Read on for insider tips on how to improve your paddleboarding speed and efficiency
When you learn any sport it takes a while to get the hang of it and it's not uncommon to find yourself at the back, struggling to keep up the first few times you paddle with a group. You might ask yourself:
How could I get my speed up?
What were they doing that I wasn’t?
What should I be doing differently?
Well, there are a few things you can do to address this and they come down to: Technique, fitness, water and weather conditions. Let's look at each one in turn.
We could write a whole blog on this but let’s highlight a couple of things that make the most difference:
Nose to toes The part of the paddle stroke which delivers most power happens right at the front of the board, way, way in front of your feet. The paddle goes in the water near the nose of the board and comes out by your feet, but it’s the first 6-12 inches (15-30 cm if you need the metric) which delivers the most power. Look at where you are putting the blade into the water. Is it near the nose of the board? No, then you know what you have to do
Use your core strength, not your arms If you aren’t doing this, the power you generate in the paddle stroke will be absorbed by your body. When you brace your core as you put the paddle in the water, you have something to pull against during the paddle stroke making the board surge forward. Overdo it and you might have a balance problem, so it takes a bit of time to get it right but it’s oh so satisfying when you do.
This one may be a bit obvious, but the fitter you are, the more effort you can apply and the more you can increase stroke cadence (number of paddle strokes per minute). Both these things will improve your speed. Flexibility is an important part of being ‘paddle fit’ and the more you are able to rotate your body, the easier you’ll be able to achieve that ‘Nose to Toes'.
When the river has some flow on it, where you are paddling makes a difference:
The centre of the river, where it is deeper, flows faster than the water closer to the bank. Water also flows faster round the outside of a bend compared to the inside of a bend.
So, if you are travelling downstream, to make maximum use of the flow, stick to the middle, or as much as it is safe to do so, bearing in mind there are other people using the waterways than just paddleboarders.
Travelling upstream you might want to change your positioning on the river depending on its topography (that’s how bendy it is). On long straight sections and inside bends, sticking close to the edge means you have the least flow to overcome. For outside bends it's worth moving into the centre of the river where the flow will be slightly less. Or you could just take the shortest route and cut off the corner.
And now for the weather…
Wind and cold can have an impact on your speed. Standing, our bodies make an effective sail to catch the wind, which is great when it's coming from behind you, but a real bummer when it's in your face and you’re paddling hard against it. Kneeling is about the only thing you can do here to reduce your windage other than just battling it out.
When the water gets really cold the molecules have less energy, so if you’re moving more slowly it can feel like paddling in treacle. Again paddling on your knees means more of your paddling effort is converted into forward motion.
It's about building your capability, your fitness and learning how to apply that river knowledge each time you go out. It’s worth getting input from a coach in the form of an ‘Improvers’ group session or a private lesson if you can. A few sessions on how to improve your technique can really help you achieve your paddlingboarding goals and prevent you from settling into bad habits.
Now you have our top tips on how to paddleboard faster, we hope to see you at the front of the group!