Advice From the Hammock No. 2

It's All About the Rhythm

Little known fact: When Gloria Estefan sang, "The rhythm is going to get you" she was actually singing about standup paddling (obviously, way ahead of her time.) And what she meant, of course, is that the rhythm is going to get you paddling- much more efficiently. 

If you've taken a lesson with me, you'll often here me talk about the rhythm of your stroke. Here's the problem: The need to design paddleboards stable enough to stand on requires hulls with flatter tail sections, which means they don't hold a glide very well between strokes (unlike kayaks or outrigger canoes which have a rounded or v-shaped hull). What this means is that every time your paddle comes out of the water, your board slows down. Your next stroke brings the speed back up, only to have it slow down again on the recovery. This yo-yoing of speed requires more energy than it would take to simply maintain the speed of the board. 

The best way to adjust for this is to keep an efficient rhythm. For this tip, I'll just consider two phases of the stroke: the power phase and the recovery phase. The power phase is when the blade is in the water, actively moving your board forward. The recovery is when your blade is out of the water, returning to the front of the stroke. 

Now, think of a waltz, with a rhythm of "1,2,3...1,2,3". Many paddlers pull through the water on the "1" and recover on the "2,3". This means that during two thirds of each stroke cycle, there is no propulsion going into the board, and with little glide to carry it through, the board slows down. Kayaks don't suffer this problem, because a double bladed paddle means that as one blade exits the water, another is going into it. 

In standup, with only one blade to work with, we have to minimize the amount of time the blade is in the air and not applying power. Try flipping that waltz rhythm. Instead of pulling for one count and recovering for two, try pulling on the "1,2" and recovering on the "3". This will ensure a speedy recovery, and, as paddling coach Johnny Puakea says, you'll catch the board before it slows down. In order to help make that recovery quicker, try feathering the blade. Twist the thumb on your top hand forward as the blade comes out of the water so that it slices through the air with less resistance on the return. 

Some important notes: 

1) This is not about racing, or going fast. It's about paddling efficiently, so you can paddle further and for longer, discovering more of the incredible waterways we have nearby. 

2) This will especially help conserve energy when paddling into a strong headwind, as anytime you're not paddling, you're moving backward and will have to re-paddle what you already have. 

3) It seems like this is a faster stroke, but the reality is that it's not. The stroke still lasts for that same three count, you're simply changing the duration of each part. 

4) While the goal is to make your recovery quicker, it is SUPER important that you don't rush the catch (when the blade goes into the water.) More on that in a later newsletter, but in general, the full blade should go in the water, at a slight forward angle, and with as little splash as possible. 

5) With this change in rhythm, the power phase of the stroke is now twice as long, and there is a chance this will make you pull back too far. You should still aim to have the blade exiting the water as your lower elbow reaches your torso.

6) This is just one part of an efficient stroke. It's not necessarily the most important part, but it is the least technical, and so easiest to change quickly. All it takes is a small mental shift in the rhythm that you're likely already doing.  

I hope you found that tip helpful! And remember, while paddling tips are great, a private or group lesson is a great way to get more in-depth explanation and real time feedback on your technique. You can always sign up for lessons on our website,, or give us a call or email. And if you're lucky, I might just sign a little Gloria for you :).  

Aaron MearnsComment