This article was published in Swedish on the personal blog of Pontus Ny, a Swedish SUP friend of mine. Because I was very impressed (like always) about his findings on this subject I translated it in English to share with a bigger audience. Enjoy Reading!
All the power you generate with you paddle stroke has to go through your body and finally out to the board. The only way energy can be transferred to the board is through the feet. In other words a few measly square centimeters of area is the only link between you (the engine) and the vessel. On top of this, the feet act as receptors for everything that happens to the board in the water. In other words both paddling force and information about the movement of the board pass through the feet. Force out and micro signals in. No other paddling sport has an equally foot-focused contact area with its vessel as SUP. 2017 will be our year of the feet at SUP EVOLUTION. Our training on gripping the paddle and other biomechanical areas will of course continue as well, but we think now is the time to focus on the body parts that we stand on.
Stand Up Paddlers adjust their position on the board constantly based on the surrounding conditions. Sometimes in order to trim and optimise the waterline, increase the side pressure of the board in a crosswind, surf-stance, or just a simple adjustment of the feet in order to relieve a monotones working posture.
Hydro dynamically the board is optimized to lie flat in the water, not role or heel towards the left or right. (Now we are not talking about angling the board in order to counteract drift in a crosswind or to slightly change your course or to SUP-surf). The more balanced and flat the board is positioned during the entire paddle stroke or during a complete paddling sequence while right/left paddling, the less resistance will be created in the water. Every wiggle, or rock to the side will direct energy towards that particular side. At the same time your rhythm, technique, and paddling experience is effected. A faulty positioning of the feet can also effect the allover posture and this way create imbalance and put lopsided strain on the body.
“Weak, but still a noticeable and negative weight offset to the left foot (orange line). The board takes on a slight heeling and the pressure on the side increases.”
Generally I believe that we that have a surfing or other boarding background have very “sensitive “ feet with a good sense of what is happening beneath them. However this does not prohibit us from further increasing our awareness of the feet’s positioning or questioning our personal and habitual style. Stand up paddling in its modern form is a young sport and develops and changes continuously. Our feet have on the other hand been the same for many thousands of years
“We started using the box during the second half of the 2016 season. Here you can see a paddler with a clearly pronounced “outward positioning” of the feet, but with neutral weight distribution. The arch is high.”
Simplified there are a several feet-factors which greatly effect Stand Up Paddling:
• the position of the feet on the board (the placement of the feet lengthwise + the placement of the feet out towards the side)
• the direction of the feet (pointing outwards, pointing inwards, pronation, supination or neutral)
• How your feet react under pressure or the transmission of force during your stroke (lift, twisting, cramping, pronation, supination etc).
(Pronation= the foot leans inward. Supination= the foot leans outward and the weight is distributed towards the outer edge of the foot)
Just the last two points can be very useful to study a little extra for many stand up paddlers. When we created W.T.A.B. (Weight Transfer Awareness Box) it was specifically to create awareness for what happens to the feet while paddling. The best way to do this is to look at the feet from below. The sole of the feet is a soft pad that clearly tells us about how weight is distributed across the bottom of the feet. During a simulated paddle stroke one can follow the offset of weight distribution under the foot and analyse it and adjust it. It is specifically important to be able to see the offset of the weight distribution during the different fazes of the paddle stroke. (In the future we might develop an electronic version, in the form of a rubber mat with wireless transmission, which can be placed directly on the board and can measure the complete pattern of movement during a session. And above all it would be fun to see how many meters one moves on the board during a downwind). The box will be available on location during several of the training sessions that SUP EVOLUTION and STÅPADDLA are holding during 2017. You are very welcome to join us!