Using Drills to Improve Stroke Technique

Drills to Improve Stroke Technique

Hello and welcome to my monthly “How to” blog post.

These posts go out the last Monday of the month and are adapted from my popular SIC Maui Talk stories series. I hope you enjoy! Let’s dive in!

Today we’re going to be talking about using drills to improve your standup paddle stroke technique.

How, When and Why, and different techniques to increase the potency of this practice such as using resistance.

This is a really exciting topic for me and will touch on the bread and butter of my offerings inside the Seychelle SUP app and the SUP Stroke School.

I am really passionate about paddling. Really passionate about stroke technique. And I’m really passionate about helping people! So thank you for being here and for taking an interested in developing your stroke technique. I see you! I get you! Let’s do this!

I’ve spent a substantial amount of my time as a SUP athlete really working on improving my stroke and my technique. That has always been a huge part of my training and my success. I am always learning. I am always practicing. I am always improving.  And I am always teaching what works for me to others.

I have developed two entire drill video serieses of the drills that I use myself and that I use when I’m teaching stand up paddle stroke. These are the keys things that I focus for stroke efficiency, power, using proper body mechanics, and for mobility and recovery protocols to prevent injury and get out of pain. 

So let’s talk about drills and WHY to use drills. 

The main reason why I believe in using drills when you’re SUP training is because SUP is a very complex sport and the SUP stroke is a very complex, full body movement.

There’s A LOT going on in that one and a half seconds time, on average, that it takes to take a stroke, right? And in that span of one and a half seconds, there’s a dozen or more different things actually going on that you could possibly be thinking about all at the same time. It’s impossible in that amount of time to be thinking about everything that is going into your stroke.

When we practice drills, we are breaking the stroke down into individual pieces that can be isolated and slightly exaggerated to focus on one piece at a time. When you practice drills, you just focus on one aspect of your stroke for that entire drill.

What you take away from the drill while you are thinking about just that one aspect of the stroke, is how it feels in your body. So that when you put the drills together and when you’re paddling in the flowing rhythm of your complete SUP stroke, you can concentrate on is how it feels.

There’s not time to think about every aspect of the stroke at one time, but there is the ability to feel the connection to your body and the to the water with each stroke.


That’s a reason why I break the stroke into drills. Drills slow things down and when you’re learning something new, it helps to go slow.  And not just when forming new habits, but especially when trying to change and correct long-held habits. It helps to go slow so that you can be focused, so that you can really feel what you’re doing, and have more time to integrate and to process the movement in your body.

You’ve probably heard the term muscle memory. As humans, we learn really well through repetition. Our bodies especially learn how to do a movement by repeating it. So when you have a way that you’ve been doing something for a long time, your muscles have a memory of that stored, and it can be harder and take more time and deliberation to change and re program those connections.

It takes repetition and focusing on one thing at a time.

Have tried to change something in your stroke before?

And you maybe even thought….

  1. It’s impossible to get my body to do that.

2.  I think I’m doing it and then I see a video or a picture of myself and I’m like like “Oh, I’m not doing that at all!”

or maybe you are still in the learning stages of how to paddle, and that’s kinda even better actually. 

To recap:

WHY we practice drills would be to stop thinking about your technique while you’re paddling and start feeling that connection.


Another reason why implementing drills is really helpful is that simply “thinking about your technique” while you’re paddling is sometimes just reinforcing old patterns and habits. Again, we often don’t look the way or aren’t actually doing things we way we think we are doing them.  So we’re falling into those old habits in our stroke more than we realize. You need time dedicated specifically to doing drills. AND you need to be able to see what you look like. (enter video analysis, but that’s for another talk)

HOW to practise drills:

If you’re somebody who paddles four days a week or more, one whole training session you can dedicate to just doing drills. I have entire workouts that I’ve written around just doing drills for that entire session. That;s what I do. Once a week is strictly technical focused paddling day. That’s if you’re somebody who has the ability to train many days a week.

If you’re somebody who paddles only one to three days a week, I recommend dedicating the first 10 to 20 minutes at the beginning or each session and the 10 to 20 minutes at the end of every paddle session to doing some drills.

The first and last minutes of the session are when it matter the most.  That’s doesn’t mean the rest of the time you are throwing away or not caring about the technique. It just means that your warm up and cool down are longer and carefully crafted to help you implement changes and improve your stroke technique.

No matter how often you are able to paddle, you are totally capable of taking time to work on your technique and improve as a paddler. 

For best results, always practice drills in as flat of water as possible. You can go into a canal, you can go into a harbor, behind a breakwater, whatever you have to do to try to get out of swell and wind and current.

One thing that’s helpful to remember when practising drills is not to expect to immediately feel like you’re understanding and perfectly executing what you’re trying to do. It takes time and it takes practice. For me when there’s something new I’m trying to implement in my stroke, there’s always a period of trying to conceptualize what I’m trying to do, and then there’s a period of getting my body to be able to repeat that and then a period of getting that to happen consistently, and then it starts to integrate into my stroke.  It takes time and practice and patience. (and video analysis!)

I’m hoping when you practice drills, that every once in a while there’s a stroke where you’re like, “Oh that was it! Oh I felt that!”  Once you start to feel those strokes, then to try to link them together. Then you try to get that to happen more consistently. 

A few more tips for working on drills and slowing things down, is to use resistance when you’re paddling to help in this way. I don’t recommend using resistance on longer training paddles, or on harder, more intense levels of training. I do recommend using resistance when you’re paddling drills and even then, only about 50% of the time.

Sometimes you want to do drills without resistance and sometimes you want to do drills with resistance. When you add resistance, it slows everything down. It gives you more time to really feel what’s happening and to make it happen.

You just need a little bit of resistance. A couple of simple ways to add resistance:

You can drag a leash. You could wear one leash and drag another one. A coil leash creates a nice little bit of resistance. That’s often the easiest one that I do.

You could also take a couple of bungee cords and wrap them around the nose of your board. You know how the nose of your board gets, gets wider? So, right before the widest part, you’d wrap them around so they can’t slide back anymore. The lines running underneath the board create drag.

And now you’re like, “Okay. Great. I know how and why to use drills, but I don’t know what drills to use”. 

That is why I have created 2 entire drill video serieses of all the drills that I use when I teach stand up paddle racing technique to help you improve your stroke, your efficiency, your power, your speed, your body mechanics, mobility, and injury prevention! 

These are all available on the Seychelle SUP training app. AND for the best value and results, both Part 1 and Part 2 are included inside the SUP Stroke School.

SUP Stroke School also includes weekly coaching calls and video analysis session, and a training program for paddle and strength designed to help you paddle faster, longer, and pain-free. A big part of the SSS is, you guessed it, practising your prescribed drills!

For more information on Drill Video Series part 1 and 2, video analysis sessions, or the SUP Stroke School, download and join the Seychelle SUP app today! It’s free to join!

Thanks so much!

Stoked and Gratefully yours,