Once you decided to buy a SUP board to go out on the water, you probably finished some lessons at a local SUP school or you just got enthusiastic by another SUP board owner. At that stage you think you can already paddle like a Pro….  Yeah right!

After two years of stand up paddling I got a lot stronger (core, legs and arms) and also much more balanced. But still I’m convinced that the paddling on a SUPboard is 20% (or even less) about balance en 80% about the right paddle stroke to gain and preserve the energy you need to speed up. It took me a while to find the right stroke myself. Watching some Youtube films and observing Pro Athletes didn’t convince me that I was doing it right. After one year of paddling and just after my Functional PaddleTraining (Level 1) last year with Tiago Silva on the cold water in Amsterdam, it all fell in place.

I asked Tiago Silva (owner and founder at Functionalpaddling.com): What are the three best things to learn right away from the start of your paddling adventure? What are the most common faults made as a beginner?”

As he meets a lot of Pro’s and other SUP athletes during his training sessions, I got him an extra question: “ What are the most common faults made by athletes who are already very experienced?” There are a lot of theories about the right paddle stroke and avoiding longterm injuries of back and shoulders.

Tiago is very experienced as a paddle boarder himself, but also as an exercise physiologist and personal trainer on and of land. So the best man to ask for this topic I guess.


“What are the three best things to learn right away from the start of your paddling adventure?”


When you start , learn and practice all 3 basic stances

It’s extremely important that a novice paddler first learns all 3 basic stances on a stand up paddle board. This stances are the prone paddling position, where you place your paddle under your chest and you paddle it like a normal surfboard, the kneeling position and finally the stand up position. Being comfortable paddling in this 3 different positions is determinant to have a complete control over your board in any situation and can be crucial in case you need to overcome strong wind/choppy conditions, if you get injured or too tired to keep standing or even in case you break your paddle during your trip. (That happened to me a couple of times :))

Choosing the right equipment

The board and paddle you use can contribute positively or negatively to your overall experience. If you’re just starting, seek professional advice on your local shop or school on what equipment to get accordingly to your experience and goals. If possible, try different boards and paddles before buying one. Choosing the wrong equipment can lead to feelings of frustration and can turn your experience less pleasant.

Learn about safety and rescue procedures

It’s easy to get dragged by a strong current, be blown away from the shore or  your starting point by unexpected winds. The equipment can get damaged (broken paddle or leash) or you can get tired and/or injured. Make sure you know the area you’re paddling and always inform a friend or family member where you’re going in case you’re alone in the water. Never paddle without a leash, it can save your life!

“What are the most common faults made by a beginner?”

Using the wrong side of the  blade 

This one is the single most common fault I see with paddlers who start with this sport. It’s not a BIG issue at the beginning, because if you pay attention you will see that the board will actually still move forward! But it’s not a good principle, it’s not so nice to watch (you will look like a kook and your more experienced sup friends will make fun of you!) and besides that it’s not an efficient way to paddle because the angle you have on your blade is actually there for a purpose that you’re neglecting! As a reference, almost all paddles have their brand logo on the blade side that is supposed to stay pointed to the front.

Paddling using your arms vs using all your body

When you’re starting with the sport, your main concern is not falling of your board. Because you’re not used to stand on similar unstable platforms during your daily life, most of the people struggle with it in the beginning. As a natural way of keeping balanced, paddlers tend to use only the arms during their stroke, this lets them keep their center of gravity close to their body’s helping them staying dry longer 😉 haha! However, to become more efficient, create a better neuromuscular stimulus and to collect all the wonderful benefits that this activity offers to your health, they should start as soon as possible to focus on bending, rotating  and engaging a bigger and higher number of muscles.

Underestimating the benefits of a high quality paddle

A starter rarely understands the benefits of a light and efficient paddle. A heavy paddle can contribute to a lot of stress on your joints, especially your spine, wrists and shoulders while also affecting your stroke rhythm and fluidity. I want you to think that a heavy and cheap paddle works like a car without power assisted steering as opposition to a light and efficient paddle that will let you progress faster and will make a huge difference on your health and performance.

“What are the most common faults made by athletes who are already very experienced?”

Lack of a structured training program

SUP is a new sport and a lot of professionals are not yet adapting an intelligent and structured approach to training. This is also because the offer of knowledgable trainers that understand the physical and technical components of the sport  is pretty limited. A lot of high level athletes in this sport are also counting mainly on their own talent, which in some cases has been proved to be sufficient. At least for now, before the level gets even higher than it is nowadays. All the serious athletes should get a personalized plan that takes in count their daily routines, skills, type of contests they want to join and their personal goals, etc.

Bending at the lower back instead of bending at the hips

A lot of Pro athletes are killing themselves by adopting paddling techniques that (without questioning their speed and efficiency, because they still paddle super fast) are not necessarily healthy for them. One of this faults is actually bending/flexing too much at the lower back while applying power and rotation to the trunk. Which is scientifically proved to affect intervertebral discs health and compression of the nerves. By bending at the hips you allow your back to keep their natural curves and better engage your core muscles.

[For more information and background on this topic, take a look at the website of Functional Paddling  or watch this short video of Pontus Ny ]

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