Seated Whitewater Climb – He who learns the most is having the most fun

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
May 20, 2016

Back to the race this morning.  The Race to the Bottom if you haven’t been following.  We’re breaking down some techniques that will get you paddling smaller boards wherever you live, so when you come surf with us in Costa Rica you can focus on surfing, not paddling.  Today I’m teaching you a huge timesaver for dealing with smaller whitewater.  The application of the seated whitewater climb will allow you to comfortably sit inside while you’re waiting for a set to end.  You’ll use way less energy than standing and paddling, and you’ll suffer less damage than punching through the whitewater laying down.

Before we jump into the technique today, I’m going to address a concern that more than a few folks asked me about.  The question is, how should I approach the race to the bottom with a physical limitation.  Maybe it’s a hip issue or a back issue.

I don’t talk about it much, but I fall into this category.  I’ve talked about it on the show, in the Eric Goodman episode.  I have a terrible back.  For me paddling was a saving grace.  Took surfing from painful (I had to train everyday to surf) to physical therapy.  Now, a few years later, I can surf or paddle because I’ve strengthened my back to a point where I have some space.

It’s difficult to quantify how much that plays into my love of paddle surfing, I think less now, but I do know I would have never given the sport a chance without the back issue.

So, I completely understand that some folks have been forced into paddle surfing.  I also understand that it’s given some of us a second chance to surf, pain free.  I am in no way discouraging that demographic…  that’s my demo.

What I will say is that you shouldn’t use physical limitation to give yourself a ceiling in performance.  Maybe your bottom won’t be the same as Zane or Kai’s but you can still race–  still push yourself.  You just need to do it within your own confines.

I do the this with surfing.  I can surf a shortboard with no issues now…  but, I won’t duck dive heavy waves.  It ruins me to have a lip land on my lower back.  So, I work around that by doing a certain dive if I find myself in that situation.

Maybe your bottom is 130L.  If so, there is a wide range of performance you can find in a 130L board.  Start playing around there, get some custom shapes, work with the shaper.  Find ways to hide the volume, try a smaller tail, harder rails.  Continue racing.

One thing I hate, and surfing the same beach for 10 years I see it on a daily basis– folks who have become comfortable with where they are, so they stay there.  I disagree with the statement “the one having the most fun is the best surfer.”

The guy learning the most is having the most fun…  What makes surfing fun at the beginning, and I’m watching my kids do it right now, is that every day you’re learning something new… experiencing something for the first time.  “Dad!!!  I just got barrelled!”  No, he didn’t but it sure felt like it to him.  And it will the next time he gets a bit closer, and the next…  I don’t get that feeling from almost getting barrelled anymore.  I wish I did…  But I drop some liters and paddle into a heavy wave and have a late drop and I get that chemical cocktail, because it’s new and on the edge.

We’re not racing for the sake of paddling a smaller board or surfing like Kai or Zane or Mo. We’re racing to push our own limits and to get the mental and physical rewards for operating outside our comfort zone.

The Seated Whitewater Climb

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This maneauver is best when done is small to mid size whitewater.  Once the foam is more than about 2 feet you can get worked if you mess up.  The technique is easier on bigger boards.  This is because you use the tail as an anchor and as a buoy.  The float helps you pop over.

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As you approach the wave you want to have some momentum built up.  So paddle hard for the last few strokes.  We’ve got Oscar here as our surfer, and I’ll correct a couple things he’s doing.  Overall this is a good example, but it could be improved.  You can see that Oscar isn’t just sitting waiting for the wave.  He’s actively paddling out, and timing the climb.

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Notice how Oscar’s weight is trending back, to the tail.  I prefer to have my paddle in my left hand, control the board with the right, but that’s 100% personal preference.  I do suggest you hold the handle instead of the shaft.  The reasoning here is that if you get pulled back and the blade catches water, your hand is a fulcrum and the handle can smash you in the face.  I learned this one the hard way.

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The goal, once you’ve sunk the tail, is to pull the board into the water.  Think about just sinking a board, tail first and then letting go.   The board will shoot out of the water.  That’s the basis for the climb.  Sink the tail and then jump up on top of the whitewater.

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This is the frame where I’d correct Oscar.  He should be more on top of the wave, not as vertical as he is.  It still works, but he’s dragged back a bit farther than optimal.  The objective is to get your weight on top of the wave as soon as possible.  To not smash into the energy.

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Oscar got a good bounce out of the climb and is getting on top of the energy.  If I’m being critical I’d say he could be less vertical, as the tail is catching energy from the wave here…

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He’s successfully passed the wave and now he’s ready to paddle towards the next one.  It’s common for me to do this 10-15 times in a row, wave after wave.  So you want to get as efficient as possible.  Like I’m explaining and teaching my son right now, it’s a positional game, getting back out.  Your playing on the x and y axis.  X, front to back you try to gain as much distance as possible between waves and lose as little as possible with each wave.  On the Y your plotting the easiest path to the lineup.  Lining up oncoming waves like frogger.  It’s one of my favorite games within the game.

I think I’ll blog more about those games within the game here soon.  Depending on the day I can have more fun playing those than surfing.

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And on to the next one!

Oscar is about the most Pura Vida person I know, every guest at our camp ends up his best friend…  Tough not to love the guy.  Come down and surf with us!  You’ll have a blast and maybe learn something.  Check out our camp and pimp setup if you haven’t already.

Progression Journal

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