How to Paddle Faster on Your SUP: Top Techniques

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With the best inflatable paddle board, how slow or fast you go is totally in your control. But if you’re new to SUP life, then learning how to paddle faster on your SUP can give you the type of fitness challenge you’re looking for, especially if you’re trying to get in shape. There will be times when you’re trying to cover more water in a limited amount of time, so learning how to quickly pick up speed is a must. Most beginners believe that speed comes solely from the water combined with faster strokes with a paddle. However, paddling faster will only tire you out, there are actually other ways you can cover a lot of distance and achieve the type of speed you need when you’re out on the water.

How to paddle faster on your SUP:

  • Learn how to maneuver your board. Focus on your timing with each stroke.
  • Get the most out of your strokes by focusing on extending your reach instead of taking faster, shorter strokes.
  • Use a board that’s designed for speed. These are SUPs that have a longer, narrower design.
  • Learn how to power your strokes using your whole body, not just your arms.
  • Learn how to time your strokes and add your power mid-stroke, not at the start of a stroke.

All of these tips can help you pick up speed when you’re out on the water, just keep in mind that the average paddle boarding speed isn’t as fast as surf speed since it will be you powering the board, not fast-moving water. Over time, you’ll learn how to handle your board, while focusing on keeping your board straight and picking up speed. However, this will take time, patience, and practice.

Boosting Your Speed

In order to cover more distance and pick up some speed, you’ll have to experiment with your stroke rate and distance. Depending on your paddle, board, and build, there are many things you can try that will achieve the results you’re looking for.

What’s a Wide Paddle Turn?

When you bring the paddle forward from a back stroke, timing will be crucial. Each second that passes can cause the SUP to lose momentum. Additionally, a wider swinging motion tends to use up too much energy, which will cause you to tire out faster.

You can solve this problem by keeping the paddle closer to the SUP. Doing so makes the process more efficient, allowing you to move faster when you’re in the water while also conserving your energy.

Get the Most Out of Your Strokes

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As I mentioned earlier, stroke distance is very important. When you’re paddling, you need to focus on extending your reach, otherwise, you won’t be getting the most out of every stroke. Ideally, you shouldn’t reach further than what feels comfortable to you, to prevent a potential injury.

When you have reached the front of a stroke and the paddle dips into the water, make sure you’re digging deep. At this point, you should be using your entire body to power the paddle, not just your arms. At this time it’s important to take advantage of your reach in order to pick up speed.

Paddling Environment

Being familiar with your surroundings when you’re out on the water is always helpful. Make sure you keep an eye out for any potential hazards and identify a few landmarks to ensure you know where you are, and where you want to land once it’s time to head back. If you’ve entered a competition, then make sure you check out the area a day or two before the big day to become familiar with the area. The more information you have the more you’ll be able to focus on your paddling, instead of worrying about getting turned around.

Plan it Out

Once you become familiar with the area, your next step is choosing a route. This will be crucial with competitive racing, however, mapping out your route will also apply any time when you want to practice learning how to paddle faster. Using advanced techniques to get from point A to point B faster will not work if you have no idea where you’re headed.

Increasing Efficiency

You can easily improve the efficiency of your stokes by reducing how many strokes you take. Focus on hitting the paddle stroke far in front of you, while bringing the paddle back to your feet by placing all of your weight in the movement. Make the next stroke once the board has advanced enough through the water.

Gaining Power

Focus now on the middle of your paddle stroke, the key moment when you must give all the power to your rowing movement. At this moment, managing the weight of your body is crucial. Lean in at the start of the stroke, standing on your tiptoes and placing all of your weight and power into it as you push hard on the paddle in the middle of the stroke.

Dead Ahead

Stand Up Paddle

Have you ever noticed that switching the paddle side when you want to right the board and go straight causes a break in cadence? The second you place your paddle in the water, you should position the blade parallel to the axis of the SUP. Then, you’ll draw a movement from out to in. Next, restore the orientation of the blade back to its conventional position and finish the stroke as you normally would by pulling the paddle towards your feet.

How Fast Can a SUP Go?

Some beginners may be discouraged to learn just how slow these boards are, but since you’ll be the only thing powering the board, then picking up some serious speed will be a big achievement. Standing on a board in the middle of a body of water and maintaining your balance while trying to track in a straight line is difficult as it is without trying to pick up speed. Most beginners will move across the water at three to four miles per hour, which is a relaxing, nice speed. Experienced SUP users will go faster using the right paddling techniques that will allow them to achieve an average speed of five to eight miles per hour.

What Can Impact Stroke Speed?

Obviously, the more in shape you are, the faster you can paddle. If you’re a beginner, or you’re new to working out, then you won’t go very fast the first month or two on the water. As your paddling techniques and fitness improve you’ll notice that you’re able to glide more easily and harder through the water, allowing your speed to increase automatically.

Your first time on the water you’ll notice that other SUP users are traveling much faster. However, don’t be discouraged by people who seem to travel at a much faster speed. It will take time for you to learn how to power your strokes and achieve that type of speed, but with practice and dedication, you’ll have it down in no time at all.


Board size will also have an impact on your speed. If you have a board that’s too heavy and long for you, this can prevent you from paddling faster. Buying the right size and calculating the board’s volume will mean that you’ll be able to easily handle and maneuver the board to get through the water faster. When you choose a board that’s the right volume this means that water is displaced at the correct level, which will help you go much faster. If you’re large and you have a smaller board, you’ll have a difficult time controlling it as well, which will cause a dip in your speed.


Some types of boards are designed with speed in mind. Models that are designed for flatwater use are bigger and aren’t meant to go faster, however, they can still be used for surfing. These boards are better suited for yoga or fishing. To learn more about SUP angling be sure to check out my guide on paddle board fishing tips.

Boards made for racing will be longer and narrower which helps the board to glide easily through the water. A wider, shorter board will be slower.

Solid Versus Inflatable

An inflatable SUP can do pretty much anything a solid model can do, however, there is a difference in terms of speed capabilities. A hard SUP is easier to maneuver and can move faster than an inflatable SUP. Most people won’t notice the difference in speed, however, an experienced paddle boarder might.

However, models such as the inflatable Tower Paddle Boards Adventurer have a reputation for being almost as fast, if not faster, than some solid boards. Basically, just do your research and find a board that will work for you, your size, fitness level, and speed goals. You may find that an inflatable SUP is a better option since these boards are also very beginner-friendly.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to paddle faster on your SUP, you can practice the techniques I’ve included here and purchase a board that’s designed for speed. Of course, you’ll still need to commit to practicing regularly. The more time you spend on your board, the more comfortable you’ll be. You’ll also learn how to maneuver and control your SUP, which will also have an impact on your speed and performance out on the water.