When Paddle Boarding one of the challenges for many is keeping your board going in a straight line. Switching our paddle side is a way of managing this but switching more often than necessary can be less efficient and sometimes frustrating if you are needing to switch constantly. Here are some tips to help you track more effectively on your ISUP.
Use a larger Fin, The bigger the fin the better your board will track. With a board that has removable fins you can switch depending on your needs and the water depth. My preference, in most situations is to have 1 large Touring Fin or a more curved All-round Fin if paddling closer to shore where shedding the weeds might be required. For shallow waters you will probably need to use a River Fin which is shorter and less likely to hit rocks, not as good for tracking but less likely to get hung up or damaged on the rocks.
Develop a good forward stroke, a larger fin won’t do all the work so now we must develop a forward paddle stroke that limits the amount of side to side push and gives the best forward efficiency. As you have probably discovered by now when you paddle on the right side your board wants to drift to the left and likewise when you paddle on the left side it drifts to the right. The wider your stroke the more your board wants to push away from your paddle stroke side. Much like the Sweep Stroke. So the key to getting the most forward movement and least turning movement is to keep your paddle shaft as vertical as possible. This requires reaching out over top of our paddle keeping 1 hand above the other, sometimes referred to as “stacked hands”. In this position most of the energy from our stroke propels us forward with minimal sideways push.
These 2 tips should be enough to dramatically improve your ability to track but if you still need a little extra you can begin each paddle stroke with a slight pull into the nose of your board before beginning your forward stroke, even a slight inward angle of your front face of your paddle can help.
With practice and you will find that you don't need to switch your paddling side as frequently and can choose to switch sides when you want to not because you need to.