Random Session Notes

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
July 28, 2016

Featured photo shows one of my favorite coaching techniques, surfing behind someone, just behind the wave, allows me to see footwork, paddle technique and the line drawn much better than photos or video.  It’s a first person perspective that allows immediate feedback.  Trevor is a solid intermediate surfer who is making big changes to paddling technique, stance and positioning on the wave this week.  If you’d like to come down and train drop me a note here.

What’s up guys?  The journals are coming slow in the past month, for that I apologize.  We’ve been running hard here in Nosara, I’ve been coaching and helping folks have some massive breakthroughs in their surfing – it’s been giving me more joy than surfing, which I never expected.  We’ve had some massive swells, my kids are frothing on surfing and I guess I burned out a bit on the writing.  My goal was to write 500-1,000 words on business days, and I kept with it for over 2 months, then fizzled out.

But, just because I haven’t kept up with the writing, doesn’t mean I haven’t been focused on paddle surfing.  In fact, I credit the burst of creative focus on breaking through a personal surfing plateau I’ve been feeling for almost a year.

Paddle surfing is comprised of thousands of specific techniques and using the deliberate practice model, we break down the whole into parts and focus on the best practice and mental model for each specific skill.  The interesting part is that you don’t feel the progress on the whole – or at least I didn’t.  So while I may incrementally increase stability on smaller boards or paddle straighter, I did’t feel like I’m was getting better on the whole.

Not until this month.  During a few free-surfs with no focus other than riding waves and having fun, I started to put together techniques and drawing lines in ways I hadn’t before.  Depth of feel had grown and during turns and critical sections I was able to observe where I was missing, or why it flowed.  Difficult to put into words, but profound in experience.

A couple specific examples which deserve and will receive full journals –

During one session at a right reef break we lucked into long multiple maneuver waves with size and power.  I have been working on the frontside slingshot cutback for a while now, and really started understanding the turn a few months ago.  During this session I realized that there is a subtle difference in starting the turn leaning forward into the paddle or starting with your weight on the rear heel and rolling it forward into the start of the turn.  The former draws a tighter start to the turn, but loses steam on the bottom while the latter gives more explosion throughout the turn and conserves energy.  The principle has held true in other sessions.

After the Connor Baxter episode I committed to learning to paddle control direction while paddling.  He gives the example of the “J” stroke.  I drilled on this technique for months and now have no problem even turning against the stroke to catch waves.  I can circle in either direction while paddling toe-side.  And while I have a high degree of competency toe-side, my heel-side has remained weak.  In journaling on stability and controlling the fall I was only focused only on stability.  It has taken me a few months to learn the controlled fall on heel-side.  It’s been during this process that I’ve discovered that controlling direction while paddling is more about riding a rail which naturally occurs while controlling the fall, than about stroke.  If you are falling to your paddle side, then your paddle side rail is buried while you’re paddling.  Your board has rocker and the rocker will push back against the stroke and straighten out your paddling.  Before changing balance technique on heel-side I was at best in a neutral balanced position without a buried rail, so the stroke had a much greater effect on direction heel-side vs. toe-side where I was controlling the fall and riding the toe-side rail.

That’s what I’ve been geeking out about lately.  Candice just confirmed as the next podcast guest, so I’m stoked on that… Anything you want me to ask her?  And we’re planning a month in California during September and October, so if you’d like to surf, hit me up.

Progression Journal


  • Shane

    Way to go Eric, Cant imagine how hard it must be to muster up some inspirational words after SUPing all day. Loving the depth of the analysis even if I don’t quite follow everything you say.
    Sometimes its hard to convey the key points in a few sentences when its visually hard to picture. Im a more visual person so love teh photos and drawn lines myself. The bottom turn is a good example with regard to paddle weight and toe side pressure. Ive been playing with getting off the paddle and trying to go a bit more gently off the bottom to try and retain some of the speed Ive been loosing by showering anyone with in a mile radius with bottom turn spray. Leaning right over looks cool and all but my top turns just run out of steam and and my 15 year old pointed out that I have a great bottom turn but my top turns look lame. Great feedback from the ever great full unwashed, last surf trip I take him on. Still he’s right and in the name of progress Im working on rectifying that. Any more tips on what comes after the releasing the paddle grab on the bottom would be appreciated. My now better than me 15 year old suggested widening my stance and this has helped a lot. Fells kookie but works a lot better. Keep up the good work and gagging to see your movie efforts.

  • Steve

    Hi Erik,

    Thank you very much for the excellent Progression Journal posts. I enjoy reading the posts and learning from the amazing amount of information you so kindly pass along.

    It would be great to get more info on the particulars of the “J” stroke. A few pictures or a short video clip would help a lot to get a clear picture of what you and Connor are talking about.

    Mahalo nui loa!



  • Dan

    Thanks Erik! Great stuff. Gonna be practicing those paddle techniques in MV for the next few days. Hopefully we’ll get some swell!

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