We’re doing an experimental home schooling year. The goal is to allow our children to follow their passions in a focused, deliberate manner and use that passion to build tangential skills. They are still in a normal school curriculum, but homeschooling allows us to tackle the requirements in about half the time. My daughter, Kemper, has decided that this year her first focus/passion is going to be tennis.
Today she asked if I’d take her to the courts so she could work on stoke technique. I thought we’d be hitting balls, but when we got there, she grabbed the ball cart and told me I’d be standing a few feet in front of her and dropping balls for her to hit. Her tennis coach, Gabby, was there and she came over and coached me on how to correctly set up the shot, and then watched Kemper’s stoke.
It’s a perfect deliberate practice loop. A controlled environment, immediate feedback on how the shot turns out, and outside feedback from a coach. Kemper hit a couple hundred shots.
In watching Kemper’s backhand, I was surprised at the grip she was using. I asked Gabby, her coach, and she explained it’s the best practice for numerous reasons. I didn’t believe it, the hands were rolled back on the handle and were separated by about an inch. When I swing a backhand they’re basically overlapping. I played baseball and use the same grip.
I wanted to understand the logic behind that grip and Gabby handed me a racket and asked me to hit a few backhands my way. The same drill Kemper was doing, ball, drop, hit.
I hit in two of five balls with three sailing high. She had me change the grip. The next four backhands were the best I’ve ever hit in my life.
It was one small change, it was immediate.
I was on the other side of my favorite moment in coaching.
It was so simple and beautiful, I thought I should deconstruct the moment.
- Gabby is one of the best tennis players in Costa Rica. She’s put in the time to have a deep understanding of the game.
- She’s studied best practices. And her level allows her to differentiate between good and better.
- Instead of engaging in a discussion about the grip, she just handed me the racket. Those few hits changed my mental model of a backhand. The most powerful models are ones that we’ve experienced. We first model others, but once we’ve accomplished the action, we can replace the outside model with personal experience. A much deeper model.
Tomorrow I’m going to start jamming on deconstructing paddle surfing. Specifically I’m deep in the understanding of stability in negative float boards. I’m learning it’s all in the transitions… stay tuned.
Folks! I know I’ve been slacking, so to make up for it I sat down with Zane and Matty Schweitzer last week and we had a 2 hour technical skills discussion. We covered stroke technique vs. board size/volume. Hydrofoils in the lineup. Foot position for turns. Zane’s five tips for folks starting to paddle surf. The Pacific Paddle Games. The Ultimate Waterman. Matty’s settings and camera recommendation to film surfing to aid in deliberate practice.
I know you’re gonna love this discussion, and some of the meat is nearer the end, so try to get it all.
This week we’re running a private coaching retreat for Jason, and you’re coming along for the ride. Jason has followed Paddlewoo for a while, first the blog, then the podcast and decided to come down to paradise to up his game and score some beautiful surf. I’m stoked that he agreed to let me journal the week.
If you’d like to reach out to Jason about web development, check out CrazyEffective.com. He’s crazy talented, and only focuses on larger projects, so don’t hit him up if your company doesn’t have serious backing. I appreciate the help he’s given me for progressionpro.wpengine.com.
Ok, back to surfing. Jason is a solid paddle surfer at the intermediate level. He surfs a Rawson 7.10 at 97 liters and weighs about 150 pounds. He catches waves no problem, but still favors frontside to backside. His strongest maneauver is the frontside bottom turn.
This week we’re focusing on building a technical foundation of the basics, there will be some tweaks to stance and paddle mechanics, along with getting more radical in turns and drawing cleaner lines.
Conditions have lined up with a nice size SW swell running. We’ll have plenty of options including beach and reef breaks.
Here’s a few shots and thoughts from our first morning’s session.
This is a solid bottom turn. We’re drilling on extension of the paddle out in front of the front foot, getting back on the tail which will make the board come around faster and getting out farther in front of the wave before starting the turn.
As folks transition from larger to smaller boards the stance trails in the progression. There is value in paddling in a parallel stance on larger boards, but as performance increases and waves are more critical, surf stance becomes necessary. Here Jason is about to jump from parallel to surf while catching a wave. This throws variability into a critical situation and increases the chance of falling.
After a good bottom turn, but one placed on the face of the wave, Jason has good form coming off the top. To maximize this turn the rail should have been set before the paddle is engaged, and paddle should extend farther before engaging. These are simple tweaks that significantly enhance the lines Jason is drawing.
We’ve got some room to grow on the backside slingshot bottom turn. Here’s the guide to see Fisher Grant in action.
When Jason is switching the paddle from toe to heel side he’s flipping it. You’ll notice it’s backwards for paddling. That w0n’t make a difference in the turn, but should he need to paddle it won’t be effective.
The beauty of the slingshot turn is that it forces technique. The proper technique is an opening of the shoulder to the wave and the eyes/head looking at the lip and oncoming section. Jason is super strong, and from his kiting background he’s fighting the paddle and anchoring his body in a closed position which is slowing his turn. This makes sense in kiting where you lean against the kite to set the rail, but in paddle surfing you need to follow the paddle.
Front arm should extend out into the center of the turn and act as an anchor. Keeping the front arm in drags the paddle instead of allowing it to plant.
You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll continue to say it – When you feel like you’re back far enough, move back. Get to your tail and everything all things turning will be easier.
Jason is pretty close to doing a nice man-hack here. This is an advanced level turn. Some notes:
Velocity is essential for big turns. While the mechanics here are pretty good, there wasn’t enough speed to carry the turn.
Placement is low. Given the option, always hit the oncoming lip. The higher you hit the wave the more potential energy you have, height and grade, so coming out of turns is easier.
Extend. Our key word for the week is Extend. In frontside bottom turns, backside bottom turns, and frontside hacks Jason will advance when he extends into the turns. This will come with practice and comfort. Extending means coming out of your comfort zone and being off balance for a second. It’s the beauty of the paddle, allowing you to force positions that are unrecoverable without, but you’ve got to trust it and that takes some time.
Stay tuned for Day 2 of the journey! Jason said he scored the best waves of his life and is already making progress on his backside surfing.
Contact us to come train and surf in paradise!!!
Questions on this page should be advanced. Surfers should be under 115% Volume/Weight ratio. Paddle technique in turns, Stability on small boards, Rail turns…