There’s a saying in surfing that the best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun. That’s true, but I’d also argue that the surfer having the most fun is the best surfer.
This morning over breakfast Jason and I were having the progression vs. fun discussion. I’ve blogged about it before, but the gist is that on a week trip you need to decide how to spend your time in the water. The options are:
- Focusing on wave count and maximizing surfing time (Fun)
- Purposefully drilling on specific skills, surfing outside your comfort zone, and working to get better (Progression)
In the first journal about the progression vs. fun decision I didn’t give adequate motivation to focus on progression. While you can have fun at any level in the sport, surfing at a higher level is much more fun.
Would you rather drive a minivan or a Formula 1?
Here are a few moments you don’t get at the beginning of the learning curve. I hope they provide motivation to work hard and improve.
- Late drops – Taking off late on a steep wave gets heart pumping. Looking over the ledge, not sure if you’ll make it, but knowing you’ve got a shot, then making it.
- Fast, high lines – Once you’ve mastered trim and pumping there’s nothing more fun that high-lining a walled up section. Stuck in no man’s land with the lip pitching out in front of you and not enough time to get to the bottom – then making it.
- Huge bottom turns – Making the drop on a good sized wave and putting everything on rail, paddle bending but holding, fins holding and slingshotting at the lip.
- Lip-line floaters – Flying down the wave, coming off of a high-line section and riding the breaking lip line down, it feels like jumping down a set of stairs, but with a foaming monster chasing you.
- Barrels – I probably could have just listed barrels. If you’ve listened to Keahi’s podcast, you heard him say it’s his favorite moment on anything he rides. It’s mine too. Words can’t describe it, so I won’t try. But it’s worth all the work and time and expense. And it’s more fun than almost anything else on the planet.
I won’t say that beginning the learning curve in a surfing sport isn’t fun. Catching your first waves, making your first lines – it’s all magic. I’m having a blast watching my kids go through the experience. And it’s good that you have to go though all the steps to get there, because if you just went out and pulled into a big barrel on your first day, unprepared mentally by years of practice , your mind explode.
So, value to process, and know the best awaits.
I was the skinniest kid in my class up until 10th grade. At some point during that year I realized that being the skinniest kid in the class, and having the nickname “Nothing but Legs” wasn’t going too far with the girls. So I did what I do and dove head-first into bodybuilding. When I do something, I do it 100%. I hit the bookstore learned as much as possible. Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding was my bible. I read it cover-to-cover numerous times. And spent 2 hours in the gym everyday, and the rest of the time eating. I gained 17 pounds of muscle in the summer between 10th and 11th grade, and came back the strongest kid in class. The guidance counselor brought me to his office and talked to me about steroids.
During that year I learned about making goals, and self-motivating to keep them. It’s easy to start a journey, much harder to finish, especially when you’re only accountable to you. I discovered somewhere there that social pressures were a great motivator. And I learned the trick of the one-way social contract.
The trick – put yourself and your reputation on the line by stating your goals as accomplishments, you’ll find a way to come through. In working out, I’d tell anyone who asked that I could bench press 5-10 pounds more than I’d ever done. This wasn’t a lie, it was a verbal contract that I had to fulfill on the next opportunity. It’s amazing how deep you can dig when there’s something on the line.
Since it looks like we don’t have funding for editing the Progression Project Origins movie (Colin, Boehne and Kalama) – and I ran out of runway well before the finish of the first Progression Project movie and am bootstrapping that – I’ve decided to make Origins the movie myself.
The plan was to get incredible clips from incredible videographers and then turn the project over. We got the clips, but there’s not budget to turn the project over. I thought I’d be able to find sponsors for the first movie and not eat it all out of pocket. That didn’t happen. I underestimated the industry’s support of the performance wing of the sport. (The industry is underestimating paddling surfing’s potential)
I’m putting it on record, right here, in this blog. I’m going to edit, start-to-finish, the Origins movie with a September release. This blog is my social contract. I’ll bookmark it and use it for motivation when the project feels too daunting. Your end of the contract is to ask me about the progress, and hold me accountable.
