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How 6-Man Outrigger Makes You A Better Solo Paddler

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Does paddling a one-man outrigger canoe help Stand Up Paddling? What about the other way around?

It’s #SUPtipTuesday, and over the past year, and a lot of people asked if #OC6 paddling helped my #StandUpPaddling. The answer is ABSOLUTELY YES! It doesn't just help #SUP, it helps one-man #Outrigger paddling as well. Although it has helped my SUP stroke in the application of power, it has helped the timing of my OC1 stroke.


The reason I think OC6 has been so beneficial is in the conversion of maximum strength to sport-specific strength endurance. It’s no secret I love to pick up heavy weights, but heavy weights alone will not make you a faster paddler - you need to convert that ability to recruit a large number of muscle fibers into the ability to recruit more fibers, for a longer amount of time.

OC6 helped me with just that: #strengthendurance. The stroke is slower than #SUP because the boat maintains glide between strokes better than a SUP (hell they’re, 44feet long!) but the stroke is heavier because the boat is so large, and so is my paddle blade, relative to SUP. The heavier stroke does just what I mentioned above - INCREASES NEURAL RECRUITMENT of muscle fibers. Being able to recruit these fibers doesn't have to be a skill you pick up in the gym. It can be in the gym if you like the gym. But if you'd rather get out with a group of like-minded people and get a loaded connection to the water to obtain that neural activation, then you should do it that way!


A longer, more consistent connection to the water is paramount in OC6. This helps a decent bit in Stand Up Paddling, but not as much as it helps in OC1. Reason being, SUPs don't hold a lot of glide between strokes, so getting the turnover super fast outweighs the ability to have a super long and powerful stroke. In both craft, time in the water SHOULD BE LONGER than your recovery time in the air. But in the outrigger you can be a little more patient and let the boat glide, this helps you go faster with less effort. OC6 is a great tool to learn patience in the water so that you develop that long, consistent connection.

Other benefits include: finding people that want to paddle with you on SUP or OC1, group trips to epic races, learning how to steer (blade articulation skills), and ego destruction.

If you're newer to paddling, OC6 teams can also be a wealth of knowledge. There may be some paddlers that have been racing for years. Their knowledge about technique, nutrition, and race strategies can help you avoid a lot of noob-paddler mistakes.

Not to mention, if you travel for work or vacation, there's a good chance that you can find a club to drop in on for a practice! This is a great way to meet people that love what you do in new places.

Strength training, and subsequent strength conversion is very important for paddlers because it improves injury resistance, optimizes neural adaptations, and improves the rate of force development :-)

Thought over... but what about SUP making outrigger paddlers better?

How going SOLO can improve your OC1 and OC6 experience

A lot of people that paddle OC6 do so only during team practices 3-4x a week. If you're looking to log more sport-specific miles, then SUP could be a great way to get more time on the water. A one-man outrigger canoe would be the closest thing you could get to practice paddling for OC6 season, and, in SoCal, there's even a "one man season" through the winter to keep paddlers on their toes and training. I love paddling my Puakea Designs Kahele and enjoy all the events that I've added to my calendar in addition to all of my oldie-but-goodie SUP races. However, for some, buying an OC1 is cost prohibitive. Sure, you can use club boats if you're a member of a team that has a few OC1s kicking around, but often times you're limited to when you can go out and you can't transport them to new and exciting places. A Stand Up Paddleboard can be a great way for you to get your own craft, that fits in your garage, and enables you to train the same muscles you'll use in OC6 season.

When it comes to building our aerobic base, the more sport-specific the better. So if you're a paddler looking to improve paddling performance, running or cycling in the off-season can be great to build general endurance and will yield some improvements in capillary and mitochondrial density. However, it will yield those densities in the wrong muscles. There will be some benefit, but it won't be to the same extent as if you did sport specific base training. Stand Up Paddling is a good option that hits all the right muscle groups... and then some!

I switch up my training between SUP and OC1. I do most of my shorter, more intense sessions on SUP because it's already added resistance! I enjoy catching waves on my race board or on my SUP surf board whenever the swell is around, and this is a great way to get a good power workout with some alactic, high-stroke-rate intervals when catching waves. On a SUP, especially catching waves, you'll find a new gear with a lighter, springier catch and a high turnover that you won't often find in OC6. Not that you'll use it a ton, but it's nice to have.. Others have reported being better at steering due to the blade articulation skills that SUP requires. Although the fin keeps the SUP boards tracking straight-ish, muscle memory that can automatically take a few J-strokes when yawing off to the side is useful in rudderless craft. Other blade-articulation skills that are enhanced with SUP are your high and low brace. You're standing.. in the water.. and its a little bobbly. You'll need to develop great balance (which is so important as we age! it is so sad to see people wind up in hospitals in their elder years because of falling, a history of activating one's stabilizer muscles could vastly improve the outcome in this scenario) and until you develop very good balance, you'll need to utilize those bracing strokes! As you improve, just go out in harder conditions to keep the brace-practice active.

The balance aspect will also help your core, which for many is a weak link in outrigger canoeing anyway. A stronger core helps connect the power you have up top with the bottom half of your body to drive your craft forward. If you can learn the timing on a SUP, you can definitely do it in an outrigger! The major issue I see in paddlers from both disciplines is the disconnect of upper and lower body: if you're not activating from the navel down then you can apply all the power you want with your upper body, someone that isn't a strong as you will kick your butt on the race course if they have good timing of their stroke and the ability to coordinate/connect the upper and lower body.

Even if I stopped competing in SUP events, I would still paddle one. There's few things that can beat the full body workout of a SUP session. If you train smart and focus on really great technique, it won't matter what single-blade craft your paddling, your proficiency in others will improve. If you love the water, you want as many ways to get out there as possible :-) #PaddleEverything

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