Kai Lenny’s Stoke and Mo Freitas’ Swing Cutback

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
April 30, 2016

Yesterday Kai Lenny recorded for the PaddleWoo Podcast.  I’ve spent a ton of time with a lot of Kai’s friends, but have had no contact with him.  He is an inspired human and the show turned out great.  It will be up in a week or so — stay tuned!

Kai inspired me.  He’s about as focused and passionate as anyone I’ve met.  Got me all inspired to surf this morning.  Early, the surf wasn’t any good.  And after checking for 2 hours I decided to go out back for a paddle and try to learn that stroke that Kai does.  He has a unique return, leading with the bottom elbow and a strong flick at the end of the stroke.  So, this morning I broke down a few videos of him paddling and decided to paddle in the bay for a bit.

It took me a while to understand leading with the bottom elbow on the return.  But after about 10 minutes I figured out why it’s effective.  If you paddle like Kai, which is a very deep hinge, you’re almost at 90 degrees when you start your stroke.  It takes some time to extend that far, and the meat of your stroke, the power, is all in that front 1/2 of the pull.  So, I think what makes his stroke effective, is that 2/3’s into the stroke he’s already on recovery with his body.  Leading with the elbow allows you to continue to pull while the body is recovering.  Then, the paddle can come back much faster than if you were finishing your stroke with straight arms.  It’s an oscillation.

This stroke and the leading elbow recovery also brings the paddle back perpendicular.  You can have a lower recovery and if chop hits the blade it won’t catch.  I focused on emulating the stroke today for a couple hours and that’s what I figured out.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

By the time I paddled around, a reef actually started to look good.  Not great, but some good lines coming though.  Direction was a bit off and there was some weird backwash, but if you got a first or second wave of the set you’d get a good ride.  It was pretty mellow so I decided to work on rail turns.  I’ve spent the last few weeks focused on the Colin/Kalama cutback, so I decided to focus on a variation that Mo is doing.  There isn’t a name for it yet, so I’ll just explain it.

It starts like a normal cutback with paddle on toeside.  Set the rail, set the paddle, pull into the turn.  The limiting factor of having the paddle in the water when you’re doing a rail turn is that if you’re pushing the turn it will stop the turn at a certain point.  What Mo Feitas will do at times is pull the paddle out about 1/3 into the turn and throw the leading shoulder and paddle back at the whitewater.  It’s the same motion you’d do on a shortboard.  Today was a great day for trying and I got about 15 reps through the short session.

Some notes on the turn:

  • If the rail, not full rail, more back 2/5, isn’t fully engaged when you pull the paddle you come right out of the turn.  This put me in a few bad spots where the wave was super steep and I was basically air dropping, awkwardly, to avoid pearling.
  • If the rail is set, you can’t swing your weight too hard.
  • The paddle gives you a nice swing weight to throw momentum into the turn.  Just as you can counterbalance while standing with your paddle, the weight of the paddle will really help you come around.
  • It’s a super fast turn.  I got ahold of 3 or 4 and when done right you’re coming around super fast.  I tried to throw out the tail on a few and it didn’t feel good.  Better to just hit the foam.
  • The good thing about this turn is that the foam bounce is easy as the paddle is still on your toeside rail.

Frame grabs below from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0RPjoj8JWU


(featured photo is from The SUP Movie – https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-sup-movie-poor-boyz/id953434802)

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