Drafting SUP Boards - Why it’s so important

Drafting SUP Boards - Why it’s so important


Back in 1994 well before SUP,  when I moved form Australia to LA to pursue my acting career I found an elite group of LA County Lifeguards who were hooked on Aussie style Surf ski and paddle board workouts. Being an aspiring actor, with a few auditions a week, allowed me plenty of time to train with Americas best including USA lifeguard  champs  who ranked on the tough Australian Ironman lifeguard  circuit. I have to give recognition to Mike Newman and Craig Hummer.

ingo-yolo-hawaii-2015-boards-r-23-of-28 photo by Chandler Williams

I brought over my 18 1/2 ft Surf ski (kayak) and started Paddling with these guys.  At first I was not keeping up at all, but after a few months, I was able to keep up during the out leg warmups in Venice beach, CA.  On flatter days I was able to ride the rear wake/wash which on a ski is maybe a 15 % energy savings. Realizing I was able to stay with the group longer staying on the wash of the skis in front of me made me try even harder.  Now I’m paddling with the fast guys, how did that happen?  Before long I was able to graduate to the side wash which is another 5% better then the back wash. On a SUP board the rear wake is better and a good 20% or more savings in energy depending on how fast the paddler is in front of you.  Side wash riding on a SUP board is a whole other story and takes a ton of practice to do right without annoying the paddler next to you.


If you are in a fun race and you draft someone the entire way and overtake them at the end sprint to the line... let's just say you won’t make any friends.  Just say thank you and take 2nd. Much like Nascar, drafting is a crucial skill to obtain if want to be competitive. If you are in a pro race  it's important to understand the rules. Some races have rules to exclude drafting or limit it to vessels in the same class. If drafting is permitted, the leading guy has options. Either slow down the pace to a point where you save enough energy to break away at the end, or move aside and let someone else take the lead.  If there is a train of 10 guys it might be hard to fight your way into 2nd or 3rd, you may end up at the back of the train depending on how aggressive you are.  You do however have the right of way to jam your nose in front of another paddler in the “train”  if your nose is slightly  ahead of theirs, even if it means pushing them out of the way.  Some paddlers get upset at this but they shouldn’t, it’s just racing. They have to opportunity to do the same to you if they care to waste some energy.  Try to do it without the exchange of dialog, theres no need for it.


Always draft someone faster than you and try to stay on that wash for as long as possible. If you are not being challenged enough you can try to overtake.  If it doesn’t work, make sure to jump back on the wake. If you miss it  you are done and will fall back fast.  I did this for many years,  and if I was paddling with someone faster then me on a regular basis today, I’d still be doing it.  Not only will you get  faster much quicker, making you a better workout partner, but you will become an expert in drafting, which is an absolute necessity to do well in racing.


Thanks Jeff for being the first guy to put me on a race board in 2011.  I will never forget the great training session and races that you,  Mitzi and the whole YOLOboard team hosted. Hope to come back to FL soon.  Maybe to teach a drafting  Clinic :-)


Written by Actor/ Father/ : Ingo Rademacher

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