stroke, so focus on technique rather than speed here.


Video – A few paddle strokes

Words/Pics: Mike Misselwitz / Black Project

Featured Athlete: Scott Warren @supscotty is a leading UK based racer on location at Bray Lake Watersports who are a specialist Black Project retailer. 

Featured Paddle: LAVA – 90% Carbon All-Water SUP Paddle – A lightweight & forgiving SUP Paddle built to excel in all conditions from flat water to surfing, available in 1-piece, Adjustable & 3-piece.


  SUP, Racing, Technique
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