The Race Begins!!! – 7 Days to paddling smaller boards

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
May 14, 2016

Happy Saturday!  Surf was pumping this morning, offshores and head high swell.  Bigger on the sets.  I took the monsters out (my kids) and they surfed for the first hour.  It’s a cool perspective watching someone practice and improve over a long period of time.

Normally, when coaching, I get to spend an intense week with folks, then send them on their way.  The goal isn’t so much to get better over the week, though it definitely happens, as it is to have you leave with the knowledge of what you need to do, and the steps to accomplish those goals over the next months of surfing.

While watching my monsters surf this morning I was thinking about an interesting conversation/debate happening with a group I coach… race to the bottom vs. reps on bigger boards.  

I’ve always been an ardent racer, meaning I believe the benefits from surfing a smaller board outweigh the pain it will take to get there.  No sense in learning to push and force turns on boards as big as boats–  From a learning perspective, it’s tough to feel if you’re doing something right/wrong on huge board…  Simply put, the mechanics of surfing a board 150% L/KG ratio are different than surfing a smaller board, so why learn a skill you’ll need to relearn???

But, I might be changing my mind a bit…  I 100% believe that you’ll be able to surf better on a smaller board.  I also know you’ll be able to paddle a much smaller board than you currently are using, it’s just going to hurt for a while to do it, but you already paddle surf, which means you have a high tolerance to work and pain.  The question is, when should you go through that process?

Trying to learn on a surf trip makes the pain of racing to the bottom that much more painful.  Your cost per missed wave isn’t just dollars, but wasted opportunities for fun and stories later.

So, in this next week of progression journals I’m going to be breaking down the drills that will help you race to the bottom wherever you are… that way, when you come surf with us, or when the waves are pumping back home you don’t have to decide between performance and wave count.  (Always opt for performance 🙂

Day 1:

Getting equipment you can train on–  During your race to the bottom, you’ll be going through a bunch of boards.  I wouldn’t suggest buying boards just to paddle for a month or so.  Hopefully you’ve got a smaller friend or a shop where you can borrow or rent boards.  My trajectory was to drop about 10-15% in Liters per 30 days.  This will really taper off as you get close to your your body weight in Liters.

To backtrack a bit, if you’re this deep in the blog I’m assuming you know about the volume/weight ratio.  1 Liter of water = 1 Kilogram.  So if your board is 130L and you weigh 165 Pounds.  Divide your weight by 2.2 (1KG = 2.2Lbs)  So, that’s 75kg.  130L/75kg = 1.73.  That’s a big board for a 75kg rider.

Performance will really pick up when you get to about 1.3 or 30% more volume than weight.  So for a 75Kg rider you’d at least want to be surfing a 97L board.  Not much more than that.

For equivalence, Mo Freitas, Kieran Grant and Giorgio Gomes are at about 92%.  So their boards are 7 or 10L less float than weight.  I can paddle this, but it feels terrible…  I do want to test a current hypothesis though, super low volume, but bigger foot print.  So a 7.6×26 at 74L instead of 82L.  See how that feels.

Zane, Kai Lenny, Noa Ginella are all about equal.  The starboard I’ve blogged about a bunch lately is equal for me.

Sean Poynter rides boards about 5L of extra float and surfs it incredible, but he’s a strong dude and an incredible surfer.

Colin McPhillips weights 83L and rides 90 and 100L boards.  Kalama is about the same here.

You’ll also want to have a paddle at or a bit below head height.  I’ve settled on eyebrow.  Kai Lenny is cutting his there, some folks go a touch smaller or bigger.  In interviewing all the guys there seems to be a bit of an inverse relationship between height and paddle size.  Taller guys use paddles cut proportionally smaller than shorter guys.  This is just an observation.

Why paddle size matters.  You’ll rely much more on your paddle the smaller you go in board size.  I’ve noticed more stability from smaller paddles.  My guess is that it helps in 2 ways…  More torque.  When you’re coming out of the hole, that’s pulling yourself back on top of the water if you’ve sunk a bit, it requires a lot of force.  More torque lets you do this faster.  A smaller paddle will keep you lower, dropping your center of gravity, and be faster to move.  You’ll learn to use your paddle for balance in many different ways.  Finishing strokes, squatting on your board, buried as a sea anchor while standing.

Tomorrow I’ll be hitting you with the first drills!  Thanks Dan for the motivation to do this series.

Enjoy your weekend!  E

If you like the idea of surfing smaller boards, you’ll love trying it in clean waves and warm waters in Costa Rica!  Check out our facility here.


Progression Journal


  • Rick Lummer

    Just want to see this progression journal series is fantastic. I live in jersey and not many people are into the performance side of SUP surfing. Being able to read another person’s perspective is fantastic. Thanks so much for all the work you put in to this site!

    • Erik -- PaddleWoo

      Thanks for the feedback! Just got done with some filming for Day 2 of the Race to the Bottom.

  • Carles - RSPro®

    Super series Erik,

    Really enjoying the progression journal. Keep it up!!!

  • James Mcgrane

    Great reading , Thanks !

  • Jonathan

    Interesting thoughts and really enjoying the technical pieces written.

    What are your thoughts on ‘wet weight’ i.e the weight of the rider and say a 6/5 wetsuit (I live in Scotland). Size up the board to reflect the extra weight?

    • Erik -- PaddleWoo

      Yes. You’d definitely need to factor in suit weight for your ratio.

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