It only takes one…

It was a beautiful morning.  A handful of friends,  up early, out on a fairly secret reef point in Costa Rica.  Sets weren’t big, about chest high, but you don’t need big waves here to have an amazing time.  The sum of the lineup was 4 surfers, 2 paddle surfers, my 8 year old son and I was riding Donna, my 6.9 single fin.  All friends.

When it’s just us on the reef we find a rhythm of catching waves.  Andrew always opts for the sneaker lefts.  Alex sets up wide and takes the swing sets.  I like the waves that bowl up right on the main boil which sets them up for the second shallow spot on the reef that I call Bob.

From the lineup you can see folks coming out from the beach about 15 minutes before they show up, it’s a long paddle.  Normally you can tell who it is because only a few of us surf out there.  Someone’s stoke is like a fingerprint, and when you coach paddle surfing you can recognize someone by their stroke a mile away.  And this morning we saw a paddle surfer headed our way, but he wasn’t a local or anyone I knew.

I admit it, I’m a paddle surfing snob.  I guess that’s what studying a sport for four years does for you.  I can make assessments quickly about the level of a paddle surfer just by seeing them take a few strokes.  I can gauge what V/W ratio they’re riding, if they have a race background, and more or less, their level of surfing.

As I watched this guy paddle out I could tell right away that he’d given zero thought to his stoke.  You take anyone and put them on a board and hand them a paddle and there’s this stroke they do.  It’s all in the arms, body is a tree, paddle enters the water at the feet at a negative angle and pulls a few feet behind them.  Zero study.  Zero work.  Base level.  I’ve begun calling it the bar-b-que stoke.  Guy grabs the paddle board for the first time at a BBQ after a few beers and it’s the stoke he adopts.  The stonger the guy, the worse the stoke.

I love paddle surfing as an art.  And I love participants that study and train in the art.  I don’t care what level anyone is on, as we all start at the beginning, but I do hold a prejudice against a certain type of paddle surfer, someone who gravitates to the sport because of it’s advantages, not it’s beauty, was probably a bad surfer and holds a grudge because time or ability has passed them by, only cares about wave count and not improving – this peice is about them.

The paddle surfer, we’ll call him John, made it to the lineup.  He was riding a big board, close to 1.7 V/W ratio, and proceeded to paddle around the group and take off, straight away on the next wave.  Too deep to make it.  Normally, when you show up at a reef break it’s customary to sit on the side and let everyone catch a wave before you catch one, you say hi, wait your turn and then go.  He BBQ’ed his way right to peak and took off.  Then, John paddled back to the channel, around the lineup, this time setting up about 20 meters in front of everyone, and took the next wave.

This continued for 30 minutes.  I have the video, which I won’t release, but what I didn’t realize while out there was that he wasn’t even making the waves he was hoarding.  What’s the point?  You’re paddling deep just to catch waves you can’t even ride just to hold off other surfers.

Finally after a while, I said something.  At this point, I, and everyone else in the water was beyond pissed, and as the local paddle surfer it was my place to step in.  Maybe I could have been more diplomatic.  I think I said something like, “Buddy, we’re just going to go when we want from now on, you’re taking every wave.”

His response is what got me.  He said, “you’re catching the same amount of waves that I am.”  Which is hilarious, because literally, in the previous 20 or 30 minutes he’d caught 2 times the waves of the rest of the lineup combined.  But this shows that in his distorted view of reality, he wasn’t even doing anything wrong.  Completely oblivious.

Ok, that’s all preamble for the points I’m about to make.

  1. As Colin McPhillips says, “An asshole in the water is an asshole in the water no matter what kind of board they’re riding.”  While this holds true, the advantage of a paddle board can exponentially increase the power of said asshole.  That’s why surfers hate us.  And, in that moment, I hated us.
  2. If you read my blog you don’t fall into this category, but there is a group of paddle surfers who don’t care about progression, helping grow the sport in the right way, or integrating the sport with surfing.  This group likes to paddle surf because they want to catch more waves.  F@#$ technique.  F@#$  the race to the bottom.  Give me a huge f’in board and get out of my way.  My surfing days have past me, so I’m going to ruin yours and take everything I want.  There’s not many of these guys, but they do exist, and they are our enemy.
  3. It only takes one guy like this to turn every surfer he ever meets against paddle surfing.  At the beginning, paddle surfing was a part of surfing.  In One California Day, Joel Tudor is riding a standup.  The Malloys were early adapters.  Machado…. My guess is that one day they found themselves surfing with a guy like this on a standup and saw a scary possible future and then said, this could change a lot.  And decided not to grow the sport.  I definitely had that thought in that moment.

Think about the damage one guy like this, with that obtuse attitude, can do to paddle surfing.  And the thing is, because he’s on a paddle board, and because it’s a different tribe than surfing, he gets grouped in with me and you.  Within our own tribe we can differentiate.  An asshole who’s on a shortboard is “Tom” the a-hole, an individual.  But to surfers, the a-hole on the paddle board is the tribe of paddle surfers, the group of us.  And that label, that feeling, sticks.

