Downwind hand paddle vs SUP paddle

Lots of talk lately about hand paddles for prone or knee starts. Curious to hear what everyone’s experience is with the different options. Are there foilers out there that prefer the hand paddles? If so I’d love to hear the thoughts! Likewise, if there’s foilers that have tried both and still prefer the SUP paddle Then please write down your takeaways!

1 Like

Thats a really good idea

1 Like

They work really well and make a crazy difference on a fast board. Whether it means you can skip the SUP is still open question?

1 Like

I bought some XL hand paddles for swim training off amazon. Took them out in some mediocre bumps. Wind was maybe 15kt. It felt like I could almost get going a couple of times, but the wave/energy passed me by before I could get to my feet or get pumping.

A side note, the paddles were really slippery as they are just plastic with holes drilled in them. Slippery on the board and on my hands. I think next time I try it I’m going to glue a piece of neoprene to the inside of the paddles so they aren’t slippery at least on the hand side.

Anyway, the knee paddle felt more doable. Prone pop up felt ridiculous. I will say it all felt less foreign to me coming from a non-sup background. Balance is less of an issue. I think with steeper bumps it could become just like paddling into a steep wave that requires immediate pop-up and go. I’ll definitely try it again. I’ll definitely bring a belt or something to clip them to as well. I lost one in the shore pound and it was miserable trying to get it.

1 Like

Hey frothers, Jordan here. Mike P suggested I drop in on this thread. I’ve gone all-in on hand paddles for downwind.

Tried a bunch of different swimming styles but kept wanting bigger and stronger. I was convinced early that it would be a better approach for most downwind foilers, apart from people coming to it from SUP expertise. I couldn’t find the paddles I wanted so started out making some. Finetuned the outline, and shaping and material and now really happy with what I’m making.

The best positioning is definitely kneeling. You can still get that necessary bouncing action to get the board free of the water, and its an easier position to transition from. When paddling prone you regularly get the paddles caught in the water as you try to get them up under your chest. But from kneeling you just place them down in front of you and push off. You can even just step up without using hands!

I think for most people it’s the best way into downwind. I tried to make the case with the boys here in Sydney that we’re out there to foil, not to SUP. If there’s a better way to get going why be so loyal to the SUP paddle? You get a great amount of drive, and the drive is symmetrical. You’re in a balanced position on the board. You’re down low where you can better feel and see the bumps. And you cover ground faster when getting out to the wind line. The tradeoff’s are you don’t get the maintenance stroke to get you out of trouble (makes you plan your moves better!), and the transition is trickier.

The transition: At first i thought you needed to be super snappy and get up FAST! This has changed. Once you find the balance point where you can continue to paddle on your knees with some lift on, you just have to find the right moment to pop up. Steer yourself into a spot where you’re at the top of the bump and then just get up. In my progress i was paddling so fast over bumps that I’d be running uphill of the one in front, trying to pop up and get stuck. Sometimes slower is better as you can let the board rise as you’re getting up and then you’re starting from a higher mast position with room to pump. When you try to do it fast sometimes all you achieve is pushing the nose down too hard and washing speed off with a touchdown.

This has been a word salad, so I apologies for waffling on. Happy to answer more specific questions about it though. If you check out @handpaddleco on instagram you can see a video of a flatwater start, and some other clips of hand paddling in action.


Here’s the pure flat water paddle up. The more recent ones are super impressive too.

Sold. Any advice on board dims / shape / volume for 93kg knee paddling? Was going to try hand paddles on my 45l prone board, but now that you mention getting stuck on the forward stroke I’ll need to rethink boards

1 Like

I’m about 65kg and using 85L board, 6’6" x 20". Casey reckons 20L over your weight in kg, or closer to 10L over if you’re pro. I was getting pretty close to flatwater start with my previous board which was 106L, 6’5" x 24". Definitely notice the benefit of the narrower and lighter board.


A couple of things came up in Casey’s first session with hand paddles. He used a big wing (Axis PNG1300) and he could get the board moving fast enough on the water that he’d just stand up and then pump it up off the water! I tend to let the board rise as i’m getting up and pump from higher. I know i’ve nailed it when I have no touch down in the transition.

1 Like

I’m waiting for a kalama so of course I’m scheming. Prone I’m an improving slowish tripod pop-er up-er usually in beach breaks, and often will turn down the line on my knee and back foot waiting for the right moment to place my front foot. I do this to help me escape the close out and not run aground, but it also just works out better than down in the flats for sure. Hearing that a quick pop up is not mandatory is encouraging. The dims on my board are probably challenging sup(aren’t they all?) but comfy/too big knee: 7’6”x22 for my 77kg

I found the hand paddles pretty easy to stand with, as long as you are placing your hands on the deck grip or they have some grippy bits on them.

Also I find that giving the board a good few hip thrusts (hump) as you paddle in prone makes a huge difference in activating the flow of water over the foil. Looks a bit ridiculous, but achieves the same thing as the knee start bouncing…

What I love about foiling is that we are so beyond aesthetics at the moment that really anything goes, and people just getting on with experimenting.

Speaking of, just thought a retractable spinnaker might be the next investigation. :laughing: edit, let’s stay on topic


:joy: Pretty sure I looked at the same picture when thinking about other ways to get on foil for a downwinder.

I couldn’t shake the idea that a hand held spinnaker / v basic kite with super short lines could give you just enough juice to get on foil then roll it up. A bit like a James Casey deflate but less to carry.


OK, (Jordan on Instagram: "Hand Paddle flatwater start success today 🤙 @oceanpixels has been super encouraging, and fitting me out with optimal @axisfoils equipment for it. Used the 750HM mast, BSC1060 (my usual dw wing), ultrashort fuse and 450P stab. And then @james__casey hooked me up with this narrow @sunova_foil dw board. Small improvements that made a combined difference. I started this session on the PNG1310 - it got up on foil earlier but I would pop to feet and overbalance after a pump or two. Elsie was WAY more interested in the bug she “rescued” from drowning 😂 @foilfeed @oskar_foil @paddlewithriggs @the.progression.project #hydrofoil #downwind #foil") looks freaking awesome! Hand paddles and DW foilboard have been added to my wish list! I’ve been wanting to do a DW run, but not skilled enough yet to do a prone DW run. I’ve got zero SUP skills. I’m sure I can learn how to knee paddle a lot easier than learning how to SUP.


Can’t help myself! I spent a bit of time imagining a dinghy style spinnaker that would retract into a deck kite chute type thing… I imagine it would only really be worth the time in +15kn anyway, in which case surely (surely) all of this wouldn’t be that hard. Also imagine because you’re going dead downwind with the big bag, you’d just paddle away any apparent wind and would render it a bit useless. A bermudan rig on the other hand, on a broad reach… why not? If it could collapse into the deck?? Sign me up.

What about a squirrel suit? Maybe one could angle their arms for lift reaching, and incorporate arm swings while pumping the board up.

1 Like
1 Like

That’s…… well idk what that is. If it rotated you’d get the magnus effect though?

Here’s the squirrel suit:

Kai’s like that’s so three years ago.

Kai is a legend, just tries stuff.