How to Paddle Faster – Seychelle SIC Talk Stories

How to Paddle Faster

Hello and welcome to my first “How to” blog post of the year. A new monthly edition to Seychelle SUP for 2024! 

Today we have a really catchy talk story title. It’s “How To Paddle Faster” and I know that that was going to catch the attention of a lot of you because who doesn’t want to paddle faster, right?

This blog is actually a transcription of one of my popular SIC MAUI Talk Stories. In case you’d rather watch the video than read this post, here the link to do so:

What I want to talk about today are some different steps to take, and lots of tips and advice on how to not only become a faster paddler, but really a better paddler all around.

What I feel most paddle racers are interested in doing, is increasing their overall race times, that’s what I hear a lot. First a disclaimer about race times… as you know, if you are somebody who races in this sport, it’s so conditionally subject to conditions, your times. Therefore it’s very difficult to define, like this is a “good” time and this is a “bad” time because we’d deal so much with wind, chop, waves, current, from a day to day basis. I really don’t recommend only objectively looking at your numbers. I do recommend also subjectively looking at how you feel your performance is. 

Another disclaimer, that these are things that I think about, practice on this is the way that I, these are just a few notes that I’ve come up with to give you some benefit today, and it’s by no means as always, my way or the highway. I say this a lot with technique… There’s no one right or wrong way to do something, this is my approach and my methods, so I hope that makes sense and that’s all clear.

So here’s the number one tip I have on how to paddle faster is actually taking time to work on your technique. I really do mean getting coaching on your technique, going to clinics, working one on one with the coach, getting some video analysis so that you know what to work on in your technique, specifically for you. Additionally taking time to implement and practice that technique.

I don’t just mean “I’m thinking about my technique while I’m paddling my weekly paddle week”. Great, yes, think about your technique while you’re paddling your weekly paddle week. But what I mean is actually setting aside time specifically to work on technique to slow down. Sometimes even using resistance and really doing some targeted workouts for technique or targeted drills at the beginning or end of your workout specifically for technique.

So speed… if we’re talking about paddling faster, it is a combination of distance per stroke, so that’s how efficient I’m paddling, how much power I can put in, how much glide I can generate per stroke, combined with my cadence, so how quickly I can replicate that powerful, or efficient, or effective stroke rate. So when you’re working on technique, it is about slowing it down to really feel that. However, to then increase your overall speed, you need to incorporate some interval training.

So that’s my second tip. After technique, how are you training? One of the slowest ways to get faster is to go out and paddle that same course over and over again, week after week, just trying to do it faster every time that maybe works initially and then you plateau really fast. And you sort of go, what happened? Then you start looking at, “well maybe it’s my equipment, I need to get on the faster boards like everybody else” and yes, that does matter. If you really want to see improvements in your speed, you need to improve not just your technique, but your fitness, your endurance and your ability to maintain that technique at higher intensities. So that takes training at different intensities and workouts that are targeted specifically for those aspects of your performance. Whether it be your endurance, whether it be your aerobic capacity, or aerobic power, and how I can maintain my technique that I’ve been working on while going into those different levels. Essentially it’s specific to what you’re working on. You have to build a base.

You don’t want to just go and work on “okay, I want to get faster so I’m just going to work on paddling faster and faster and faster and work on my speed” because there is actually a lot of work that needs to be done, not just technique, at lower paces as well as those higher intensities. That lower pace work is called building your base and that’s how you can maintain it. If you don’t have a base, you can work on your speed but you won’t be able to maintain that speed, power, and intensity for very long. So I do recommend, there’s all different kinds of coaches, programs for different budgets, whether you do a group, whether you do one on one, or whether you do custom. If you’re really serious about getting faster I do recommend working with a coach on your technique and on your training plan.

The next tip that I have, after technique and interval training, is training buddies. There is something to be said about paddling with people that are faster than you, that push you. It’s definitely going to help you learn how to paddle a little bit faster because you want to keep up and so there’s that motivation. We do tend to push a little harder and work a little harder with others. The other really great part about training with others is you can practice drafting. Drafting is a very useful skill and you can almost kind of think of it as a hack to paddling faster because if you know how to draft properly, you can move faster with less effort if you’re drafting the right person, and if you’re drafting properly.

