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Beginner Tips for Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in Durango, Part 2

a man sup in a body of water

If you’re looking for a unique Durango activity, try the fastest growing water sport: stand-up paddle boarding. It’s a fun, challenging workout, and also great way to enjoy the water and gorgeous scenery of Durango from a unique perspective. Anyone can try it! If you’re new to paddle boarding, start with part one of this series where we talked about how to get on your paddle board and how to stay up. We’re sharing more tips for beginners in today’s post, from the right way to hold your paddle to the basic strokes you need to get moving.

Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours is proud to offer paddle board rentals with everything you need to get started. We’ll provide all the gear, including the board, paddle, personal flotation device, helmet, and a wet suit if needed. We’ll also give you stand up paddle boarding lessons, so once you’ve learned everything you can from our blog posts, you can get personalized, real-life instructions. Reserve your paddle board from Durango Rivertrippers today for a full or half-day!




How to Handle Your Paddle

Place one hand on top of the paddle handle and place the other lower down on the shaft. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart. When stand-up paddle boarding, you should think of your paddle as a lever. Your top hand drives the lever and the paddle hinges around your lower hand. Unlike the way you might handle it when kayaking, the blade of the paddle should point away from you and the nose of the board. You can think of it like an oddly shaped spoon, with the bowl facing forward. It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll get used to it with time.


How to Take A Stroke

Once you’re ready to start paddling, keep your arms straight and twist your torso to take a stroke. Try to think of your arms and the paddle as sides of a triangle. Stand-up paddle boarding is a full-body workout, but your core and the big muscles of your back should be doing most of the work, not your arms. Take a small break after each stroke — not to rest, but to get a feel for the direction your board is going. This can help you keep from oversteering, which can quickly become exhausting.




Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is, as the name suggests, how you move your paddle board forward. To start, extend the paddle at least two feet ahead of you. If you want to take a bigger stroke, you can rotate your torso and extend the shoulder above your top hand. Submerge the paddle blade completely and then push it toward the tail of your board. Lever the paddle by putting pressure on the grip with your top hand rather than pulling with your lower hand, and remember to use your back! For the right kind of movement and force, it can help to think about pushing the paddle past the board rather than pulling it through the water. Once the paddle is about even with your ankle, pull it out of the water and start again.

To travel in a straight line, you will have to switch which side you’re paddling on every once in a while. Try three or four strokes at a time on each side. When you switch which side you’re paddling on, you also need to change the position of your hands! If you’re paddling on the right side, your left hand should be on top. When you start paddling on the left side, reposition your grip so your right hand is on top.


Reverse Stroke

A reverse stroke, also predictably named, is the opposite of a forward stroke. It can help you slow down, stop, or turn your paddle board. Reach backward with your paddle and bury the blade near the tail of your board. When you first start practicing stand-up paddle boarding, you should check to make sure the entire blade is underwater. You’ll lose power and waste energy if your paddle blade is only skimming the surface. Remember to use your core more than your arms when you lever the paddle toward the nose of your board. If you reverse stroke on the right side, it will turn your board to the right, and vise versa. If you want to turn, you can also use a sweep stroke.


Sweep Stroke

A sweep stroke can help you spin your board whether you’re moving or standing still. It’s called a sweep stroke because you sweep your paddle in an arc. First, rotate your shoulders so the shoulder above your top hand comes forward. Then submerge the blade of your paddle near the nose of your board on the side you want to turn away from. Rotate your torso and make a large rainbow shape from the front of your board to the tail. You can use the leverage of your legs and hips for strength. The board will shift quickly, so stay in a low stance for both power and balance.

The sweep stroke works as both a forward and a reverse stroke. If you want to move the nose of your board in a specific direction, place your paddle near the tail of the board instead. Don’t forget that whichever side you’re paddling on, the hand on that side should be on the shaft of the paddle, not the top. When you become more experienced, you can try planting one foot further back on the board and shifting your weight to lift the nose of the board out of the water slightly. This will help you turn ever faster.

Stand-up paddle boarding is a great way to get outside, enjoy the gorgeous Durango landscape, and build both strength and balance. It is a challenging sport, but Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours is here to help! Remember to use your paddle like a lever when you get out on the water and, in the meantime, review part one of this series for advice on how to get on your board and stay standing. Reserve your paddle board online today and look for other great Colorado activities from Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours!

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