You’ve got the forward stroke down, but what about turning? The most common method of turning is a sweep stroke. The forward sweep stroke is essential for turning while keeping that forward momentum that you’ve worked so hard for. I’ve broken this stroke down into 3 basic steps.
Step 1: The Setup – This is where you prepare for a sweep stroke. First, you’ll want to position your feet in a modified surf stance. Drop one foot back a few inches with a slight angle out. This will allow your hips to rotate better toward the side of your sweep. Once your feet are positioned, bend your knees. Bending your knees will allow you to reach farther out from your board, allowing you to have a more effective sweep stroke. Rotate your body so that your paddle blade can be placed into the water at the nose of your board. This is like setting up for a golf swing. If you don’t get your body rotated before your swing the club, the ball just won’t go very far and your arms will become tired and strained very quickly. Once your body is fully rotated, place that paddle blade into the water until fully submerged.
Step 2: The Stroke – At this point your paddle blade is already in the water and your body is like a spring all twisted up and ready to uncoil. Let it happen. If you imagine your standing in the middle of a clock face and the nose of your board is at 12 and the tail of your board is at 6, you want your paddle to follow those numbers on the clock all the way around from 12 until 6. The farther you can reach out towards those numbers, the more effective your sweep stroke will be. Since you are standing in a modified surf stance you should be able to rotate your hips and body most of the way around. Make sure you are keeping your knees bent the entire time to help keep your center of gravity closer to the board, and you more stable.
Step 3: Recovery – Now that your paddle blade is close to the tail of your board, you can remove the blade from the water by slicing it sideways and up and through the water or pulling it straight up and out. If you didn’t turn enough you can leave your feet in the same position and setup for another sweep stroke or you can bring your feet back to the neutral position and continue paddling forward with the forward stroke.
Once you’ve got the basic motion down, try taking a couple steps or hops backwards or forwards on your board before doing a sweep stroke. Did you notice any difference? Moving backwards should help turn the board quicker because as the nose comes up out of the water there is less contact between the board and the water, allowing the board to turn easier (these are called pivot or buoy turns). Moving forward will make it harder to turn until you have moved far enough forward that the entire fin is out of the water.
If you’re still looking to make your turn more effective, try tilting your board. Just after your place your paddle blade in the water during the setup phase, put a little extra weight on your forward foot to tilt your board. Then, proceed with the stroke. You should find that it lets the water move underneath the front of your board easier as you’re turning because the edge of your board leading into the turn is angled up out of the water.