Stress Test Your Paddle Surfing, Surf your SUP without a Paddle!

Stress Test Your Paddle Surfing, Surf your SUP without a Paddle!

I coined the term paddle enhanced surfing two years ago when I was trying to define proper paddle surfing.  The term, paddle enhanced surfing, puts the emphasis on surfing – where it should be.  And while I’ve deeply bought into this idea for years, it hasn’t been until the last few months that I’ve internalized the differences in paddle surfing and paddle enhance surfing.

How can you tell the difference?

Do your surfing mechanics work without a paddle?  If not, it’s paddle enhanced surfing.

To test this, either paddle in to a wave prone without a paddle or after catching a wave with your paddle throw it out the back .  If you are paddle enhanced surfing, your surfing mechanics will still work.

But, if you’re paddle enhanced surfing and your mechanics will be wrong, and you’ll flounder and feel lost.

Let’s break down a frontside bottom turn through this frame.  It is very common, as I wrote about in the Your Paddle is Not a Rudder post, for intermediate paddle surfers, normally without a surfing background, to use their paddle like you would in a canoe to change direction.

In fact most of the clients I’ve worked with in the last few weeks have had the same habit of dragging their paddle on the inside, toe side, while dropping into a wave frontside and using the paddle to force bad technique to do a frontside bottom turn.  Generally, foot position is too far forward, 80% of weight it on the back foot to keep the nose out, and the paddle is dragging well behind the feet which pulls weight farther back, sinks the tail, burns speed and forces the bad bottom turn.  Using this bottom turn you’re not weighted correctly to transition to any maneuver, so the next turn is doomed to fail.

Surfing without a paddle will immediately expose the improper technique for this bottom turn.  You lean back but there’s no brace for the turn, the board will turn but skate out from under your feet.

Next surf session why not throw away the paddle for a few waves and see what holes you have in your game?  I’ve been doing this a few times a week recently and can say I’ve seen big improvements in my rail surfing and bottom turning.  When you can surf without the paddle it gives you the freedom to pick the spots to use it to a higher effect.


Coaching and Retreats




If you’re interested in coming down to work with me, email  Private coaching and retreats are full until the Foundation Training retreat Feb 25-Mar4.  We haven’t announced March/April dates yet (I am waiting on dates for an upcoming project, should have those soon).  Before we publically announce new dates we’ll email folks who have expressed interest.  So, if you’re interested, shoot us an email with when you’re looking to come train and you’ll be the first to know.

Thanks for all the support!  We’ll have some exciting announcements coming soon!  Erik

7.2 JP thoughts, Larry Cain Stoke Drilling and Charleston Film notes

7.2 JP thoughts, Larry Cain Stoke Drilling and Charleston Film notes

We have had an amazing time on our East Coast tour.  Charleston put it on for us, Mex1 and Morgan did it right and the film played to a packed house.

It’s tough to evaluate how good something is in reality when everyone tells you it’s great.  I’m a natural contrarian and if everyone is saying the same stuff I get skeptical.  If we’re looking through the lens of deliberate practice that isn’t actionable feedback.

The metrics I’m looking at during the film are smiles, laughs, hoots and engagement.  From that standpoint I do think folks are enjoying it.  And from a personal standpoint, it’s getting harder and harder to watch as more time passes since I’ve surfed a real wave.  The countdown to Cali is on, and the swell is looking solid for our whole first week.  I hope Colin’s ready because the froth is frothing over right now!

Charleston SUP Surfing

Yesterday I attended a JP demo day on Isle of Palms.  Charleston has a vibrant paddle surfing scene.  As it should, given the amount of surfers and lack of quality waves.  It’s a natural progression and I’d guess that as surfers in towns like Charleston realize the amount of fun possible on paddle boards we’ll have massive conversion.

I used the opportunity to borrow Corey’s 7.2 x 25 at 82Ls JP.  I’ve been wanting to paddle that board for a while given I’m a fan of the 7.4 (too wide and fat in the nose) and the 8.0 (a great board, just long).  I’m about 4kg from where I normally paddle, 3 weeks in the states will do that to me, and on this trip I’ve actually be trying to pack on a few pounds.  I get cold in Costa Rica and think having an extra few natural millimeters on the body won’t hurt in Cali.  Water temps are about 62 from what I’m seeing online and I haven’t put on a wetsuit since 2006.

Even with the extra kgs the 82L JP paddled great.  It’s a definite sinker, I was at my thigh, but the grip is so good that I was able to hold.  She’d be tough in choppy surf, but in clean conditions it would be no problem.

I can’t comment on how it surfs because the waves were about knee high and lacked any power.  I did get into a couple and it has that JP feel.  I’d expect a smaller feeling pro model.  It’s all going to be in the bottom turn.  The 7.4 lacks drive off the bottom, the 8.0 has it, but it requires a lot of rail which then limits you off the lip.  Maybe the 7.2 is the one.  I’m going to talk to Garry to see if there’s a way to test this board in some waves in Cali or back home.

