All SUP boards come with a handle somewhere near the middle of the deck. Some handles are created better than others(1). Regardless of what type of handle is installed on your board, you should realize that board manufacturers need to choose a location to put the handle. That location is often the center point where you CARRY the board rather than where you should stand on the board.
We have found that many paddlers treat that handle as a magic line on the board that they do not want to cross. Too many paddlers feel that stepping in front of the handle is sacrilegious. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Although the location of your handle is approximately where you should stand on the board, depending on your weight relative to your board volume and the distribution of that volume on your board, your paddling style, the shape of the board, etc. you will need to experiment with standing in front of the handle or behind the handle. Remember it is OK to stand in front of the handle or behind the handle. In fact, you should experiment with your location on the board to find your fastest race position.
To maximize your speed you will need to find the point on your board where you can keep as much of the nose of your board in the water without submerging the nose. The tail of your board is just as important. You want to keep your tail planing in the water at all times. Standing farther back on the board will lift the nose out of the water and sink the tail. In effect, this is the equivalent of paddling with “brakes on.” In flat water conditions, chances are you will need to stand slightly more forward on your board than in choppy conditions.
Do not underestimate how seemingly small adjustments in your board position will change the response of your board. A few centimeters can have a big difference particularly if you are a heavy rider and/or your board has significant amounts of rocker.
You might even find that you need to stand well in front of the handle on your board. Our editor, Chuck Glynn, is often seen racing while standing almost 1 foot in front of the handle on his board. According to Chuck, when paddling his Laird boards
“conditions dictate where you need to stand. In flat water I personally stand just I front of the handle on a stock board, 6 inches ahead on 14′, and around 10″ on unlimited board. With a cross wind I move up to keep the nose from catching in the wind and in a head or down wind I’m constantly moving forward and behind the handle to keep the board from bouncing to much.”
As you can see, you need to move around your board to maximize your performance. The location of your handle is starting point. it is not a magic line that you should not cross.
(1) If you are lucky you have a LiftSUPhandle by our friends over at SUP Think Tank