If you’re somebody who’s like “I don’t paddle with others, I don’t have training buddies, there’s nowhere around me I paddle” I understand. A lot of us are like that. We don’t all have an amazing weekly race group or training buddy. Though, if you can find that. It’s, helpful. And if you can’t, that’s okay. Some of us can’t. 

The next tip on paddling faster, is that your equipment does matter. What I mostly mean by this is that if you’re on an all around board, if you’re on a touring board, if you’re still new and you haven’t yet invested in a race board, that will be a big speed improvement when you go ahead and make an investment in a good quality carbon race board because narrower in general is faster. Lighter in general is faster. I don’t mean top end speed, I just mean a race board’s design and their ability to move, glide through the water. With that being said narrower and lighter doesn’t necessarily mean faster if that board is not stable enough for you, is not designed for the conditions that you are going to be paddling in. So having equipment that is best suited for you and the conditions that you are paddling in is going to give you the best opportunity to make the most out of your paddling and get the most speed out of your situation. I do recommend investing in the right gear. 

Your paddle makes a huge difference. I’d recommend one that’s designed for racing because it is going to make a huge difference in how your body feels and how you apply these things, like the technique and the training that you’re working on. So investing in a paddle. It’s gonna be hugely beneficial and if you want specific recommendations on boards and paddles, definitely reach out to me. While equipment can definitely help make improvements when you’re investing from sort of a beginner or a novice kit into a more intermediate or advanced kit for paddling, you cannot just buy your way into being faster, right?

I do see this a lot. It’s like, “Oh I bought the new equipment and it made me faster and then I hit that plateau again really quickly”. Initially, all these things work and then you hit that plateau really quickly and then you think, “Oh, I’m just going to buy the next thing and buy the next thing”. Yes, investing in your equipment does matter. Having the right equipment does matter and all these other aspects matter too. It’s the combination, it’s the holistic approach. My way is the holistic approach for sure.

My next tip, which is the most important one… is slow down to speed up. And it’s one of my favorite quotes that I read one time when I was injured. And I hated it at the time, and I loved it at the same time and it’s stuck with me ever since because it’s so true in all aspects of our life. Sometimes slowing down, is the best way to speed up, is the best way to move through life in general. So some of my biggest growth periods in paddling and some of my most improvement that I’ve seen in my paddling personally happened when I was injured because I really had to slow down and take time to work on things like my technique and my body mechanics and my recovery.

And of course, like I said, that slow time where you are working on your technique, that slow time where you’re working on building that base that you have to be able to maintain your speed. So another great reason that slowing down can help us speed up is that especially when you have an injury and you have time off the water, you come back rested, and you can come back stronger. Especially if you’re coming off of an injury that was chronic for quite some time and you finally took some time to recoup, you can come back stronger. When you have time off, you can come back more rested and more fully recovered. In general spending more time on recovery, those more slower aspects to your training, your everyday self care, your sleep, your nutrition, and your levels of stress are all going to play into how your body feels and how your body feels is going to affect your performance and your performance of course is going to affect those objective numbers that you’re looking at in terms of getting faster.

So it’s an important part. It’s a holistic picture, we can’t just work on one or the other we want to put in that active training, we want to put in this passive self care work to support it as well. So another aspect of slowing down is that, taking time to actually get in a good warm up and a nice cool down. That’s something that I know a lot of us skip out on because we’re like “oh, I only have an hour. I’m just going to get out there. I’m going to hammer it out. I’m going to come in and boom, go back to work or childcare” or whatever it is that we have to do with our lives. Warming up and cooling down not only helps you get more out of your workout, because those are times when you can put in drills and stuff like that. You can work on mobility that will help your technique and you’re paddling. It’s also going to help you prevent injuries and prevent you from having time off of what you’re doing or prevent you from being in pain. And when you’re in pain, you’re definitely going to be paddling slower, right? So slowing down to speed up is that tip. 

I also want to emphasize being consistent. Even moderate consistency yields results and just be honest with yourself about are you actually being consistent with each of these things that I’ve written with working on your technique, how you’re training, trying to find people to train with, slowing down to speeding up, what equipment that you’re on, and maybe it’s not all of these aspects, but at least some of them, and it’s not just one of them, that you’re really being consistent with. It also doesn’t have to be every day. It has to be every week or whatever that looks like for you, and you’ll see results. When you’re really honest with yourself about those things.

Thanks so much for reading! 

Happy paddling!