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Do you experience knee pain after stand up paddling? PDF Print E-mail
By: Stand Up Paddle Surfing Magazine   
Tuesday, 05 May 2009
We recently received a letter from a fellow stand up paddler who asked, “Why is it that some stand up paddlers experience knee pain while others with a history of knee pain are experiencing strength and relief?”

Good question! Let’s see if we can shed some light on the topic. A lot of it has to do with technique and footwork. The outstanding core workout that stand up paddling provides comes from the twisting, bending and crunching of muscles working together to balance and propel the paddler forward. When the paddle is placed in the water, the energy travels from the paddle through your body to your feet and the board. Half way through all that are your knees.


With proper posture and form, stand up paddling straight in calm water at a comfortable pace will normally put a minimal amount of stress on your knees. So, what could be some of the causes of knee pain? Here are a few; maybe they apply to you.

standuppaddlekneepain.jpg1. Overexertion. As with starting any new activity or exercise, limit your water time to 20-30 minute sessions at a time so you can gradually strengthen your muscles and joints. Overdoing anything will cause joint pain, whether it be running, paddling or even something as simple as typing at your computer.

2. Improper posture. If your knees are locked or too straight, if your back is bent, or if you’re gripping the board with your toes, you need to refine your stand up paddle posture. Have an experienced paddler critique your stance and stroke, or take a lesson from a reputable stand up paddle school.

3. Lack of board control. If you experience knee pain after surfing, you probably need to focus on board control, especially turning your board around in flat water. Many surfers put an enormous amount of unnecessary stress on their knees while turning their boards around to catch waves. If your feet remain in a parallel stance on a big board while you turn your board 180 degrees to catch a wave, you’re asking for knee pain. The twisting and turning focuses right on your knees.  To prevent this, practice drop kick turns in flat water so you can do them in the surf. That is, practice stepping one foot back, sinking the tail, and popping up the nose to turn the board around in a circle. The board will turn much easier and without the knee stress that turning your board in a parallel stance in the center of a flat board will cause.

As a disclaimer, always consult with you doctor or trainer when you experience pain and don’t feel like you have to work through the pain to get stronger. You could be doing more damage than good.

Hopefully this article gives you a place to begin your search if you are feeling some knee pain. Normally, it can be relieved by fixing one of the three causes just described.

Here’s to good times on the water and strong and safe paddling!

feed5 Comments
jon frisch
October 12, 2009

Pre-stretch, work into your session, and when your body says "Enough"... then it's time to go in. (Especially for those of us who neglected to have various surgery's over missing work or play.) Also, be cognizant when paddling on your knees (i.e. getting past the bigger line up), as it will place added stress to that already sensitive area. Cheers.

May 24, 2009

Try your "calf leash" above your knee. Works for me.

May 11, 2009

I think because its such a new sport we have to be careful taking everything for gospel. Straight knees i see alot and actually heard someone say that was correct. I didnt believe it I have mine slightly bent depending on the type of water im Paddling in. Also with the bigger boards in the surf really important to use the paddle to initiate your turn otherwise your lowerback and knees will be taking the strain. I see alot of people not using their paddle. I always assumed, which is wrong i know, that thats all part of the sport of SUP

May 11, 2009

I developed strong knee pain after using a calf leash a few times. Moved it to my ankle. Problem solved. New problem was that I stepped on my leash once in a while. Tried it on my calf again. Pain. Pain wins. I only leash to the ankle now.

mark c
May 06, 2009

i have found that it helps to slightly stagger your feet. right foot slightly foward when paddling paddling on the left side and vice versa.
mark c

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