SUP Basics: The Forward Stroke

This fundamental stand up paddleboard stroke is the first move necessary to become proficient on the water.

Stand up paddleboarding allows you to explore different environments from rural lakes and rivers to majestic coastlines.  But first you’ll need to learn how to move in order to get anywhere. The first essential stroke you should learn is the forward stroke.

To start, make sure that your paddle blade is angled forward.

Next, extend your reach.

“The farther you reach, the more powerful the stroke will be,” says Senior American Canoe Association SUP Instructor Seth Bloomgarden.

One way to do so is to extend your arm and shoulders, rotate your hips and shoulder, and bend a little bit at the waist. Once you achieve your maximum reach, plant the blade vertically at the nose — you may need to stack your shoulders to accomplish this, as demonstrated in the video above.

Submerge the entire blade, then paddle smoothly while keeping your bottom arm as straight as possible. When the paddle reaches your feet, take the paddle out of the water and then return it to the front of the board, skimming the water, and repeating the steps.

To keep your board going as straight as possible, make sure the shaft of the paddle goes into the water as straight as possible.

You may need to switch from side to side periodically depending on which way the wind is coming or which way you want to go. You’ll take a few strokes on one side, rotating and shifting your hands, before taking a few strokes on the other. Wind and current play into how many strokes you’ll take on each side, so it may not always be the same number per side.

Now that you’ve learned the forward stroke, try the sweep turn.