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How to Paddle Your SUP in a Straight Line

November 11, 2021
how to paddle in a straight line

In this article, we provide you with a few quick tips you can use to paddle in a straight line!

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As a beginner in SUP, there will always be parts of the activity that you need to work on and improve.

This can be something simple, like where to place your feet while standing up, to something more difficult, such as the proper way to climb aboard your SUP after you have fallen in.

To aid in your improving SUP technique, the Atoll team has put together a full library of articles explaining different tips and tricks you can use.

If you are brand-new to the sport, check out our comprehensive guide, “How to Paddle Board: Everything You Need to Know to Get on the Water.”

This week, however, we’re going to discuss something that beginners tend to struggle with…

How to paddle in a straight line.

At first, this may not seem like such a big deal.

But with the ability to paddle in a straight line over long distances, you are able to conserve energy, make it to your destination at a quicker rate, and have a much better chance of battling the elements in the water.

Especially if you find yourself stuck out at sea on a windy day.

Ready to tighten up your technique and become a more efficient paddler?

Then let’s start with the most important part of paddling in a straight line…

paddle in a straight line

The Paddle Position

When you’re first starting out, it can be easy to not pay any attention to the way you are holding your paddle. Instead, most beginners will be more aware of their feet and their balance as they try to continually fight the flow of the water and stand upright.

But by not holding the paddle in a correct position you may be using it in a way that will push your board side-to-side in the water instead of straight ahead.

Two things to remember here:

  1. The closer your paddle is to your board in the water, the straighter you will go.
  2. The farther away your paddle is from your board, the more it will turn in the opposite direction.

What do we mean? Think of it this way…

When you’re paddling, and place your paddle in the water on the right-hand side of your board, if the paddle is far away from your board when you take a stroke, the board’s nose will naturally veer to the left.

The opposite is also true. If you have your paddle on the left-hand side, away from your board, the nose will want to move to the right.

To head in a straight line, keep your paddle as close to your board as possible with each stroke.

How to Test if You’re Holding the Paddle Correctly

Your next logical question is probably something like, “How do I know if I’m holding the paddle correctly on each stroke in order to keep it close to my board?

Luckily, there is an easy way to test this!

As beginners, it is easy to hold the paddle in a diagonal position across your body. This is often the most comfortable way to paddle when you’re first starting out.

But it can also again lead to your board bobbing side-to-side instead of straight.

In order to know if you have your paddle in the correct position, before each stroke, when you’ve brought your paddle back to your body, check for two things…

  1. Are you looking over the handle of your paddle, with the shaft in a diagonal position, with the blade also diagonal over the water? Or…
  2. Are you looking through your arms with your paddle shaft straight up and down?

For a better paddle stroke, you should always be practicing number 2 – looking through your arms with the paddle shaft straight up and down on the side of the board instead of diagonally across your chest.

Another great way to tell is by noticing the position of your top hand.

When you bring your paddle back to your body, is your top hand closer to the rail on the opposite side of your board? Or is it closer to the rail on the side you are paddling on?

For the correct position, it should always be closer to the rail on the side you are paddling on.

This may take some practice, but once you are aware of your paddle position, you can correct any inconsistencies with ease.

Our last tip has to do with the paddle blade itself…

The Blade Position

This may be the most difficult tip to portray through writing, so bear with us if it doesn’t quite make sense.

Our best advice – read through this once and either search for a video on YouTube or head straight to the water and test it out for yourself in order to put an image to these words.

With that said…

Let’s get right into it!

The blade, of course, is the bottom of your paddle. It consists of an angled side and a flatter side.

Contrary to popular belief, you should always be paddling your board with the flat side, not the angled side. When it comes to SUP, you don’t use the scoop! Instead, you use the side that gives you the smoothest entry and release in the water – the flat side.

As you are in a paddling motion, if you wish to remain in a straight line, you can angle your paddle blade in a way that will help you.

For illustration purposes, let’s pretend this is the rail of your board – |

And the second line is the angle at which your blade is moving as you pull it back towards your feet and complete a paddle…

Beginners tend to paddle like this – |\

The board is going straight, they place the paddle in the water and pull back away from their board with the paddle ending off of the rail. With this angle, your nose will move to the left.

If you want to remain straight, take the opposite angle – |/

Place your paddle in the water, turn your blade at an angle as demonstrated above, and pull your blade closer to your rail.

Remember this (very rudimentary) demonstration might be difficult to understand so we’ll reiterate without the illustration…

The Angle of Your Paddle

  1. If you angle your blade away from your body and board it will cause the nose to turn in the opposite direction.
  2. If you angle the blade towards your body and board you will be able to paddle in a straight line for long distances.

Why?

The angle of the blade causes your paddle stroke to naturally land along the rail of your board. And as we have already stated, the closer your blade is to the rail of your board, the straighter you will go with each paddle stroke.

Again, if this isn’t quite clear, try it out for yourself! Or shoot us a question – our inbox is always open.

Conclusion

The ability to paddle in a straight line is a very underrated skill. And not one that beginners often practice. However, we hope you understood our brief breakdown of some quick tips you can focus on as you practice on the water. The more time you spend on the water, the better you will become. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a whole lot of practice.

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