For those now standing up on the paddle board and getting the hang of the balance and motion involved in stand-up paddling, the J-stroke is a great addition! The J-stroke propels the board in a forward motion without having to switch the paddle from one side of the board to the other. Nice, right?
(If you are not at this point, don't fret. Check out our Intro to SUP article and you will be paddling in no time!)
As with stand-up paddling, the J-stroke does take a little practice, but is absolutely worth the extra effort in the beginning and will become a very fluid stroke once practiced.
First, start the stroke like an ordinary stroke: Stretch the lower arm out and use the top hand to guide the paddle. Place the blade in the water a comfortable distance out in front, next to the board. Pull the blade through the water. Now, as the blade reaches your side, this is where it changes, instead of just pulling the blade out of the water, twist the face/front of the blade away from the board. Be strong with this twist so the water doesn't slap the blade into the side of the board. Pause for a second and repeat the stroke.
A couple notes.
Play around with the movement of the J-stroke to understand what is happening and how the hook at the end balances out the force of the initial stroke.
This stroke is easier to initiate and control the board with after momentum is built up. Feel free to take a few 'regular' strokes before trying the J-stroke.
The nose of the board will not go in a perfectly straight line. The nose will point to one side then correct. The faster the glide, the less the nose pulls from side to side. As with everything, practice makes perfect - but most importantly, enjoy! It's a really fun stroke.
Last note! Standing a little farther back on the board, rather than right in the center, also helps with this stroke. Play around and find what works best for you!
Check out the picture: As the blade approaches the feet, twist (with your wrists) the face of the blade away from the board.