Slow Down and Focus on Perfection

When paddling, focus on technique before speed.

When paddling, focus on technique before speed.

When many of us try to improve our paddling, we focus on going faster. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just paddling more furiously is usually not the best path to fast paddling. Cadence – how often you paddle per unit of time – is how we make paddle craft go faster, but cadence alone will not help us achieve optimal results.

Rather than just increasing cadence, try paddling with a more perfect stroke. To do that, you should initially decrease your cadence. Make deliberate, neat strokes, and do it for 45 minutes or so. Strive to have a perfect catch, an efficient power phase, a clean exit, and an efficient return. Find elegance in your paddling technique.

We correspond often with one of the leading paddle designers in the country, and his advice is to listen to the paddle. A good, efficient paddle stroke should make no (or at least very little) noise. The noise, particularly on the power phase, is generated by the turbulence of the water over the paddle, and turbulence tells us that the stroke is not efficient. So, listen to your paddle – once it says nothing, you are doing it well.

After you perfect your perfect stroke, then you can begin to increase your cadence to increase the speed of your craft.

We will also remind you that, when using a paddle, the goal is not to push water towards the back of the boat. The goal is to provide a nearly stationary point in the water past which we slide the boat. It may sound counterintuitive, but when you begin to picture the boat sliding past the paddle – rather than pulling the paddle past the boat, you will create a more efficient paddle stroke that stems from the muscles in your torso.

Eventually, efficiency translates into speed, and then into distance covered. Happy perfect paddling out there.

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.