Dropping Volume – Better have some solid processes!

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
November 16, 2016

Today I’ve been jamming on an upcoming interview, Anders Ericsson, the author of my favorite book, Peak, has agreed to come on the show!  Stoked!!! but also a bit nervous.  I respect his work so much that I’m doing my homework right now to make the most out of our time.  If you have any questions that you’d like me to consider asking, please post them up in the comments below.

I do have some paddle surfing thoughts I’d like to share today, but this is more of stream of consciousness blog from what I was thinking about in the water this morning.

Since returning to Costa Rica on October 22nd I’ve been pushing it on some pretty small paddle boards.  I’ve internalized the feeling and techniques of paddling negative float boards, but I’m having a difficult time articulating the experience.  I’m looking for a good metaphor and the closest I’ve found is driving.

The act of driving is universal and we can all understand it.  It’s similar whether your driving a golf cart, mini van, motorcycle, or bus.  And that’s like paddling.  You understand standup paddling at a basic level if you’ve paddled any board –  an inflatable, a fishing board, a downwinder, a race board or a surf board.

Let’s equate paddling a 130% V/W ratio surf board to driving a reasonably priced sedan (Top Gear shout out).  Most of us could take a reasonably priced sedan out to a track and do a decent job of getting it around the track.  Just like most paddlers can paddle a good sized paddle surf board around in good conditions.

Paddling 110% would equate to driving a 911 Porsche.  Equal V/W similar to an Formula One.  And going down to 90% probably like driving a MotoGP.

Space and time shrink and thinking becomes reaction.

Just for fun, watch the above video and think about the work that went into the processes and building the mental representations to be able to drive at that level. 

On a 130% board there’s enough time to think through a situation, and events happen at a pace you can comprehend.  Paddling a board at 90% is unconscious reaction.  If you haven’t developed the processes to handle the situation, you’re not going to have time to think and then act.  Things fall apart before you realize what’s happened.

If you’ve developed the toolkit of processes to paddle smaller boards, you can progress down in volume, but if your toolkit isn’t complete, lower volume boards will expose those holes.

That’s a bit abstract, so let’s go through a concrete example.  Sitting to Standing transition.  On a 130% board you have some time to flounder from sitting to standing, place your feet, get the right grip on your paddle, and move forward.  Maybe you even start on your knees, get situated, then pop up with some speed.  Maybe the whole process takes you 4 seconds.

From my best guess, I have about 1.5 seconds on the new Hobie to go from seated to standing with the first stroke in progress.  That’s if I do everything right.  If I don’t anticipate a small chop, or get weight too far forward, it can be over well before that time.  Everything happens faster.  By the time I’ve started the pop up my tail is already sinking.  Keeping weight on the back foot allows the nose to say up, so you can pull yourself out of the water with a stroke, but weighting the tail also allows the board to sink faster.  If you don’t have the blade in the water before the nose is under water the chance of getting up drastically decreases.  Luckily I have a process for popping up.  Back foot under butt, paddle in right hand, held at grip, both hands on deck, front foot though arms to stringer, pop up in surf stance while reaching with the paddle for the first stroke.  The process works and I don’t have to think about it.

Going back to the driving metaphor, on the track, in a reasonably priced sedan, you’d have extra seconds to anticipate turns, find your lines, and a much larger margin for error in braking and accelerating.  That same track and those same turns look much different at three times the speed.  You don’t have time to react.  Processes take over or everything goes to hell.

It’s also interesting to think about the similarities between maneuverability in the smallest boards and top tier race cars/motorcycles.  While they are more difficult to handle they offer so much more in performance.  Lines you can draw at 90% allow access to places on a wave that 130% won’t ever.

The challenge of paddling small boards hooked me from the beginning.  I assume it’s the same for martial artists, or driver’s refining their art.  The beauty is in the details.

Progression Journal


  • Moshe

    Great post, I’m on a 100% V/W ratio and it’s tough …

    My question is, when surfing low ratio of V/W do you accelerate the wear and tear of your board? Since you are standing most of the time the board can bent? Even on a good V/W ratio the standing area looks like it was affected by the weight… I’m 95 kg surfing on a 115-120 Volume board (2010 Naish Nalu 9′, 27″ – longboard style)

    • Erik -- PaddleWoo

      Interesting question. I’ve actually been thinking on that these past few days. I think that the flex is an issue, but when stationary I stand with the tail down, underwater, and there is a lot of pressure on the ball of my front foot. I’m already seeing pressure dents in that area. I’m going to add a bit more traction for some extra protection under that front foot.

      • Moshe

        On my Starboard 8’2″ Wide Point you can clearly see sockets in the sweet spot area, the board is 123 L and can bear my weight.. I don’t believe that performance boards which are usually thinner than regular production boards will bear the weight and they will have a faster wear and tear… hope that a professional shaper can share a professional opinion 🙂

  • Michael Thompson

    I have recently dropped volume in my boards from 115L to 88L surfboard style shape SUPs, I weigh 75kg and am 6’1′ tall. My 115L sub is 8ft by 29 by 4.25, whereas the 88L sub is 7’10 by 27.5 by 3.75, similar shapes. I have only ridden the smaller sub a few times and so far can’t really tell if the slight performance gain is worth the pain of falling off and missing waves, and only being able to ride the smaller sub in smooth conditions. The problem is, since I can only fit one board in the car, I need to work out how smooth the condition really are. It can be offshore or no wind, but if there is a cross bump on the water from the onshore the day before, it’s nearly impossible for me to ride the smaller sub. Is it worth the effort, will I get there if a keep swapping to the larger sup because conditions aren’t perfect? Or should switch to a Tommo shaped snubbed nose sub with less volume but maybe more stable.

    • Erik -- PaddleWoo

      That was a big jump. I’d recommend drilling in the smaller board. Make sure you have the proper techniques for pop up and foot position. It will make your life much easier.

  • Max Ertl

    Hi Erik, I don’t think I understand the V/W ratio very good. I live in Playa Hermosa, Jaco, and I am riding a 8’x30.5×4 sup, and I am thinking of going to something smaller to try make tighter turns…Iam about 5’10″and weight 68kg…any recommendation? Thanks

  • William

    Hey Max. You could go shorter, but I’d recommend going a bit narrower on your next board, maybe 28″ wide. You will be faster and more maneuverable. Also if you are turning off the tail of your board you shouldn’t have too much trouble making your turns tight. For the V/W ratio, if your feet are at the water line of your board you are close to a 1:1 ratio.

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