SUP is a sport of progression. When you first begin your journey on the water, it can be difficult enough to stand on your board, let alone paddle. But as you spend more time doing what you love things can start to become easier.
After a while you are able to immediately stand up instead of shaking your way to an awkward bent down half-way stance. You can go from not knowing which way to hold the paddle to confidently taking a power stroke and flying through the water. And you can go from getting tired after a few minutes on the water to going miles and miles before even reaching for your bottle of water.
If you feel like you are at this peak of progression and want to learn a new skill you can practice and execute on the water, then let us introduce to you the pivot turn.
First off, you might be asking yourself, “What even is a pivot turn?”
If you are unfamiliar with the term, it is a way of positioning your body towards the tail of your board so the nose lifts and you’re able to rapidly turn in any direction.
It’s a pretty neat trick, and one that will help to improve your balance, your confidence, and can come in handy if you need to turn in a heavy wind.
The next logical question has to be, “How do I practice one?”
Well, let’s get into it by breaking it down step by step – starting with your foot position.
1. Are You Goofy or Regular?
If you happen to be an avid surfer as well as a paddler then you are well aware of the terms goofy and regular. They are used to describe the preferred foot position on your board.
When you take a step back from a forward facing position to a surfing stance do you prefer to put your right foot back and your left foot forward or your right foot forward and your left foot back?
With your left foot back and your right foot forward you are classified as “goofy foot” and with your right foot back and left foot forward as “regular foot.”
If that just seems utterly confusing here is a small illustration to help display what we are saying:
Your first task towards conquering the pivot turn is to find out which stance is more comfortable for you.
You might fall the first few times you have to move your feet, but it’s great balance practice and leads us directly to our next point…
2. Balance Practice With Your Paddle
One of the most overlooked skills a paddler can develop is using the paddle to maintain upright posture.
When you are practicing (or finding out) what stance you feel most comfortable in, take your paddle in hand in a horizontal manner, hover it over the water with the flat side (the side that is used for pushing the water) up, and when you feel like you might be losing your balance use the resistance of the water on the paddle as an extra balance point to boost yourself up.
If that doesn’t quite make sense, we’ll try to make it as simple as possible…
Use your paddle to slap the water on the side you feel like you might be falling towards. This motion will help steady your legs, push you back upright, and put you in a perfect position to paddle forward to maintain your balance.
3. Let’s Go Step By Step
Have you practiced the two motions above?
Seriously, have you? If not, then executing a pivot turn will be a challenge.
Okay great – then let’s go step-by-step through how to do a pivot turn so you can start practicing today!
Stand straight ahead, paddle, and get some momentum on the water. Just like riding a bike, it is much easier to balance on a board in motion.
Position your paddle as we have already discussed and move whatever foot you feel comfortable with backward towards the tail of the board. Atoll boards are 6” thick so if you are on the lighter side, you will need to move back almost to the end of the board to lift up the nose.
With this position locked in, make sure you have lifted the nose of the board out of the water.
Get into an athletic stance with your knees bent. The lower your stance (within reason) the easier it will be to balance as you create a lower center of gravity.
At this point, you should be facing towards the side of your board, either the left or the right, depending on your stance. It’s time to take your paddle in hand, place it into the water towards the nose of your board and bring it back in a crescent-shaped motion with either one long paddle or a few short strokes. With the nose of your board out of the water, it will naturally turn in the opposite direction.
You should be able to feel the ease with which you are turning your board. As you complete your turn, use your paddle in the same balance-saving position to move your feet back to a forward-facing position.
Your turn is complete!
A few extra tips –
Be prepared to fall in! Part of the joy of spending time on the water is being able to spend time in it as well. If you are planning on practicing a pivot turn, make sure you are dressed appropriately to go for a swim and check to see if the conditions are good enough to do so. For cold water paddling, always wear a wet suit. And keep an eye on the wind! Heavy winds are always a problem when it comes to SUP. If it’s too windy, wait for another day.
After you become comfortable getting into the correct stance, using your paddle as a balance assist, and begin to take your strokes, try out either taking one long sweeping motion with your paddle to turn or smaller, quicker paddle strokes. There is no wrong way to doing it, only what you prefer.
And of course – practice! Everything becomes easier the more you try.
Have questions or comments? Is anything still unclear? Let us know! Drop us a message and we will try to answer your question in a timely manner. And of course, until next time Atoll family, adventure on!