Surf Stance vs. Race Stance… Efficient wave catching and surfing on a SUP

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
May 3, 2016

I hope everyone is great today!  We had some super mixed up conditions here in beautiful Costa Rica this morning.  We went from El Nino directly to La Nina.  So strong offshore winds and a quiet South Pacific to variable winds and the a ton of energy coming up from the South.  I actually like it this way, bigger waves keep down crowds and peaks all over spread them out.  Our reef breaks work more frequently and surfers who pay attention to the changing weather are rewarded with mid-day solo sessions.

Today we had super consistent conditions from the S swell in the water and a low tide, so I decided to ride a shortboard.  Yesterday it was just as big, but not quite as consistent and I spent a lot of time getting rolled around on the inside.  Today I felt like taking an easier path so decided to shortboard.  I haven’t ridden one in about a month, lots of S energy and good reefs is what I live for, and that means paddle boards 100%.  So it’s always interesting to see how it feels going back to the shorter stick.

A few notes on the session:

  • After a month on my paddle boards, 7.4-7.9s, surfing a shortboard requires a conscious effort to not push any turns.  You just can’t use that power.  It takes me a few waves to start finding the groove, and then you realign.
  • Surfing top to bottom comes back way faster than rail work.  Within a few waves I can hit the lip and even do some airs.  Hitting the lip on a paddle board isn’t much different and I don’t do much in the way of airs on a SUP so I have no bad habits to override.  Surfing on rail, however, takes me a while.  I focus so much of my attention rail surfing on SUPs and it is SOOO different in the leverage points and force needed, that going back to a shortboard feels foreign.  So, if I know I’m just short boarding for 1 or 2 sessions I’ll avoid those turns and look for barrels or sections to hit.  It’s too bad you can’t immediately revert to prior skills.
  • There’s a lot of down time in surfing.  I forget how much sitting you do.  And I can’t call it a workout.  I’m so used to pushing it for 90 mins or so every morning, and I try to keep my heart rate up that surfing feels like I’m being lazy.  There’s also not nearly as many mind games you can play to keep occupied.  Side note:  If you don’t do it already, start practicing squatting on your board instead of sitting.  To do it you need to move a bit forward of where you normally stand and get the nose underwater.  Your paddle will be your balance, I keep mine in a toeside position.  It started as a competition trick, here in CR you aren’t allowed to sit during a heat, but squatting is fine.  Now I like to do it for balance work.  Try to see how many waves you can catch without sitting and only squatting out the back.

Surf stance vs. Race Stance –

If you didn’t know, I coach paddle surfing.  You can check out our resort and camps at Blue Zone SUP.  One of the commonalities that we have to break through in most weeks is the difference in paddling into waves in surf stance vs. race stance.  We go pretty deep into this in our instruction, but I’ll run though the basics here and maybe it will inspire you (if you currently only like paddling around in race stance) to start working on surf stance.

It’s funny to me, coming from a surfing background, that everyone loves race stance.  I never did it.  It was always much more comfortable for me to be in surf stance.  But then again, I started on a 130L board and dropped to 112L in about 45 days.  As soon as I could paddle a board I dropped again.  I figured that surfing wouldn’t come until you were riding a board that looked like a surfboard and it would be a better investment in time to paddle smaller boards than work on surfing technique.  That said, a lot of paddle surfers come from the recreation and race sides of the sport, where there’s no incentive to paddle in a surf stance, except maybe in making buoy turns.  So, while I’m helping coach folks into using surf stance, I’m personally always trying to practice race stance…  maybe I can even out my legs 🙂

Why surf stance?

  1. In surf stance you have stability front to back on your board.  Your paddle helps side to side, just error on leaning paddle side and you’re all good.  Front/back is important because as the wave comes your board will go from flat to 30-45 degrees in short order.
  2. If you do catch a wave in race stance (which some folks are very proficient at doing) you need to transition to surf stance to effectively surf.  A common issue is when you move your back foot to transition back on the board, your weight will weight the front foot rail and depending on where you are on the wave and which way your going can dig your rail result in losing the line or falling.
  3. Faster transition…  To effectively bottom turn you’ve got to be back on your tail.  Read about bottom turns here.  And you’ve got to be there when you get to the bottom of the wave.  In surf stance you have only to take 2 steps back.  Front foot to back foot and back foot to tail on a board thats about 8 feet.  From race stance you have to get your front foot to the stringer (centerline) before coming back.
  4. Late drops.  If you’re in surf stance on a late drop you can lean into your paddle and create what I call the wedge.  Maybe I’ll blog on it at some point, but needless to say, you’ve got a much better shot at making more waves if you’re in surf stance.

So, what to do???  Practice paddling around in surf stance if you’re a race only guy or gal.  Get comfortable doing circles both ways.  It won’t hurt your surf game… I promise.

Progression Journal

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