How To Hold Paddle Board Paddle

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has exploded in popularity, offering a fun and accessible way to explore waterways.

However, proper technique is crucial for maximizing efficiency and minimizing fatigue. One of the most fundamental aspects of good SUP technique is how you hold the paddle.

A seemingly simple task, gripping the paddle correctly, can significantly impact your paddling performance.

This guide explores the essential elements of holding a SUP paddle for speed, ease, and reduced energy expenditure.

Grip: Finding the Sweet Spot

The first step to mastering your paddle grip involves hand placement. Here’s how to find the ideal position:

  • Top Hand: One hand grips the top of the paddle, typically at the T-grip or handle. This hand provides steering and control.
  • Bottom Hand: Your other hand grips the shaft of the paddle further down. This hand generates most of the power for your strokes.

Finding the Right Distance Between Hands

how to hold a sup paddle correctly

The distance between your hands significantly impacts your stroke efficiency. Here are two common methods to determine the optimal spacing:

Elbow Bend Method: Raise the paddle overhead with your top hand gripping the T-grip. Extend your bottom arm down the shaft until your elbow bends at a 90-degree angle. This is a good starting point, but adjustments may be needed based on your height and arm length.

Full Arm Extension Method: Hold the paddle vertically in front of you, blade submerged in the water about a foot deep. Reach down the shaft with your bottom hand until your arm is fully extended but not reaching. This position allows for a powerful stroke with good leverage.


Once you have a starting point, fine-tune your hand placement based on personal comfort and stroke style.

Experiment with slightly closer or further hand positions to see what feels most natural and allows for a smooth, powerful stroke.

Getting the Angle Right

The angle at which you hold the paddle blade in the water significantly impacts its effectiveness. Here’s how to ensure your blade is positioned for optimal propulsion:

The Upright Rule: The paddle blade should be held perpendicular (90 degrees) to the water surface when the paddle shaft is vertical. This ensures the entire blade surface catches the water for maximum power.

Visual Cues: Imagine the paddle blade as a large spoon. The flat surface of the spoon should face away from you, scooping water backward with each stroke.

Avoiding the Common Mistake

A frequent error for beginners is holding the paddle with the blade angled forward. This creates drag and reduces efficiency. Remember, the flat surface of the blade should push water back, not scoop it upwards.

Grip Strength: Finding the Balance

While a firm grip is essential for control, gripping the paddle too tightly can lead to fatigue and muscle strain. Here’s how to find the balance between control and comfort:

  • Light and Firm: Focus on a light but firm grip with both hands. Your grip should be strong enough to control the paddle, but not so tight that your hands become tense.
  • Relaxation is key. Maintain relaxed forearms and shoulders throughout your stroke. A tense grip will hinder your range of motion and limit your power.

Putting it All Together: The Efficient Paddle Stroke

Now that you understand the fundamentals of grip placement, orientation, and strength, let’s explore how these elements translate into a powerful and efficient paddle stroke:

  1. Grip and Position: With your paddle held correctly, stand tall on your board with your feet shoulder-width apart and core engaged.
  2. Initiate the Stroke: Reach forward with your top hand while keeping your bottom arm straight. Dip the paddle blade into the water just beyond the tip of your board, ensuring the blade is perpendicular.
  3. The Power Phase: Engage your core and larger muscle groups as you pull the paddle back towards your body. Focus on pushing the water with the flat surface of the blade, not scooping it upwards.
  4. The Recovery Phase: Once the blade passes your feet, rotate your torso and slightly lift the blade out of the water. Keep your arms relatively straight during the recovery.
  5. Repeat: Repeat steps 2-4 on the opposite side, alternating strokes for continuous forward motion.

Bonus Tips for Advanced Paddlers

For those seeking to further refine their SUP technique, here are some additional tips:

  • Staggered Stance: A slightly staggered stance with your front foot a little forward can improve stability and power transfer.
  • Synchronized Breathing: Coordinate your breathing with your strokes. Exhale as you pull the paddle back, and inhale during the recovery phase.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: The more you practice proper technique, the more efficient and powerful your strokes will become. Consider taking lessons

Choosing the Right Paddle

While mastering your grip and stroke technique is crucial, the paddle itself plays a significant role in efficiency. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a SUP paddle:

Paddle Length

The ideal paddle length depends on your height and the type of paddling you plan to do. Generally, a taller paddler will require a longer paddle for proper leverage.

Recreational paddling often uses paddles that fall between 7’6″ and 8’6″ in length, while touring or racing paddles can be longer.

Consulting a paddling professional or using a sizing chart can help you determine the best length for your needs.

Paddle Material

Paddles come in various materials, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a quick breakdown:

    • Aluminum: Affordable and lightweight, but not as stiff or efficient as other materials.
    • Fiberglass: Offers a good balance between weight, stiffness, and price.
    • Carbon Fiber: The lightest and stiffest option, but also the most expensive. Ideal for advanced paddlers seeking maximum performance.
    • Composite: Combines different materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber, offering a good balance between performance and cost.

Paddle Blade Size and Shape

The size and shape of the paddle blade can impact your paddling style. Larger blades provide more power but can be less maneuverable, while smaller blades offer better control but require more strokes for the same distance. Touring and racing paddles often have narrower blades for efficiency, while recreational paddles may have wider blades for increased stability.

Ensuring Paddle and Personal Safety

While paddling technique is important, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some additional considerations:

  • Leash Up: Always wear a paddle leash that connects you to your paddle. This prevents you from losing your paddle in case you fall or encounter rough water.
  • Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing to avoid sunburn while spending time on the water.
  • Weather Awareness: Be aware of weather conditions before heading out. Avoid paddling in strong winds, thunderstorms, or other hazardous situations.
  • Respect the Environment: Leave no trace behind and be mindful of the delicate ecosystems you might encounter while paddling on natural waterways.


By understanding the proper grip techniques, stroke mechanics, and paddle selection, you can significantly enhance your SUP experience.

Remember, a relaxed yet firm grip, proper blade orientation, and efficient stroke mechanics will allow you to paddle further, faster, and with less fatigue.

As you develop your skills and explore different bodies of water, ensure safety and respect the environment.

With dedication and practice, you’ll transform yourself from a novice paddler into a confident and efficient explorer of the waterways.