Using Body Weight – SUP Tip: SIC Talk Story

Global Athlete Seychelle hosts SUP Tips on #sictalkstory talking about “Using Body Weight” Seychelle hosts these Talk Stories LIVE on SIC Maui’s Women of Watersports Facebook Page.


So today, we are going to be talking about using your body weight when you’re paddling.

So it’s a really important topic to discuss for several reasons. I’m going to talk about how you’re using your body weight and ways to use your body weight that can benefit different aspects of your stroke, like steering and board trim. Additionally I’d like to talk about how you can use body weight throughout your entire stroke, how you’re using your entire body, how this is a full body complex movement sport and how we’re using our body to propel ourselves.

You’re using your body weight when you’re paddling whether you realize it or not, you’re already doing it. Your body weight on the board affects the board. So, one of the things I talk about a lot is steering your board, and then also is paddling into a sidewind. I talk about your body weight on one foot or the other from side to side on your board. That’s actually steering your board. 

Sometimes you end up putting a little bit more weight on your paddling side. Every time you take a stroke on that side, rather than keeping equal body weight in your feet and having your board ride rather smoothly through the water, we end up putting more body weight from one side to the other when we’re not thinking about it. This causes our board to tip from side to side. What that does is the side that I weigh down onto, that rail is going to dig into the water a little bit more and that’s actually going to steer me. It’s not going to turn me, but it’s going to steer me away from that side of the board.

So if I’m using that consciously, I’m actually going to use a little bit more body weight onto the opposite side that I want to steer. So if I want to steer my board to the left, say I have the wind coming from the left side and I want to steer my board upwind a little bit so I’m not just getting blown down, I’m going to put more body weight on the right side of my board. I’m going to sink the right rail in the opposite way that I want to steer. That’s one of the most common ways we’re using body weight and not even realizing it or maybe we’re realizing it, but that’s definitely something to always be practicing is when you’re trying to go in a straight line.

Keeping your body weight equal in both feet and not leaning from one side to the other sticking one hip way out, I’m not putting extra weight in that leg every time I’m not leaning one side to the other and you’ll see that hopefully you can feel that. But if you can’t feel it, hopefully you can see it. If you look at the nose of your board, is it tipping from side to side? Can you make it ride more smoothly through the water? So a lot more on that in steering your board. 

Another way that we are using our body weight when we paddle and maybe realize that maybe we don’t is the trim of your board. So the trim of your board is the length from the front of your board (nose) to the back of your board (tail). So I just discussed using bodyweight side to side. Now I’m talking about back to front. So the further forward I stand on my board, I’m going to trim the nose down. The further back I stand on my board, I’m going to trim the tail. Downer the nose up, and that affects how your board moves through the water.

In the center of the board right next to the handle, and that’s trimmed evenly through the water. Different board shapes ride slightly differently, even with a small adjustment in your trim where your feet are. So, if my wrist crease is the handle of my board, just slight adjustments, a couple of inches or centimeters in either direction doesn’t make a difference.

You can use that to your advantage. You see this in a big way in downwinding, or surfing. Definitely you see paddlers or pivot turns getting all the way to the back of the board, but in downwinding or even in any sort of wind, any sort of chop, we are trying to always have the nose of the board riding (depending on the shape of your board) just above the water.

We don’t want the nose to be going down and hitting the waves. We don’t want the nose to be way up. We want it to be at all times using as much surface area as we can. But if we’re in dynamic water, if we have waves, even wakes, whatever it is, you know, the water is not perfectly flat, right? So in a perfect world, we have equal body weight in both feet and our board rides perfectly flat.

But really in reality, we’re always kind of steering one direction or the other and there’s always a little bit of movement to the water, so we’re always going to be adjusting or trim a little bit if that’s something that we are used to doing using our body weight. That can be as simple as leaning a little body weight forward or a little body weight back. It can be as subtle as a very small stagger of your feet. One foot is about half a foot length in front of the other. It could be a bigger, stagger surf stance. You don’t typically see that unless you’re surfing or downwinding, but you can also be adjusting that. So I’m always moving my feet a little bit. I move my feet a lot on my board because I’m adjusting my body weight to get the nose of my board down, body weight forward, or get the nose of my board up, body weight back. So, a staggered stance can help with that. You can also do it when you’re drafting. Usually I’ll get back a couple of inches when I’m drafting so the nose lifts up a little bit, so I can ride the wake of the board of the person in front of me a little bit.

So if that’s new for you, play with that you know, if you have a GPS on your board, even better. You can adjust several inches in one direction or the other, even just a couple inches in one direction or the other. You can play with staggered stance and watch as you’re shifting your body weight forward and backwards. This is great to practice when you’re doing upwind, downwind shifting the body weight forward to get the nose down and shifting the body weight back to get the nose up.

Another thing I’d really like to touch on today is using body weight at the catch in our stroke technique. So your distance per stroke is going to factor into your speed. Your distance per stroke is not how far in front of you you can reach to touch. It’s how far in front of you. Everything that I say is the way that I view paddling, the way that I think about it, the way I coach it. It is by no means my way or the highway. If it works for you, great.

Therefore for me, the catch… it’s not about how far you can reach. It’s about how far in front of you you can get your blade to set, which means what we’re trying to do, the reason we use the word “catch” is we’re trying to have our paddle enter the water and we’re trying to catch like we’ve grabbed onto the water so that when we pull our body past the paddle, paddle is stuck in that spot and we’re not pulling our paddle back towards us.

