Backside Paddle Technique and Why to Switch Boards
Rainy day here in Costa Rica, but the surf was fun this morning. A few days ago I decided to switch back to the Starboard 7.4 x 25.5 at 83L. If you’ve been following you know that I have been riding a 7.9 x 27 Infinity at 88L. After 3 or 4 weeks of exclusively riding the Infinity, and really starting to like it, I decided to switch back to feel the differences.
I really love switching up boards. It forces you to see things differently, and to feel your board instead of relying on habits. Boards teach us how to surf, how to find harmony between board and wave. Each board has specific and unique curves and those curves fit into the curves of the wave in their own way. In surfing the surfer needs to feel how the two communicate and work with wave and board to draw lines. I know… that’s a bit deep for a surfing blog. But, that’s why I love switching boards. Same sport, different feeling.
Some notes on the switch…
- The Starboard definitely doesn’t have that “surfboard” feel. It’s fast, and hits the lip incredibly… but I’ve never been able to find the spot to do rail turns.
- I love tail rocker! I love it when I can bring a board around quickly. The starboard does a great job of responding super fast off the tail. This makes backside surfing very fun.
- The price of that tail rocker is speed. She does great in the pocket, but terrible in trying to make longer, flat sections. I’ve gotten so used to being able to swing way out in front of the wave for a bottom turn and carry all that speed to the lip on the Infinity, but twice today I did it on the Starboard and limped up to the lip.
- A note on Starboards (and some other production boards too, I have an F-One that fits this)… they’re indestructible. And where I live that’s important. I’ll almost always opt to surf custom boards. They are lighter, they have some flex, and you can feel a lot more… but they break. And my favorite Hobie is buckled right now. So, I aways have 1 or 2 production boards that I like riding around, so I always have a board. Also, like today, I opt to take them out when it’s bigger and I don’t want to risk breaking a custom stick.
- 83L on the Starboard floats the same as 88L on the Infinity. Now, the starboard is tippier, but the I sink them both the same.
- I hate fat rails. In the Kai Lenny podcast (coming soon!!!) we discuss some things he’s been working on for his surf SUPs. He’s been thinning out the rails, but keeping volume. In case your wondering, he weighs 70kg and rides at 70L. But he’s packing those liters into a 7.3 at 23.
Aright… Something new for today. I have been getting great emails from you all.. Awesome! Stoked you guys are liking the blog. It’s a fun process to articulate something that I’ve spent countless hours doing. So, the new for today is answering a question from Jenny. If you’ve got questions, post them in the comments or shoot me an email on the site here.
Hi! Your site/videos have helped me tremendously- thanks! I have been sup surfing for about 6 years now (I’m now 45). I have always held my paddle blade on the wave side when going backside. I’ve always just ride down the line but a friend suggested I learn some maneuvers and said I need to switch my paddle to be in front to do this. I tried and it’s like learning all over again- so off balance. My friend is insistant that this is necessary. Is it? I like keeping it on the wave side, then putting across my body without changing hand positions. I guess my question is… Is it wrong to do this or is it personal preference?? Thx!
Hey Jenny. Should you only surf with your paddle on one side? No. But, can you surf with your paddle on one side, absolutely. My good friend and one of the best surfers I know, Colin McPhillips, very rarely switches his paddle.
If you’re going to surf with your paddle on the wave side, heel side, while surfing backside there are a number of turns you can do. First off, I think it’s a bit easier to bottom turn that way. Read about the slingshot bottom turn here. And then, coming off the lip is no problem, you just need to swing your front arm and paddle over your board and plant on the inside of the turn.
Where you’ll run into problem in that turn is coming off the foam. It’s important to be able to pull yourself through the rebound off the foam to control that turn.
For floaters and more mellow cutbacks I like my paddle on the toe side rail. In both maneuvers the paddle toe side gives you stability. The cutback is just a frontside bottom turn, so you should get that turn pretty quick.
If you want to learn to switch there are 2 ways you could go about it… What I would do is decide to spend 2 days surfing, going backside, having no fun, to learn how to surf with the paddle toe side. That way, you can do it in the future. That’s something we talk a lot about in our camps…
Do you want to have fun, or do you want to get better. Both are great goals, but sometimes they don’t coincide.
Just be honest with yourself about what you want, and set expectations accordingly.
Or, you can slowly work in the toe side paddle technique. Either way, you’ll realize that it will open up your surfing. And your cutback will be much better.
Please let me know in the comments below if you like production boards and why... And how you hold your paddle when you surf backside.