The Rebuild – Style and Flow

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
December 27, 2016
Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to surf with the very best paddle surfers on the planet.  They have been my models for paddle surfing and I’ve spent countless hours deconstructing techniques and maneuvers to up my game and to share that knowledge with you.
I have focused on internalizing stability on small paddle boards, techniques for tip of the spear maneuvers and the evolution and direction of boards and paddles.  And in those areas I feel that I’ve done a solid job in both understanding and explaining the fundamentals that create solid paddle enhanced surfing.
I’m now able to paddle a 65L board at 83kg and if you compare pictures of my best turns to the best in the world they are within the ballpark.
But, while focused on the technical minutia of paddle surfing, I’ve missed the forest for the trees.  Spending the last few months with Colin McPhillips and Fisher Grant has exposed core faults in my surfing.
If you’ve come down to Costa Rica to train with me you know that one of our first discussions is about starting where you need to start, not where you want to start.  No sense learning big frontside hacks if your feet aren’t in the right spot to do them.  And while it can be painful to go so far back in the learning curve, it allows you to build on a solid foundation.
I’m going to take a bit of my own advice and rework the style and decision framework of my surfing.  I’m not sure it’s possible with 20 years of non-perfect habits, but it’ll be a fun process to try.  And it will allow me to see surfing through a new frame and add new mental representations to the art.  I was explaining the process to my wife a few nights ago (not sure she really cares :), but I stated like playing rock guitar your whole life and then deciding to learn classical guitar.  It’s same instrument, but a completely different approach.
And hopefully, at the end of this 3 to 6 month process, I’ll be able to bring back to paddle surfing a different understanding of wave riding.
I recruited Fisher to be my coach and advisor we’ve constructed a plan of attack.  He’s uniquely positioned for this role as 2x US Longboard Champ, US SUP Champ and a top tier shortboarder.  He’s in a subset of very few folks who and grab any board and surf it at a pro level.  He also happens to be as opinionated as Colin McPhillips when it comes to quality surfing.  They are both constantly saying that certain folks who are seen as top-level by the masses aren’t really that good.  They both have a different, deeper eye for quality surfing.
Part one of the process is riding a 6.9 Takayama Howard Special single fin in all conditions.  From this point forward the board will be referred to as Donna.  Yes, I’m still paddle surfing too, but my training is on the single fin.
Here are some notes from the journey, 10 days in…
  • When shortboarding or paddle surfing you’re able to generate speed much easier than on a single fin.  Aggressive, ugly pumping on a shortboard, and aggressive, even uglier paddling on a standup will carry you though flat sections with speed and allow you to work outside of the wave’s power.  Donna isn’t having any of that.  Stay in the pocket or it gets awkward pretty quick.
  • Bottom turning is a forgotten art.  And it’s insanely fun.  I thought I was doing an ok job of getting out in front of the wave and setting up decent bottom turns, but it turns out I wasn’t anywhere close to what’s possible.  I’ve watched Colin seemingly wait minutes cruising into the flats before getting the board on rail, but haven’t ever felt it.  Thought I was doing it, but wasn’t.  Forcing Donna back into the pocket and feeling all that carry out to the flats is amazing.  Gives a completely different perspective of the wave.  Also amazing how far you can push the turn in flat water.
  • Less is more.  Speed on Donna is about positioning and then patience.  Pick your line and then trust it.  I’m carry long sections by high lining with almost zero adjustment.  It’s a different feeling for me.


Some of you may be wondering if the journal is going to turn away from paddle surfing… don’t worry, it isn’t.  It will include what I’m learning on the style and the decision framework.  And, we’ll be bringing some new video features here soon.  Fisher has come on board to do some video editing and we’ve got a massive archive that he is currently sifting through to bring out lessons and insights that we’ll share in the near future.

I’m also sitting on 5 recorded podcasts that I haven’t had the time to produce yet.  Next up will be a month recap with Fisher Grant and an interview with Tristan Boxford, CEO of the Waterman League and the World Tour, which is on for 2017!

The other three episodes are for the new Progression Project Podcast, focused more on deep understanding, passion and learning.  So far Garret Dutton (AKA G Love), Anders Ericsson (Author of Peak), and Aaron Peirsol (3x Olympic Gold medal swimmer) have recorded.  That show will debut in a few weeks!  Stoked!!!

Thanks for hanging in there with me and stay tuned for an awesome run of awesome… awesome!!!  E

Progression Journal

One Comment

  • Shane Murrell;

    Hi Eric ,
    Merry Christmas . Nice article and like the bit about starting where you NEED to start. Surfing is one of those sports where almost every person you speak to actually thinks they are more proficient than they actually are . Myself included no doubt 🙂
    Im a strong believer in the must pass point A before you can get to point B theory. Its just the recognising the correct markers thats difficult.
    Can’t wait for the video analysis which works better for me. Are you thinking something along the lines of Martin Dunn who is a well know Aussie surf coach.
    I wonder if he’s ever thought about SUP Surfing. His break down is easy to understand and follow. His videos could show a bit more common problems but still they are nice and simple. Looking forward to following your progress on Donna and the pod cast with Christen should be a goodie.
    Cheers Shane

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