So we’re trying to set our blade, and pull ourselves past our paddle. A better indicator of your distance per stroke or which factors into your speed is not going to be how far out in front of you you can reach, it’s going to be how far out in front of you you can fully bury your blade. So if you ever watched yourself paddle in a video and float it down where the blade tip touches the water is not where the blade tip is fully buried. Your board has forward momentum moving through the water. If my board has forward momentum and I put my paddle straight down into the water, the paddle’s going to be moving backwards in relation to the board. Therefore, I want my paddle to enter the water with forward momentum, to sort of match the momentum of the board, so that when I can get my paddle blade fully buried as far out in front of me as possible as opposed to having it be closer to me, you’ll see what I’m talking about how long it takes you to bury your blade. So we need to have forward momentum with our paddle.

I can make that happen in several ways. First by putting your back into it and scoop or spear the water. Yeah, I could do that with my arms, but then that’s all in my arms. And if you’ve heard me say this before, you’ve probably heard coach Larry Cain say it before, preferentially use larger muscle groups over smaller muscle groups and your arms have some of the smallest muscle groups in your body.

So we don’t at any point want to accentuate using just the arms. So, I’m here at the catch. I could use my hands to go forward and my arms to have forward momentum. I could lean forward and, and stick my butt out and use my back. What that does is that puts a lot of stress on the low back.

So that’s typically not a good idea for most paddlers. The way that I like to coach it is that I want to use my whole entire body. So I like to think about the paddle as an extension of my body, and I’m actually using my body to propel myself. I’m trying to think about using my whole entire body to propel myself, as opposed to thinking about using my paddle to pull myself, or using my paddle to propel myself.

The paddle is just my tool. The paddle is just my lever. The paddle is just an extension of my body. Think about this… I love thinking of the paddle as your lever, and using your body weight. Like being a pole vaulter. So I could use my arms, I could use my back or I could if my paddle blade needs to enter the water going forward and in order to have that forward momentum… my spine is still neutral, my core is still stable and I got body weight forward and down. So, the main way that I’m making that happen, is the knees bend, the hips flex, my spine stays straight, and my body, my upper body lowers down. How I’m getting my body to go forward and in and get that forward momentum at the catch is actually down in the ankles.

So, the forward part is ankle flexion. My body weight is on my panel. It’s holding me up. So this ankle flexion is something that’s really helpful. You hear Larry say it as ski boots. If your ankles are tight, this is an area that can be mobilized. You can do ankle mobilities in your warmups in your “on land” sessions. I highly recommend ankle stretching and strengthening exercises because we use them a lot in paddlers. If you’re good at using your body weight, or if you’re practicing using your body weight, you’re going to be using your ankles a lot. 

So I’m hip hinging, and just think about leaning forward from the ankles, right? You feel that? So, then put your paddle in front of you, and that point where you’re like, “whoa, whoa, whoa”. That’s the point where you’re paddle’s going into the water. So it’s not quite like I’m actually falling onto my paddle, but my body weight going “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa”. That’s actually not what it feels like when you’re paddling, but that’s the point at which your paddle’s entering the water when you’re on the “whoa”. Therefore your paddle goes forward and in, body goes forward and down. So that forward momentum at the catch is important and keeping a nice neutral spine and stabilized core when you make that happen is important.

Another reason why using body weight at the catch is helpful is because if I actually do transfer weight onto my paddle, and if you’ve ever watched some of my drill videos before and some of the drills, the heels even lift up to exaggerate this… But if you actually are getting body weight onto the paddle, your board is getting lighter because body weight coming off your board onto the paddle. So the board actually lifts up in the water a bit every time you take a stroke. So when your board lifts up and glides up on top of the water a little bit more it’s going to move through the water lighter and easier again, similar to pole vaulting.

I’m going to transfer my weight onto my paddle and I’m going to get my body weight up and over. So when we’re paddling, we think about whether we’re pulling our hips or our body past the paddle and that’s how we’re propelling ourselves. Paddle goes in the water, we pull ourselves past it, right?

So also think about this… body weight goes onto the blade, pull our body weight up and past the paddle. And the reason that’s a helpful analogy is because now I’m thinking about, oh, that up and over, that has to come, that has to come from the hips. The movement is generated from the hips. So if I got my body weight onto my paddle, the pull, or the drive, is actually, and I flex in my hips, ankles, and knees, the drive, or the pull, is actually getting my body weight back up underneath me.

So body weight back up underneath me, and what that looks like is extending, and straightening. So I’m lowering down at the catch, and as I’m pulling, I’m standing back up, and I’m trying to do that before the paddle comes out of the water. What I’m trying to coach you to do, is actually standing up with the paddle still in the water, then as the paddle’s coming out of the water, you’re lowering back down. Then the paddle’s coming out of the water, if that makes sense.

So practice those few things that I mentioned, which was equal body weight. The board’s not tipping from side to side, so you’re not leaning on one rail or one foot or the other when you’re paddling and unconsciously steering yourself. And if you are tipping the board you’re doing it consciously to steer yourself. Think about the board trim, where your body weight is forward and backwards on your board, adjusting the trim over the nose of your board, how it’s riding through the water when you’re in dynamic water and then using body weight at the catch, getting the paddle to go forward and in as your whole entire body goes forward and down. Even more advanced, you can actually transfer body weight onto the blade, so the board lifts up, gets lighter, and glides up on top of the water more easily.

Thanks for reading another monthly blog post, have a beautiful day!