Photo Darrell Wong
So you’ve read all the technique articles, watched all the videos on you tube, maybe even attended a clinic from one of the pros. You’ve spent countless hours processing all the information and tried to integrate it into your stroke. Maybe you’ve even gone as far as having some one video tape you so that you can go through it with a fine tooth comb, and slow-mo it like the sports analysts do on any given Sunday. Well there’s one little detail you seldom hear in the stand up world… tempo( or cadence ). In outrigger it’s quite a common term because of the team work factor. Everyone must paddle exactly together or blend as they say, and at the same rate or tempo.
There are many factors that determine your speed, for instance, the amount of power you apply, efficiency of your technique, fitness level, board design, etc. For the sake of argument, let’s say you paddle pretty much the same every time you go. So the easiest way to control your speed is by the number of strokes you take per minute, or tempo. If you only take forty strokes per minute no matter how good they are you will only travel so far, but if you take seventy stokes per minute( provided they’re good strokes) you will travel a lot further.
The trick then becomes setting your tempo to three key factors. One, your technique, be it Hawaiian or Tahitian. Two, your fitness level, meaning how much cardio stress can you put on your body and maintain a certain level of efficiency. Three, your level of power output. When anyone of these factors is too high you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns, simply meaning, that you no longer can maintain a efficient movement when you’re trying to hard.
Because the length of a stand up paddle is so much longer, you will do fewer strokes per minute compared to the rates of an outrigger paddler. In an outrigger, the Hawaiian stroke can vary from the low fifties to upper sixties, whereas the Tahitian stroke can be anywhere from the lower sixties to the low mid eighties. For stand up you can subtract five to ten strokes per minute for the longer paddles.
Setting your tempo on a stand up is a very subtle thing because adding five strokes per minute is barely noticeable. That’s just a little more than one stroke more per fifteen seconds, which by the way is generally how you count your strokes. Count the number of strokes you do in fifteen seconds and multiply by four.
If you’re more of a cardio type person you should lean more towards a Tahitian style stroke since the rate is higher and will require more cardio endurance, thus playing right into your strength. If you’re a bigger stronger guy perhaps you might slow your stroke down and take advantage of your strength by powering your paddle a little deeper. Whatever you favor naturally I highly recommend mastering both techniques as they both use slightly different muscle groups, which allows for less fatigue because of load sharing throughout the body.
So instead of always working on just your technique, try adjusting your tempo to suit your stroke and technique to enhance both factors and become that much faster over the long run.