GET SITUATED: First, always keep your eyes on the horizon. Most people look at their feet when they stand-up, but that can throw you off balance. And this may seem totally obvious, but a lot of people hold their paddle facing the wrong way. Always make sure the scoop is facing away from you.
AVOID OVERPADDLING: Don’t stroke past your feet. When your elbow comes to your hip, bring the blade up out of the water. If your paddle passes your feet, you’re actually slowing yourself down.
THINK ABOUT TEMPO: I’m on the high-cadence train. The faster I paddle, the higher the turnover, and the faster I go. For me, I have to rely on my fitness and do a faster cadence, but if you’re super strong, like Dave Kalama, you can get away with a slower, stronger stroke.
START FAST: For races, I usually go hard at the start and then settle into a comfortable rhythm. Don’t start slow, thinking you’re going to conserve energy for later, because at that point you won’t be able to play catch-up. If other racers are ahead of you, even if it’s just three board lengths, it takes so much effort to reel them in.
NERD OUT: I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to paddling—I love using a GPS watch, like the Garmin Forerunner 910XT ($450). It not only tells me how far and fast I’m going, but it’s heart-rate-enabled, and I can create custom workouts.