Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stroke Techniques-For Racing

I am by no means an expert at the SUP paddle stroke, but I have won a few races and have watched many of the pros, & I feel I have incorporated all the best aspects of some of their styles.

One of the best metaphors for paddling is to imagine yourself planting a pole in the sand and then pulling yourself to that pole. Water is non-compressible and you are only going to tire yourself out by trying to drag that paddle blade through it. You are not "sweeping" the water. You are planting the paddle and pulling yourself to it.

The first phase of the stroke is the "catch." This is the point where the paddle blade enters the water. You want the catch to be as far forward as possible. You will generate the most power from this point to the back of your foot. Any paddle stroke beyond your heel is wasted motion and is actually slowing you down.

Not only are you pulling back toward your foot at this point, you are also pushing the paddle blade down as well & this in turn lifts the board up out of the water thus decreasing hull fiction and generating acceleration.

At the point of the catch your top hand should be near your face, allowing the shaft angle to be as far forward as possible. (In the photos I am using Lori's paddle which is a tad short for me.)

You want to keep the paddle shaft as vertical as possible by keeping your top hand as far over the top of your bottom hand as possible. If the shaft is diagonal across you chest, you will only push the board to one side or the other not in a straight line. By keeping the shaft vertical, you won't have to change sides as often & that keeps your average speed up.
Once the blade is securely in the water, you begin the "pull." The pull is a combination of several muscle groups as well as techniques. At this point you should "punch" forward with your top hand while using the bottom hand as a pivot point or fulcrum. You will feel this first in your triceps of your top arm.
Once your top hand is fully extended you can start to pull back with your lower hand and you will feel this in your biceps of your lower arm. At this point you should start to incorporate the larger core muscles of your abs. If you don't use your abs, and try to do everything with arm muscles, you won't last long. Just like rock climbers use the large leg muscles as much as possible to keep their arms from failing.
The "exit" comes as the blade passes your heel. Any stroke past this point is wasted energy. Don't ask me why, but it seems to be true. As Brian Boatman told me in outrigger racing, the noisier the paddle exit, the more inefficient it is. A quite exit equals an efficient stroke. Try to pull the blade straight out of the water, don't sweep up water at the end.

Bring the paddle back to the forward position by simply dropping your top hand. Twist the shaft slightly so that the blade is slicing through the air and not acting like a big sail in the head wind.

Remember, the faster you get the blade back forward for the catch, the quicker you get into the power phase and the board will decelerate less between strokes.
Vary your stroke speed & style when you are out for a longer paddle or race. Feel yourself using different muscle groups with different techniques. For races under 45 minutes I find I paddle about 60-65 strokes/minute. Races over an hour I will cut that down to about 55 strokes/minute.

I hope this helps and is easy to understand. I tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Now get out there & paddle!