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The Full Story Behind Indoor SUP

The Full Story Behind Indoor SUP


Indoor SUP? Now, what is this, you are probably thinking? If I didn't know better, I would probably have thought that this was another useless gadget from someone trying to exploit the SUP phenomenon. 

So what does Indoor SUP really mean? Isn't the whole idea of SUP to be outdoors and experience the water and nature? That the water is what makes SUP such a gentle and beneficial workout.  

Yes, that's absolutely right, but what we discovered after years of development and teaching is that through Indoor SUP, we can actually achieve even better results and experiences from SUP. So how can a paddle shaft and some rubber bands accomplish this?  


Let's start from the beginning. Around 2010, when I began my work with trying to understand what happens to our bodies during SUP, we often used rubber bands to simulate resistance during various measurements.  

Rubber bands worked to some extent, but eventually, the work progressed to trying to find ways to study SUP in laboratories, and rubber bands were no longer sufficient. 


Now the work shifted towards developing advanced ergometers for SUP. We needed to produce better instruments to study biomechanics and measure the forces and physiological effects generated by SUP. 

We wanted to simulate the paddle movement as closely as possible to the one on the water, including the balance factor, and after several years of work, we succeeded. 

These ergometers were capable of measuring, among other things, how much power and speed we could create with the help of our legs when driving a paddleboard.


The problem is that during this type of development, it's easy to make things too complicated, i.e., the work becomes too advanced to be of benefit to most users. It's also quite easy to lose sight of the simple and obvious in what we are studying.  

In many ways, we want to measure things that no one else has been able to do, which means that the value of the product only becomes apparent to other researchers. 


The reason why these ergometers are not on the market today is that they are too expensive and bulky for most people to have at home. If one doesn't have the space or money for a hard SUP board, this type of ergometer is not an option.  

During this development work, Kona Sports founder Joachim Larsson often wondered if it wouldn't be possible to develop a simpler training tool that more people could afford... 

Paddling technique 

Parallel to the development of ergometers, the analysis of functional paddling technique for SUP was ongoing. One method we used to gain a better understanding of which muscles we should use and in which patterns they should be activated was to dissect the entire paddling cycle.  

In this way, we could find and isolate specific muscles and also measure the force they could generate.  

What we found was that the SUP paddling cycle can be divided into twenty two different body parts and muscle groups and eight different sub-movements. We also realized that the paddling cycle does not start with the catch... 

Strength exercises for SUP

But, it wasn’t until we started to create exercises for these sub-movements and muscle groups, things started to turn. To be able to increase the maximum strength in these muscle groups, we needed to go to the gym.  

Here we tested performing the eight sub-movements on different cable machines, using what existing equipment we could find. 

New tools 

The exercises worked better than expected, but still felt like a compromise. We continued to consider whether it would be possible to make it even better.  

One idea that emerged was whether it would be possible to attach a paddle shaft instead? So, we went back and started to design and build a prototype shaft with different attachments that could be used together with the cable machines. 


With a newly designed paddle shaft for strength training in hand, it was time for testing again. Suddenly something happened that none of us had expected. We now discovered how our bodies were actually working, in a way that we had never felt before.  

The reason soon became apparent; it was the leverage effekt by the shaft and the fixed surface in combination that gave us this feeling. We quickly decided that this had to be kept quiet, another competitive advantage that should stay with us and our race team. Something we later reconsidered... 

Our mission is to develop the sport and spread useful information, not to conceal it. 


Just like when we stand on the board out on the water, the problem is the same with the advanced ergometers with their moving surface. Due to the unstable surface, we have difficulty feeling how the body is actually working and therefore activating the right muscles. 

Because we stand on water, the surface gives way when we shift our bodyweight on the board and when we try to propel ourselves forward with the paddle. This is further complicated by the fact that the load in SUP is just on one side of the body, called unilateral resistance.


The combination of handling unilateral load on a fixed surface instead of a moving one was what made all the difference.  

In addition to being able to locate and feel how specific muscles were working, we could now for the first time also feel how our entire muscle chains were activated to stabilize the body on the opposite side of the resistance. 

Power transfer  

With this insight, it wasn't difficult to understand how complex it is to transfer power on water, where both timing and direction of force are affected by the unstable surface. Here we see clear examples of how small details in SUP have a big effect on performance. 

If we can't feel our muscles and control our movements on land, we will have an extremely difficult time doing so on water, where we are also affected by our so-called protective reflexes. In that case, it doesn't really matter how strong or enduring we are, we will still never reach full effectiveness on that basis alone.


We achieve full effect only if we first learn to use the right muscles and also at the right time. Just by improving our body awareness and being able to activate specific muscles, we would increase efficiency. By activation, we mean that we can contract and relax individual muscles.  

Suppose that through better muscle control, we can increase power transfer and thus speed by just one per mille, then in 30 minutes of paddling, we would cover almost a whole board length further. It may not sound like much, but we would still win if it were a competition, and it would not cost as much energy either. 


With this in mind, we also discovered that if the load was too high, we started to compensate with other muscles than the ones we wanted to isolate, even though we were on a fixed surface.  

For this reason, we need to find the right load in the beginning. If the load is too high, we use too many muscles, and if it's too low, we won't feel which muscles are working. 

What we understood from this was that to create this relatively low load, we didn't need any machines. We could easily create this with rubber bands. What we had rejected at an earlier stage was now back to its rightful place.  