Buenas días folks! Here’s some notes on this morning’s session.
1. I drilled on paddle technique while surfing. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, you can read it here. The idea being that a lot of style in paddle surfing comes from technique of stroking while driving down the line and that good surfers have inactive, low front arms. We reference Mo Freitas and you can check out videos of him and John John. Goal 1 today was to consciously notice my stoke while surfing, goal 2 was to keep the front arm low. I tried a few different variations of paddling, at the beginning focusing on the front arm and all seemed awkward. I then decided to consciously focus on rear arm and to get the rear arm high in the return. This worked, and took care of the front arm. I’ll need to break it down on video to see where I’m at, but the feeling is much more in line with what I believe to be the best practice. So, if you’re going to drill on this technique, focus on your rear arm, making a punching motion, like a low right hook. The rest should take care of itself.
2. Slingshot frontside cutback. Tony, asked for this in the comments of yesterday’s journal, and it’s something I’m currently trying to improve. For my first 2 years paddle surfing I didn’t believe in paddle transitions. To be more specific, I didn’t understand the value of your paddle being on your heel side rail. Both frontside and backside I kept the paddle toeside, and this worked with my surfing. Coming from a short boarding background I understood how to get the rail in the water and my default was more power by way of pull to bring the board around. Set the rail, set the blade, push with your rear leg and pull with everything you’ve got on the paddle. I still believe this is the best turn in paddle surfing, but I did have my mind blown watching the crew on the Progression Project. Notably, Giorgio and Kieran were tight pocket wraparounds using the slightshot technique and in sections where the normal turn wouldn’t work.
Here’s a video of Fisher and Kieran Grant that showcases a variety of the slingshot turns.
PaddleWoo Presents: The Grant Boys and Steven McLean from PaddleWoo on Vimeo.
The slingshot turn is best used in fatter, bowly sections where there isn’t enough energy or wall to the wave to throw a big hack. When you do throw the big hack the spray is generated by converting you momentum into direction change and unless the wave is going to give you more energy in the form of a steep recovery, you run the risk of losing the wave or at best an ugly paddle to get more speed. The slingshot turn draws out your arc and maintains speed. It’s easy to rebound off the foam.
To start the turn you need to paddle transition to your heel side rail before you bottom turn. This will draw out your bottom turn, as you won’t have the extra leverage of leaning on your paddle, but most sections you’ll want to do the turn won’t require a huge bottom turn. The ideal section to look for is a pretty fat shoulder without a lot of run in the wave. You want time to turn, rebound and get back on the face. As you finish your bottom turn, find the section where you want to engage your slingshot cutback and the first step is engaging your rail. Rail engagement is where I’ve been playing these past few weeks. I’ve realized it’s a bit counter intuitive. With the toeside paddle hack the objective is to bury as much rail as possible and pull as hard as you can. Even if you dig the rail, you’ve got a paddle and can pull it out. With the slingshot, heel variation the anchored paddle will pull your rail into the water. So going in rail heavy will turn into digging your rail and a slow fall to your butt. Better to be tail heavy going in and then lean into the rail as needed to avoid slip.
So after you’ve found your spot and set your rail, your paddle should be simultaneously engaging at the center point in your turn. This turn is easier for beginners to learn as it forces good technique. Planting the paddle will open the front shoulder which should naturally lead the turn. Rail engaged, paddle planted. Now just hang on. I’m currently having fun with really throwing all my weight on the paddle 2/3 through the turn and letting the tail slide around and riding out fakey for a second. You can also just hold the rail and hit the foam.
I’ve posted before about the Slingshot turn here and if you want to see a step-by-step of the variation used in a backside bottom turn read this.
Play with it. Enjoy! Erik