Day 3 on the Race to the Bottom – Flatwater Drill

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
May 17, 2016

That lead in photo is some motivation to learn to surf smaller boards!  You can get barreled on big paddle boards, but it’s way easier to fit in little tubes on little boards.  If you want to get barrels like that, come surf with us!!!

(Had an email about paddle position in the barrel.  I’ll fully break it down in the future, but I drop my back hand so I can gauge where the wave is, just hold the handle.)

Session Notes:

I really love that starboard backside.  I favour rights in almost all cases, especially on a standup… backside surfing is better vertical and most paddle boards don’t excel in top to bottom surfing.  But, that starboard, with all it’s tail rocker, comes off the bottom like a rocket.  Especially in slingshot bottom turns.  Today, I was actually looking for lefts because I had so much fun on my first wave.

I haven’t yet figured out how to come off the lip when you smash a super vertical section backside.  It’s way easier to get to the lip doing a slingshot bottom turn, but since I don’t switch the paddle before I hit the lip, coming down I’ve got the paddle on the heel side rail and there isn’t much you can do there with balance.  I usually get destroyed with the lip bounce.

I’m going to break that turn down with some video, and probably blog about what I figure out.  I don’t run into that issue on other boards, as I’m not in that critical spot, so haven’t yet looked at best practices.

Also broke a leash today.  Knew it was going to happen right before it did.  A big set was coming through and I got over the first 3.  The 4th broke right in front of me.  I dove off the front, we were way out the back, water was probably 12 feet deep, so no risk of hitting the bottom.  Right as I was diving in, I felt the leash catch the fin and the the wave took the board.  Clean cut.  Long swim.

I’d love to hear your tactics for swimming with a paddle in the comments.  I’ve tried numerous variations.  Nothing really stands out as a best.  Caio Vaz throws his paddle ahead and swims to it.  I normally keep it in my right hand and swim.  Sometimes I hold the bottom of the blade and use the blade to swim faster.  If you can keep the paddle vertical it works.  I like that method because it’s an effective way to body surf.  The blade acts as a hand plane.

Oscar demonstrates a quick drill to learn to paddle smaller boards. That's today on the progression journal on

A video posted by paddlewoo (@paddlewoo) on


Ok!  Let’s get you guys paddling smaller boards.  Today I got Oscar Mon, super stud instructor from Blue Zone, currently crushing the National Circuit here in Costa Rica, to help out with the video.  I wanted to show you all a drill that works well for practicing paddling on smaller boards.  We did it in the whitewater at our beach break, but you start in flat water.

Oscar weighs in at 165 pounds and is riding a Hobie 7.4 at 81L. He likes to give me crap because his Hobie is 1L smaller than the starboard I’ve been riding…

The drill:  Pop up, either from seated or prone (links go to those lessons).  You’ll be in surf stance and you want your paddle on your toe side, that’s your powerful stroke.  Paddle a circle as fast and efficient as you can stroked on your toe side, turning to your heel side.  This is the the way you’ll catch most waves, so getting familiar by doing reps will increase learning speed.  Way better to fall when drilling than when the set of the day is bearing down on you…

When you’re trying to learn start on flat water and eliminate variables.  Then, when it starts to get a little bit easier add difficulty.  Oscar paddles his board just fine, so he’s doing this drill in a difficult location.

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  • John Crews

    Your articles are the best that I have read on the sport of SUP surfing. As a lifelong instructor in other sports, I really appreciate your clear and well thought out explanations; truly great stuff.
    I do have questions in one area; board size. You have made it clear that you are a strong believer in people riding boards whose volumes are near their weight in kilos, if they want high performance. There is a large group of us for whom that is not realistic due to age and all of the physical restrictions that come with that. You are still very young (in our group, anyone under 60 is young), and I can remember when, like you, I did not give much slack for age, but now being on the other side of the coin, it is realistic. We are not out of shape, and train hard in our sports at least 4 to 6 hours a day. However, after having a disc taken out of my back, one hip replaced, the other one bone on bone so that it barely moves, a couple of shoulder dislocations on each side, and numerous other injuries, a life of extreme sports has taken its toll. Jumping to my feet is no longer an option on any board (for a reality check, try getting to your feet with a hip that will not flex past 90 degrees due to large bone spurs). Just getting to my feet is a very slow and very painful process that is not well suited to low volume boards, though once I stagger up, my 55 years of surfing kicks in and I still strive to get the most out of each wave.
    So after all that whining, here is my question. I am 75 kilos, and have progressed from starting out on a 148 liter board, down to 120 liters. I might go slightly lower, but not much. My question is that if a person reaches a liter ratio below which a crippled body cannot go without needing to resort to painkillers to stay on the water, what are the most important dimensions to reduce in order to improve performance without lowering the total volume; shorter, narrower, thinner, pulled in nose or tail, more rocker?
    I know that this will feel like copping out to you, but for many of us it is a valid and interesting question that might be worth a blog note. Keep up the great work!

  • Pete


    Love getting your posts such a great read. As for when I snap my leash all depends on how far out I am. If it is a long swim I will strap the paddle to my ankle with the leash this then means my arms a free to swim plus the paddle helps your legs float a bit, but if it is a small swim do the same as you and use the blade like a body surfing paddle.

  • William


    I like your comment about using our leash to hold your paddle. I hope to never have to try that but will keep it in mind. I have had some very long swims.


    Similar to Pete using his leash, I hook my paddle handle through the elastic key loop in my board shorts (a girth hitch works best) for long swims. This keeps the paddle attached to me but out of my way to swim. Thank for the blog!


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