I’ve been sitting on writing the full review of the Popdart from L-41 for a bit now. I didn’t want to write it until I felt that I understood the board, and have always felt that the board had so much more potential than I was getting out of it. It did, and after the breakthroughs I have had on the L-41 and in my paddle surfing in the last week, I’m stoked to give you my thoughts.
To understand the process, we’ve got to jump back a few months. When I bought the board I was envisioning a shortboard feel. Thinking about the 2017 contest season, focused on “performance.” My hope with the short size, it’s a 6.10 x 26.5, and the stepped rails, was that I’d be able to drive it hard through turns, and fit in smaller spaces. And while using the framework of surfing like I would on my small Hobie or the 7.4 Starboard Pro, the L-41 was faster, but lacked the drive to draw the tight lines that either of the other boards could draw. I got out of the water frustrated on a few occasions, and then put the board away.
That was late November and the next few weeks I was running retreats and coaching, which means I’m not focused on personal surfing. The sessions I did have on all boards felt flat, and I knew that my surfing was stagnant. Stuck in old lines and mental frameworks. This is about the time that Fisher Grant, who was here for 3 weeks in December (and coming back on Thursday for a few weeks of helping with the retreats) said I should hop on single fins for a bit. I bought Donna, the 6.9 Takayama, and for the next 22 days, only surfed that board. For the first few sessions I was stuck in the framework of shortboard surfing. It didn’t work.
Extrapolating on that point, my paddle surfing model has always been shortboard surfing. I come from a shortboard background and I’ve modeled the best in our sport, but their styles are largely shortboard inspired. (Not Colin, Kalama, Fisher and a few others).
When I dive into a new skill, my approach is to start with consumption. I’ll watch every relevant video, try to talk to anyone who is farther ahead on the learning curve and use that knowledge to prioritize my focus. In this case, on the single fin, with the goal of learning to draw more true lines, I went back a few decades. Gerry Lopez, Buttons, even old longboard videos. Modern inspirations were Colin McPhillips, Fisher Grant, Alex Knost and Devon Howard.
My goal is to add a new framework through which to see waves.
I’m not a martial artist, but there are so many similarities that martial arts provides a good analogy. If you had trained in Muay Thai for decades, you’d interpret a fight in a Muay Thai framework. If you decided to learn boxing, at the beginning you’d see boxing through Muay Thai, relating techniques and principles. Then at some point you’d see boxing from a boxing framework. The beauty happens when you transition back to Muay Thai and can analyze it with the boxing framework. Now you have a new framework in which to interpret your true passion.
I want to learn the single fin framework and bring it back to paddle surfing. And for 22 days I went about as deep as it’s possible in that short window. I averaged about 5 hours in the water per day and studied video another 2-4. I’m at my happiest in the middle of a binge learning session, and it was a great few weeks. (It’s not over, but has to taper a bit as we’re running retreats and I’m coaching for the next few weeks.)
And this all comes back to the Popdart as the board provides an amazing platform for the lines I’ve been trying to learn on the single fin.
So, my review on the Popdart is that it’s an incredible surfboard. I’ve already written about how solid the build is, top level, but I’ve waited to talk about the ride. Once you learn the board, and stop imposing the shortboard framework, it’s one of the best paddle boards I’ve ridden. The glide and carry in flat sections is unmatched. The board smooths out choppy paddle surfing.
- 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
I coined the term paddle enhanced surfing two years ago when I was trying to define proper paddle surfing. The term, paddle enhanced surfing, puts the emphasis on surfing – where it should be. And while I’ve deeply bought into this idea for years, it hasn’t been until the last few months that I’ve internalized the differences in paddle surfing and paddle enhance surfing.
How can you tell the difference?
Do your surfing mechanics work without a paddle? If not, it’s paddle
To test this, either paddle in to a wave prone without a paddle or after catching a wave with your paddle throw it out the back . If you are paddle enhanced surfing, your surfing mechanics will still work.
But, if you’re paddle
enhanced surfing and your mechanics will be wrong, and you’ll flounder and feel lost.
Let’s break down a frontside bottom turn through this frame. It is very common, as I wrote about in the Your Paddle is Not a Rudder post, for intermediate paddle surfers, normally without a surfing background, to use their paddle like you would in a canoe to change direction.
In fact most of the clients I’ve worked with in the last few weeks have had the same habit of dragging their paddle on the inside, toe side, while dropping into a wave frontside and using the paddle to force bad technique to do a frontside bottom turn. Generally, foot position is too far forward, 80% of weight it on the back foot to keep the nose out, and the paddle is dragging well behind the feet which pulls weight farther back, sinks the tail, burns speed and forces the bad bottom turn. Using this bottom turn you’re not weighted correctly to transition to any maneuver, so the next turn is doomed to fail.
Surfing without a paddle will immediately expose the improper technique for this bottom turn. You lean back but there’s no brace for the turn, the board will turn but skate out from under your feet.
