There are four phases we can recognize in the paddleboarding technique.

Why should you focus on them? Four words: fewer injuries, more results.

Sounds good?

As a sports scientist, I’m always looking for the real matter behind athletes’ gestures, and paddleboarding is a challenging context.

I’m going to take you through a journey in the biomechanics behind paddling. 

Reading this post, you’re about to

  • earn a clear vision of the characteristics of each phase,
  • understanding how your technique should be in order to
  • avoid overloads and get a better result from each stroke. 

Ready for this?

The four phases of a stroke

Let’s start at the beginning: recognize and label each phase of your stroke.

Everything starts when you insert the paddle into the water. We call it the catch.

Then, to move the board on the water, you need to put forth some effort and start the proper traction.This is called the drive phase.

After this phase, you are ready to get the paddle off the water: the release phase.

Before the next catch phase, you need to bring the paddle toward the nose of the board. We call this phase the recovery.

Okay, so, here a resume of the four phases.

#1 - The catch

When you insert the paddle into the water, you need to keep the blade as close as possible to the board, which will help to convert the power of the stroke in a straight movement.

You should stretch with a long reach, extending and rotating your body. Doing this will help you to go further with the blade. 

How far should you reach?

It depends on a few factors, like the sea condition, the type of board, and your skill as well.

If you find yourself in rough conditions, for instance, your catch length will be shorter, and you’ll focus more to keep the balance instead.

On the other hand, if you are an expert paddler competing on flat water, you should force your paddling to the longest catch.

From biomechanics, we know that the further you can catch the water at this point the higher your result would be regarding speed.

If you watch a pro, you can easily see how he pushes his body forward reaching a long catch, transferring part of his balance on the paddle.

Even if this unbalance could lead to a fall if something goes wrong, it lets him use part of his weight to start the traction. 

He can do that because of his skill, but also because of his flexibility and strength. 

Actually, if you’re a bit stiff with your muscles, you won’t be able to perform wide movements, and this is one good point to keep in mind when you think about training for your paddling.

Anyway, your catch shouldn’t be too far forward as this condition will affect the way your muscles produce the right power for the stroke.

[tweetshare tweet=”Remember, too far forward means more leverage and more effort.”]

#2 - The drive

Here is where the real deal comes!

You need to produce traction, but you need to do it through your whole body, instead of just with the use of your arms.

You can find the main gap between a good paddler and a beginner right here.

You should focus on your core muscles, your legs, your chest and your back. Your arms are more a link of power rather than the engine of the movement.

The best way to produce power here is by employing your whole body to express traction.

[tweetshare tweet=”A proper drive phase relies on good posture.”]

You don’t need to focus on the maximal effort you can produce. Instead, you need to concentrate on keeping the right lumbar lordosis as we’ve learned with my free Report (if you missed it, subscribe the form on the side).

In order to get the most from each stroke, you should remember to keep your paddling as smooth as you can.

The density of the water makes each movement hard, so you should avoid splashing and sudden moves.

You need to focus on a smooth and progressive stroke instead of a quick and strong paddling. While you do that, you also need to synchronize your breath with the stroke.

#3 - The release

It’s time to get the blade off the water, but when?


[tweetshare tweet=”biomechanics tells us we should stop the drive phase quite early.”]


Basically, once the blade is closed to your heel, you should get it off the water.


Because after that point the angle of your blade becomes less useful, and the drag effect of the blade itself increases a lot.

You are no longer able to produce useful power while you’re slowing down your board with the drag of the blade.

With an early release, you will be ready for the next stroke sooner, and you’ll keep up your speed.

#4 - The recovery

Don’t avoid to focus on the recovery phase! Most of the paddlers I speak with don’t consider this phase, but it is important for the management and efficiency of the stroke in paddleboarding. 

[tweetshare tweet=”The release phase is important for the management and efficiency of the stroke in paddleboarding.”]


You also need the recovery phase to put some air in your lungs.

At this point, the posture of the whole body influences the next catch as well as your balance on the board. As you did at the drive phase, you need to synchronize your legs, back, and torso into a smooth gesture. eYou should use this movement to let your muscles regain their length for a moment, bringing some blood to them, and make them ready for the next effort.

Recovery is also the phase where you can easily control your direction and the environment around you.

When I work with athletes, I spend a lot of time focusing on the details of this phase. 

As you can realize, a simple stroke is the sum of complex parts.

Even if you are not a pro and your aim is just to have fun paddling around, keeping the attention of the details we have highlighted here will make you more efficient and will avoid problems like joint and muscular strains.

Standing on a board with a paddle gives you great freedom of movement, but this also means more chances to move in a wrong way.

You mainly build your own technique, and you do that through the use of the whole body.

Bearing in mind all these small aspects will help you to have a good technique.

How do you start working on all this?

As you split the stroke into four phases, you should focus on each one day by day. At the beginning of each session, start with 10 minutes of paddling, focusing on just one phase and trying to apply what I explained here.

After a while, you’ll feel more confident. Then you should start putting all of them together.

You don’t have to rush. Keep it smooth and slow. 

You will soon discover how your technique can improve.

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In the next post, I’ll take you through the “dark side” of sports: injuries.

Why do that?

Because learning the most common injuries of paddleboarding will give you a better understanding of what you can do to avoid them!

Have you ever gotten hurt or suffered any pain during paddling?

We’ll discuss all this, and you’ll learn something useful.

See you there.

Have you ever feel back pain during or after your sessions?

Have a look at my 3-week Intensive Course to solve back pain.

I’ll give you specific exercises designed to give you the muscles balance and strength.

Discover how!