My stroke is by no means perfect. It works for me though. It makes my board go fast. I've changed and tweaked it several times over the last 5 years. I have taken what I have learned paddling 6-man outrigger the last 2 years and melded it with my own self-taught sup stroke and a clinic and video review from the great Dave Kalama.
The "stroke du jour" we all keep seeing is the Connor Baxter inspired grip that involves choking up on the paddle shaft and increasing stroke rate. This doesn't work for me at all, but it certainly works for many. Rarely is there a person using this stroke who is in front of me in a race. Dan Gavere uses it and crushes me and obviously Connor would be WAY in front of me if we ever raced together! It's all about finding what works for you and not being influenced into a certain style just because you see someone famous doing it.
Dave Chun of Kialoa paddles always chuckles when I ask him about my stroke. His advice has always been the same... listen to the board. Don't worry about what you look like. Listen to the water coming off of it. Feel what makes it go fast and smooth.
There are a few tips I want people to take away from the following photos... First, about 80% of all my power comes in this series of pictures. When the paddle first catches, to about a foot in front of my toes is where the money is. I get roughly another 20% of forward power from that point to my toes, and close to zero power from my heel back.
Stroke rate is going to depend on paddler strength, paddle blade size and paddling style.
4 years ago I was using a tiny blade and a very high stroke rate. It has slowly morphed into a medium size blade and a slightly slower, more powerful stroke. Sometimes in the middle of a race I will chant two different mantras... Kalama's "reach dammit, reach!" and my own "slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
This really helps me toward the end of a race when I'm fatiguing and my stroke technique is falling apart.
There are some good things happening in these photos, and probably some bad too (-:
I've got good shoulder/torso rotation, decent reach and I'm fully burying the blade... digging deep.
I hope this is good info & everyone can take something helpful away from it. It's ever-evolving and will continue to change I'm sure.
A hui hou!
Photos by Sara Adamski-Satterlee