Next surf session why not throw away the paddle for a few waves and see what holes you have in your game? I’ve been doing this a few times a week recently and can say I’ve seen big improvements in my rail surfing and bottom turning. When you can surf without the paddle it gives you the freedom to pick the spots to use it to a higher effect.
Coaching and Retreats
If you’re interested in coming down to work with me, email email@example.com. Private coaching and retreats are full until the Foundation Training retreat Feb 25-Mar4. We haven’t announced March/April dates yet (I am waiting on dates for an upcoming project, should have those soon). Before we publically announce new dates we’ll email folks who have expressed interest. So, if you’re interested, shoot us an email with when you’re looking to come train and you’ll be the first to know.
Thanks for all the support! We’ll have some exciting announcements coming soon! Erik
Your paddle isn’t a rudder.
Surfing is surfing whether you’re on a shortboard, longboard or paddle board. The mechanics of surfing don’t change when you put a paddle in your hands.
When I work with intermediate paddle surfers the majority of time is spent on correcting improper form in turns. There’s a reason for this. It is easier to teach/learn turns by using the paddle as a brake/rudder. The mental representation is easy to understand, think turning a canoe. It pulls weight back and to the inside rail, which initiates direction change. But, just like in the canoe, it slows you down.
Proper surfing’s goal is conservation of speed.
Wind works on water to create energy in wave form. Surfing is about maximizing and redirecting that energy. Better surfers go faster, make more sections, utilize more of the wave face. The type of turn used is dictated by the section and potential energy of the position.
Bottom turns and roundhouse cutbacks are rail turns, initiated at or just in front of the front fin – more fin and rail in the water means less slip, which equates to more speed.
Snaps and tail slides are done high on the wave in steep sections – areas of high potential energy. You can burn your speed if you’re at the lip of the wave, as the potential energy will allow you to accelerate out of turns.
Watch the video below of Kai Bates through the lens of conservation of speed. Watch where he places each maneuver, how he uses the paddle, rails and where his feet are for different types of turns. This is a strong mental representation frame to help in decision making in wave riding. Anders Ericsson, author of Peak, was on the podcast yesterday (should be out in about 2 weeks) and we spend a good deal of time on types of mental representations. Changing the way you think about and approach skill acquisition will significantly ramp up your learning curve… And I think you’ll enjoy training at a much deeper level!
After my last post, Dropping Volume – Better have some solid processes, we got a nasty comment on facebook about the logic of riding small paddle boards as opposed to just shortboarding.
For starters, I don’t tolerate haters here, so if you post anything negative in a mean spirited way, the comment will be deleted, and you’ll be blocked. I can’t do anything about shitty mindsets for the greater world, but if you choose to play here, you’ve got to be cordial.
That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree, in fact I love a good argument, but not haters. Constructive criticism is always welcome and encouraged. I’m a work in progress, as are we all.
I do look at negativity, especially from haters, as an excuse to reflect on what you’re doing and to make sure you’re on the right path. Everyone has their own opinion, and in their mind, they’re correct. I try on that hat, whatever it is, to make sure I’m not suffering from cognitive dissonance.
Through that lens I asked myself, “Why not just shortboard?” Here’s where I landed.
- It’s just more fun on more days. My surf session to fun surf session ratio is about 100% since I started paddling. It sounds terrible, but shortboarding my ratio was probably 50%, and I left the water less happy when I arrived 25% of the time. Surfing is all about riding waves, so if the waves aren’t on it’s difficult to feel fulfilled.
- The Challenge. Riding small boards is one of the hardest things I’ve done in sport. I enjoy the challenge. I look forward to the challenge. It’s fun to feel like a kook, and all you have to do to get back to that place is drop a few liters.
- Forced Mindfulness. If you’re pushing your volume limits, you’re using 100% of your focus to balance. That focus translates to being fully present in the moment. Yes, you do get that same zen moment in shortboarding, but only when riding waves. In paddling small boards you can extend the active meditation.
- The workout. Going to the gym is a thing of the past. Maybe I do a few sets of kettlebells each week, but I used to workout for an hour a day while shortboarding. Now, I just paddle surf, and I stay in better shape. It is the total body workout that swimming wishes it was.
- Body Type. I’m 6.1 at 183 today. I’m built more like a free safety than a pro surfer. In surfing my weight has always worked against me, there is no added value in being strong. Not true in paddle surfing. In paddle surfing you can leverage strength through the paddle with an exponential effect.
- Peer group. I like paddlers. The commonalities we all share are solid traits. I’ve met many of my best friends through paddling.
- Steep Innovation Curve. Paddle surfing is still in its infancy. It’s fun being a paddle surfer now, just as I assume it was amazing to be a surfer in the 60’s and 70’s. With each new innovation you get to experience surf in a new way. Shortboarding’s been stagnant for a long while, but paddle surfing is evolving every day. I have no idea what shape I’ll be riding next year. Or what kind of paddle. Innovation and change are fun places to be.
- Paddle surfing is a complete sport. Fun. Exercise. Challenge. Comradery.
After looking in the hater mirror, I don’t doubt my path for a second.
What do you love about paddle surfing?