Very soon into your paddleboarding adventures, you’ll want to learn some basic strokes. One of the most basic and often-used is the J-stroke.
The J-stroke propels your board forward without the need to constantly switch your paddle from one side of the board to the other to keep it heading straight. Nice, right?
The J-stroke takes practice, but is absolutely worth the effort to learn. It’ll become a very fluid stroke once you have it down.
First, start like an ordinary forward stroke: Stretch your lower arm out and use your top hand to guide the paddle. Place the blade in the water a comfortable distance out in front of you, next to the board. Pull the blade through the water.
Here’s where the change comes: As the blade reaches your side, twist the blade away from the board as you pull it out of the water. You’ll use both your shaft hand and your grip hand for this twist. Be strong with it so the water doesn't slap the blade into the side of the board.
It’s called a J-stroke because the blade is making a “J” pattern in the water as you do this.
Why Use the J-Stroke?
When you use the forward stroke, the nose of your paddleboard won’t go in a perfectly straight line. It’ll point a bit to the side opposite your stroke. The “J” at the end of your stroke realigns the nose towards the center.
Play around with the movement of the J-stroke to understand what’s happening and how the hook at the end balances out the force of the initial stroke.
On flat water and in mild wind, you should be able to J-stroke as long as you want without switching your paddle to the other side of your board.
That’s not a big deal if you’re just out for an hour paddling around. But if you decide to stay out for several hours, or try a multi-day trip, this stroke will save you a ton of energy. You’ll be able to paddle longer with less fatigue.
A Couple Notes
The J-stroke is easier to initiate once you build momentum. Take a few regular strokes first, then practice your Js.
Standing a little farther back on the board, rather than right in the center, also helps with this stroke.
Once mastered, it’ll be second nature and enhance your SUP experience!
If you’re an avid canoeist, you already know and use the J-stroke. Just transfer it to the longer paddle while you’re standing.
Check out this video from Watercooled UAE
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