Done at its highest level paddle surfing is a high form of surfing, arguably the most technically challenging.  Just paddling a negative float board is an art from.  But at it’s base, lowest level, it has the power to be the ugliest form of surfing.  It gives tools to those who choose to take advantage.

It’s our choice how we grow this sport and what behavior we tolerate from our own, and ultimately, which version of paddle surfing we want the world to know.  Let’s make sure we have a hand in promoting the right one.



Looking forward to hearing the comments on this one… hahaha

Creating a coaching platform? Your feedback requested…

What’s up folks!  It seems as though the raw video breakdown was a hit.  Lots of comments and emails requesting more raw video breakdowns, comprehensive maneuver breakdowns and remote coaching.

Given that there seems to be a demand and that I have the time (and much better internet which was my limiting factor for the last few years), I’m considering creating a coaching platform for paddle surfing.

Can you give me some feedback as to what you’d like to see and the value?  If I’m going to take this on, it would be a paid service.

Some notes… please let me know what resonates

Create a membership site where you’d have access to a database of raw footage and breakdowns.

Public platform to ask questions.

Put together specific maneuver tutorials showing beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers attempting the same maneuver.  With delineation of skills.

Ability to upload your videos to be broken down, could be added to the database to help grow collection of coaching.  (might be separate cost).

Bring in guest instructors/pros to discuss footage.


Question – Does anyone know the best way to be able to draw on video footage?

Alright, thanks in advance for the feedback.  This could be a fun project and help our sport.  E


Raw Footage Video Breakdown 1

Here’s a raw video breakdown.  I know a lot of you have been asking for this for a while.  And we’ve wanted to do produced tech videos, but the reality is we spend all the time making it polished and at the end of the day we can’t convey as much info.  It’s why I love podcasts and why instead of doing the polished videos I figured we try some raw breakdowns first.  This is as raw as it gets, it’s like sitting down over breakfast and going through footage.  This type of analysis is how I learn and practice…

Let me know if you all like it and I can knock out more.  Pretty easy and I have a boatload of footage.


Getting Technical with JP’s Shaper Werner Gnigler

Last week I headed down to Grand Bahama with the family (we were forced to leave the United States to renew our international health care), and it just so happened that the Pryde Group dealer meeting was going on at Taino Beach.  Now, this wasn’t exactly a coincidence, Garry Menk, head of Pryde Group Americas, is a good friend and when I told him we had to leave the US, he invited us to come down, check out the new 2018 gear, learn to kite and sit down with Werner Gnigler the shaper for JP.

Werner’s roots are from windsurfing, first a competitor at the highest level, then shaper and designer.  As JP moved into standup, Werner took the best of windsurfing design and tech and applied those elements to his paddle surf boards.  Working with the likes of Keahi de Aboitiz (podcast here), Werner has refined his SUP designs to be some of the best in the sport.  The new JP 7.6 x 27 is an incredible board.

On the show we get very technical about his shapes, board technologies, fin setups and innovation process.  This is definitely a show for the paddle surfing nerds, and one you could listen to a couple times…  Enjoy


Notes on foot position for speed and turn placement

Here’s a simple cheatsheet for foot position in surfing.

You can break maneuvers into two categories.  Speed conserving/generating and speed killing.

Foot position for speed conserving/generating maneuvers is generally on top of or right in front of (towards the nose) the front fin on the inside (in the water) rail.

Foot position for speed killing turns, sharper snaps and cutbacks, is on the back fin, inside rail.

Front foot position should almost always be on the stringer (center) and in a vertical location where you have access without moving it to the tail.

Spray signature is a good way to tell what type of turn is happening.  Conserving turns,  done off the front fin, use the rail and spray is smaller and thicker.  These turns aren’t your best photos normally. (weak wave, wrapping back into the pocket.  Below)

Big sprays come from turning velocity into force and throw water off the tail.  Fins out turns, tight snaps. (Steep section, sliding tail, killing speed, but lots of potential energy.  Below)

Placement of turns –

Speed conserving turns are done in areas of low potential energy on the wave.  The bottom of the wave for bottom turns, the weak shoulder for cutbacks.  (Rail buried, weight forward, back foot over larger front fin.  Below)


Speed burning turns should be done in areas of high potential energy where you can burn your speed and then “drop” back into the wave regaining velocity.  Think a skater stalling at the top of a vert ramp.  He can rest for a second and then redrop.  Same holds true for surfing, tail throwing turns off the lip kill the majority of your speed, but you’re high on a steep section of the wave, so regain velocity on the drop.

(Lots of spray show that the top turn killed speed, but all the speed you need is in the wave, all potential energy.  Below)


Hope that helps… E