Effective Surf Paddling: Maximizing Your Power and Stroke

Effective surf paddling is critical to a surfer's progression. It helps you get through the waves without being totally exhausted, but most importantly, it helps you catch that perfect wave!

This is why, at ZSS Training, we focus on paddling in every lesson we do. For the first-time and beginner surfer, we work on the basics, such as how to properly position your hands and elevate your head off the board. With intermediate surfers, we spend time working to master that crucial "S" stroke and develop the power necessary to get those shorter boards moving.

Surfline.com just did a good article on effective paddling. I especially like Jamie Mitchell and Greg Long's (big wave surfers) descriptions of technique, although they differ a bit in hand positioning, which I found interesting.

JAMIE MITCHELL [Paddle board champion/big-wave surfer]

"Hand position. People ask me all the time how I hold my hands and fingers when paddling. Do I keep them close together or have a slight gap? I personally just relax the hand and it tends to have a slight gap. If you keep your fingers together, it feels unnatural -- like you have to try to keep them like that."

GREG LONG [Big Wave Champion]

1. Position yourself on your board correctly. Where you actually lay will be different depending on what type of board you ride, but each board has a sweet spot. You don't want to be too far back on the board. This causes the board to be too high and makes you push through the water. If you are too far forward your nose will pearl into the water. You want to be perfectly centered so when you do start paddling your board is on a nice, even plane.

2. Get a full arm extension with every stroke. I often see people who do an awkward, chicken-wing paddle where their arms enter and exit the water prematurely. Your hand should be entering the water at the full extension of the elbow and never before.

3. When you are at the full extension of your stroke, your fingers should be held tightly side by side creating a cup or paddle with your hand. Do not slap the surface when your hand enters the water. It should enter in a graceful diving fashion.

4. As you pull through your stroke, try and get your arms as deep as possible. I like to create a slight "S" motion with my stroke bringing my arms down the centerline of my board. Try and keep your wrist and forearm in one line.

5. Pull through your stroke in one continuous motion until your arm is fully extended behind you. Again, do not prematurely pull it from the water. In doing so, you lose power and your stroke is ultimately much less efficient. Not to mention you look like a chicken.

6. When you pull your hand from the water, do so in the same graceful fashion as when you entered. Splashing or throwing water behind you is wasted energy.

7. As you become a more advanced paddler you can get even more power from your stroke by implementing your core strength into the paddling motion. As your arm reaches forward your torso will slightly lift forward with it. As your arm pulls back, so does your torso adding even more muscle and power into your stroke.

Check out the full article on Surfline.com here.