My second objective was to drill on the paddle technique Larry Cain talked about on the podcast.  I use a very similar stroke.  Where we differ is in leaning forward and getting your weight on your paddle.  My contention during the show was that it would be difficult in riding smaller boards.  I felt that yesterday.

I tested it on two boards – first the 7.2.   I could get the weight forward on the toes, but every 2nd or 3rd stroke the nose would bury and require a massive shift to the tail, at times a correction back-stroke, and all momentum was lost.  I fell a number of times.  While the stoke may be faster, at this point I don’t think it’s possible on sinker boards.  I’m sure there is also a component of nose surface area, and that JP has a small nose.

The second board I rode was the 8.6 pro, pretty sure it was at 29 wide.  It was a big board but surfed much like the 8.0.  My wife shot this photo on an iphone.

Drilling on paddle weighting on the 8.6 was 100% different.  The board felt stable in the water and the nose volume, rocker and surface area held the forward weight with no issues.

At this point there is something to explore further in the stoke and the final decision may come down to the size board you’re riding.

Just like in surfing, techniques that apply to large boards don’t necessarily apply to small boards.  It’s one of the reasons why I advocate racing to the bottom ASAP.  No sense in learning techniques that won’t apply to where you want to end up.

Breaking Down Stroke with Larry Cain, Podcast

John, from Distressed Mullet, posted this video a while back –

I use it as inspiration to focus on stroke while surfing.  After a few weeks of using Larry’s stroke as a model for power and hinge I thought it would be great to get him on the show.  I asked.  He was into it.  And here it is…

Our discussion could have been broken into two shows.  The first half is a technical stroke discussion.  The back half is a window into the mindset needed to win gold in the olympics.  Both are valuable.

Random Session Notes

Random Session Notes

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.

Coaching Jason Podcast

Coaching Jason Podcast

Meet Jason.  Jason is software developer and web marketer from Santa Monica.  He started kite surfing in 2007 and in 2011 found paddle surfing.  About a year ago he stumbled across paddlewoo, listening to the podcast and reading the journal he decided that for his 40th birthday he’d like to come train at Blue Zone in Costa Rica.

Jason is an intermediate paddle surfer with a high degree of comfort in the ocean.  He catches a ton of waves, gets down the line easily and is working on more advanced turns.  He’s a great representative for the passionate paddle surfer who has more love than time, but is driven to progress.

His goal for the trip – to progress “a few years of California surfing in a week.”  A lofty goal, but one he thinks he achieved.


Jason’s progression on the Backside Slingshot Bottom Turn in 5 days.  Notice shoulders, head, paddle, hand position, paddle position and weighting.

I’ve wanted to do a podcast with a guest for a while now, and Jason proved to be the right person.  His approach to learning and ability to articulate what he’s feeling will resonate with a lot of you reading.  I highly recommend that you listen to the whole podcast and I believe it to be the most valuable I’ve recorded for the intermediate surfer who listens for tips to improve.

There is also value for the industry guys that listen as Jason is your ideal customer.  In fact we are now in a discussion about what board is next in Jason’s race down in volume, and he’s ordering a 27 North Paddle, and getting the 20% paddlewoo discount.  You can too.

Here’s some notes about the show:

  • We discuss the book Peak, by Anders Ericsson, at great length.  I might make this mandatory reading for anyone coming down to train.  Jason read it on the trip and we spent mornings over bulletproof coffee discussing its application in paddle surfing.  Peak is about the journey to mastery though deliberate practice.  It’s why I started the progression journal – to stay focused on deliberate practice in my surfing, and it’s paying massive dividends.
  • Backside Slingshot Bottom Turn – Living in Santa Monica, Jason surfs a lot of rights.  His main goal was to improve his backside surfing.
  • Seated Pop-up – Jason credits learning the seated pop-up as a massive energy saver.  We surf a lot and you want to save your energy for surfing, not just paddling around waiting for waves, but if you’re not efficient in transition between sitting and standing you’ll miss waves and burn energy.
  • Stroke Technique and Paddle Length – Jason brought his own paddle down.  Probably a 95 sq. in. blade, and cut at 4 inches over height.  He used it once then dropped down to forehead height, 85 sq. in. blade, and never went back.  On the show he discusses the paddle, changing his stoke and the net affect on wave count and fatigue.
  • Jason tells a story about surfing in crowds and not realizing the impact he was having riding a bigger board.  He was on a voluminous 8.6 and taking off way out the back, thinking no one else could catch the waves.  Then, after dropping down to the Rawson 7.10 he had to take off inside, where the longboarders sat, and other paddle surfers were taking off farther out on waves he wanted.  He realized that until he dropped down in size he was taking waves that others could have caught and didn’t realize it.  It changed his mindset about surfing in crowds.  Here’s a piece I wrote with my strategies for surfing in lineups.

If you liked this post, you’ll love coming down to train in Costa Rica with Oscar and I.  Inquire below for fall/winter dates.