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coach jonathan bischof paddle boarding stroke example

Quick Tip: What is the Optimal Paddle Stroke Length?

What is the optimal amount of time for your paddle to be in the water during your stroke and does it even matter?

What we do know is the longer you stay in the water, the more load your body has to deal with. From a performance aspect the answer would be; get in and get out smoothly and efficiently. That is the technique most of the top level paddlers exhibit. Popular opinion is to drive the paddle down powerfully into the water right away and get your pull done and out before passing your feet. Hanging on too long causes your board to overload and drive the bow down and cause higher levels of friction aka braking. By getting ahead on each stroke this allows you to not interrupt the glide and rhythm needed for continuous drive forward. Hence the idea ‘don’t pull your paddle through the water, but anchor it downward and pull your boat past your paddle’.

Here are some tips to play with.

  1. Get videoed and objectively dissect your board’s movement and your paddle placement during all phases especially the finish. The position of where the blade leaves the water should tell you if you're late and hanging on too long.
  2. Try different cadences and reaches to optimize efficiency. This should be a playful and explorative endeavor focusing on feelings (Get out of your head).
  3. Get away from the BIG ASS reach and being super forward.
  4. When you’re trying to change your loadtime in the water, focus on quickness and don’t worry about a perfect stroke. Experience the timing change then go back and clean things up if needed.
  5. Be patient and make sure you are realistic with your abilities and goals.
  6. Changing the stroke timing is a very difficult thing for most for recreational athletes. That is what sets the average and very good apart.
  7. If you are not being privately coached, you’re missing a huge opportunity. If you’re looking for higher end results then start to feel when, where, and how you get your paddle blade in and out of the water.

Jonathan Bischof is available for private and group stand up paddleboard coaching.

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