So all we needed to learn to paddle SUP as efficiently as possible was a paddle shaft and some rubber bands. Precisely the simple solution that Joachim Larsson had been striving for several years earlier... 

Pull direction  

Another significant part that also became much easier with this constellation is the angle from which the load comes. With the fixed machines in the gym, this was much more complicated to control. We could attach the rubber bands to any height and angle with a few simple fasteners. 

New possibilities  

So this is the background to Indoor SUP and its importance for our SUP paddling and health. Thanks to its simplicity, now everyone can have the opportunity to increase their body awareness, stability, and function, as well as practice paddling technique in a safe and secure way.  

With Indoor SUP as a foundation, both we and our SUP paddling will develop much faster and more efficiently. 


During the development of the concept, it has also been shown how useful the tool is for rehabilitating injuries. Through the gentle yet challenging load, our joints and movement chains are strengthened in a way that few other tools can accomplish.  

This allows us to rehabilitate ourselves while developing our paddling technique. 


For elite paddlers, it has also become an important part of training, among other things, to maintain the right muscles during the competition season, as well as during warm-up and recovery.  

During preparation and competition periods when the intensity of training increases, it is easy for us to start overcompensating with the wrong muscles. Therefore it is important to continually remind the brain which muscles we want to use for maximum effect. 


The purpose of Indoor SUP is to give more people the opportunity to understand the health benefits of SUP paddling. To get to know their body and how it works in a safe and calm environment. Then to feel how the body gradually strengthens through the gentle but challenging movements.  

As we become more aware of our movements and how we can control them, our self-confidence will also increase, and it won't be long before the temptation to hit the water becomes too great and to test our newfound ability for real. 

Closing words 

With that said, I hope that you have now gained a small insight into the origin of this tool and at the same time an increased understanding of what Indoor SUP can actually help us with.  

If you feel that it is now time to start or progress in your own development towards sustainable health through SUP, you are also warmly welcome to do so together with us here at Kona Academy. You can find more information on


Your development is our development – Welcome on board!   

Muscle groups 

The muscle groups that we specifically need to be aware of and activate in SUP paddling are, from the bottom up: 

  1. Toes 

  1. Foot blades 

  1. Ankles 

  1. Shins 

  1. Knees 

  1. Thighs 

  1. Seat 

  1. Hips 

  1. Core 

  1. Abdominals 

  1. Chest 

  1. Shoulders 

  1. Deltoids 

  1. Upper arms 

  1. Elbows 

  1. Lower arms 

  1. Wrists 

  1. Hands 

  1. Fingers 

  1. Neck 

  1. Mandibles 

  1. Eyes 

The feet 

Starting from the bottom is because the feet are the body parts in contact with the board. They are also the ones that tell the brain how the rest of the body should relate to their positions and pressure distribution. 


The partial moments and muscle groups in SUP paddling 

The torque components that we need to train separately, both with Indoor SUP and then on the water, we have chosen to call the following: 

  1. Flexion paddling (catch phase) 

Primarily involves the hip flexor muscles but also the legs, glutes, back, and neck. The movement involves forcefully lowering the upper body downwards/forwards. By doing this, we can use our body weight instead of just muscle power to drive the board, and if we can engage the legs in this moment, the board will accelerate to the maximum. 

Exercise description: Stand with slightly bent knees, the entire foot in contact with the floor, a neutral back and the neck as a natural extension of the spine. Rotate the pelvis forward and then forcefully lower the upper body forwards/downwards at the hip joint. It is important to be relaxed in the pelvic floor and to widen the sitting bones when leaning forward. In another case, the movement will be limited, and thereby the effect." 

  1. Chest paddling (catch phase) 

Primarily involves the upper arm chest muscles, shoulder, arm, and forearm. The movement involves pushing the paddle handle and thereby the paddle downwards/forwards. This strengthens these muscles to be able to respond to the force created by the body weight through the trunk flexion. 

  1. Back paddling (drive phase) 

Primarily involves the back muscles, shoulder, and arm. The movement involves pushing a straight lower arm downwards and backwards. Here, we pull the board forward by using larger muscles in the back instead of the arm. 

  1. Abdominal paddling (drive phase) 

Involves the abdominal muscles and involves contracting the large abdominal muscle like a sit-up. By using the abdominal muscles, we can both stabilize the lumbar spine and simultaneously pull the board forward. 

  1. Hip paddling (drive phase) 

Involves the hips, legs, and trunk, and involves pushing the upper body and the upper arm's elbow with a distinct forward rotation of the same side hip. The movement creates a leverage effect and thereby breaks the board forward with the help of the paddle.

The movement also enables us to get a better grip in the water with the paddle blade and the board pulls towards the paddle side instead of in the opposite direction. We can, therefore, maintain better course direction. 

  1. Leg paddling (drive phase) 

Involves the thighs and glutes and involves forcefully extending the knees. If the timing is right, this responds to the paddle, and then the board will be pushed forward. The movement occurs just before the release phase. 

  1. Shoulder paddling (reversion phase) 

Involves the glutes, legs, trunk, and shoulders and involves first creating tension in the glutes, legs, and trunk and then swinging the paddle blade forcefully forward with the shoulders and arms. 

  1. Arm paddling (drive phase) 

Primarily involves the arms (biceps and triceps), shoulders, and back but also the legs, trunk, etc., as these must be stabilized for us to get as much power from the arms as possible. The movement involves pulling the paddle backwards by bending the lower arm and simultaneously stretching the upper arm forwards.

Arm paddling is most important during starts and accelerations. 


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