Surfing is an aesthetic endeavor. We’ve argued on the show if it’s an art or sport, but no matter where you fall on the argument, there’s no arguing that good surfing needs to look good. And carrying around a paddle while riding a wave doesn’t do much to help. In breaking down video of the best in the sport there are a few common themes that seem to dictate “good style,” and a few surfers we could all agree exemplify style. In surfing Gerry Lopez, Rob Machado, John John will all come to mind. That relaxed, not caring, but always in the right spot kind of surfing.
What do all these guys have in common? Among other things, less than average front arm movement while surfing. The front arm rarely goes above the shoulder and when it does it is during an air or free-falling floater, where the counter balance is needed. When looking at John John driving down the line it’s almost like he’s got a string tying his arm to his boardies that stops him right before shoulder height. He even goes as far as to not make a fist with his hand. Relaxed fingers and all. Watch the attached video and see if you can spot him flailing that front hand once.
Now let’s look at Mo Freitas. It took me a while to figure out why I felt his down the line surfing was so much cleaner than most paddle surfers. We all paddle to get speed down the line, Mo as much or more than most, but the way he does it is unique. Watch the video below and notice how he paddles. Does it look like he’s flailing?
So, if you break down the video, what you’ll notice is contrary to what most of us do, we lead the paddle stroke with the front arm… raising it first to gain space for the paddle to come up, vertically. Mo is starting the stroke with the back hand. Keeping his front arm low and bringing the paddle up horizontally, until the final, necessary moment where he has to raise the front arm bury the blade. And that is just a split second.
Now that I’ve mentioned it, you’ll notice it in every paddle surf video you watch… Enjoy!