I feel very fortunate that I'm able to assist Drew with a few of these trips. In addition to wrangling boards to a from the boat (often in high winds and from pitching deck), I serve as another set of eyes on the water, and even can offer some advice and coaching to first-timers. Over the past couple of trips, I've tried to think of a tip or two that I can give people on land before getting on the boat or getting in the water. Many of you may disagree with me here but I consider downwinding to be the top of the pyramid in the SUP world. Other aspects of the sport merely prepare you for downwinding. Combine the aerobic and anaerobic training components from racing, the board trimming and wave riding from surfing, the paddle finesse and bracing from whitewater, and the forecasting and trip planning from touring and you have downwinding my friend. All roads lead to surfing whitecaps.
Okay, on to the tip; the fabulous Nose Draw into Forward Stroke. First the why. During a downwind run, we are usually in an off-set or a full surfing stance. For me, that means I have the best control and most power while paddling on my right side because I am regular footed. What happens when I paddle on my right side? You guessed it, the boards wants to go to the left. In a parallel stance, no big deal, I just switch sides and paddle on the left a few times before switching back to my right. Not quite as easy on a downwinder. In an off-set stance or full surf stance, I'm not going to have much power on my left side, that's number one. Number two is, I'm going to slow down a lot during the transition to the opposite side. Number three is that I have a really good chance of falling when the paddle is out of the water. So how can we get lots of strong powerful strokes and braces on our dominant side? You guessed it. The nose draw into forward stroke.
How does it work? Remember, If I am paddling on my right side, my board wants to go left so to counteract this movement, I need to pull the board to the right and that's where the nose-draw portion of the stroke comes into play. The nose draw pulls the nose to the right just seconds before the forward stroke pushes the board to the left (slightly). They work together to keep me going (more or less) straight. Beautiful huh? This is considered a "blended stroke" where we combine two distinct strokes into one fluid movement. Now, on my powerful right side, I stand way back at the tail, utilize my blended stroke to maintain speed and heading. Nice! When I get lucky and catch a little bump I can use a hanging low brace on the right side for stability (that's a bonus tip, no extra charge).
To help visualize this blended stroke imagine a lazy "r" connected to the rail of your board (on the right side). The bottom of the "r" is where you are standing, while the top of the "r" is where you begin your catch. Now take your paddle and trace the "r" using the power face of your blade. Look at the diagram below. Try to mix some nose draws (alone) into your paddling to correct your heading. Once you feel comfortable, start incorporating a little nose draw into your forward stroke from time to time. See if you like it. Remember, it doesn't have to be dramatic, sometimes just a little pull is all you need. I hope this helps you have more success, and more fun on the water.
|Nose draw into forward stroke on the right side in off-set stance.|