Pics: Oli Lane- Peirce, James Jagger
When newbie stand up paddle boarders hear the call the piece of kit focused upon is always the board. Whilst you obviously need a sled the thing missed is SUP’s defining and more important piece of equipment: the paddle. Without one you’re just standing. On a board, yes, but not going anywhere. Low quality SUP paddles are therefore complete wastes of your money. In some ways it’s better to choose a lower priced stand up paddle board and spend the rest of your hard earned coin on a paddle upgrade.
Switch this to SUP foiling and the above still rings true. Even more so in some ways. Foil boards in general are more compact, the idea being to reduce swing weight once flying. BUT. You need to actually get foiling in the first place.
The issue with straight line tracking, when piloting super short boards (sub-8′) is the yaw effect increases exponentially. Yaw is when the nose of your board swings left and right and has a harder time pointing forwards. This trade off is in favour of more manoeuvrability and/or shorter board lengths to aid actually being on foil.
A good quality SUP paddle will give you direct feedback and allow riders to hone paddle skills. It’ll also mean you expend less energy during the paddling/catching waves/lumps phase. Stiffer paddle shafts generally provide more oomph from standing although flexier types can help as the spring back after each stroke giving some remnant power following the recoil (but only if the rider has developed good technique and flow and understands how to use this).
So you’ve armed yourself with a better SUP paddle – great! Next task is to become a student of paddling technique. There are countless resources online covering this, so we’ll not get into the granular details. Suffice to say: study up and aim to put into practise what you discover (from a reputable source). Everything known about ‘stuck to the water’ SUP paddling technique can be echoed for SUP foil. Most definitely at the take off stage. For instance: an efficient J-stroke will allow foil riders to adopt a surf stance as they paddle for the wave. This is much more dynamic and gives more chance of flight success because feet are already correctly placed. The J-stroke also keeps SUP foil boards tracking straight, without the need for swapping sides and adding corrective strokes. This is inefficient and halts momentum which can hinder wave pick up.
It doesn’t just stop there, however. Once flying (with the correct length paddle) riders can add additional strokes, just as he/she would/should when SUP surfing. Along with pumping your foil this will elongate rides and allow you to cover great distance as well as get through flat spots.
Brace strokes can be employed. If you feel an additional water tap will allow you to remain up and flying then whack it (the water that is). And the general swing weight of a SUP paddle, if used correctly, can aid foil carving turns even if you’re not making water contact. A little like a high wire tightrop walker sometimes uses a beam for additional balance.
In a nutshell: SUP foiling is still ALL about your paddle. It’s your friend, if you let it be, as well as your main source of propulsion. Choose a good one and learn how to use it well.
If you need a hand with SUP foiling gear (paddles, boards and foils) then give us a shout. Likewise with any other foiling queries.
Check out one our choices of SUP foil paddle in Foilshop UK’s shop here, the Ocean Specific Strike SX-2 paddle –