Your Paddle isn’t a Rudder!

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
December 1, 2016

Your paddle isn’t a rudder.

Surfing is surfing whether you’re on a shortboard, longboard or paddle board.  The mechanics of surfing don’t change when you put a paddle in your hands.

Watch the Progression Project Film now, it’s free!!!

When I work with intermediate paddle surfers the majority of time is spent on correcting improper form in turns.  There’s a reason for this.  It is easier to teach/learn turns by using the paddle as a brake/rudder.  The mental representation is easy to understand, think turning a canoe.  It pulls weight back and to the inside rail, which initiates direction change.  But, just like in the canoe, it slows you down.

Proper surfing’s goal is conservation of speed.

Wind works on water to create energy in wave form.  Surfing is about maximizing and redirecting that energy.  Better surfers go faster, make more sections, utilize more of the wave face.  The type of turn used is dictated by the section and potential energy of the position.

Bottom turns and roundhouse cutbacks are rail turns, initiated at or just in front of the front fin – more fin and rail in the water means less slip, which equates to more speed.

Snaps and tail slides are done high on the wave in steep sections – areas of high potential energy.  You can burn your speed if you’re at the lip of the wave, as the potential energy will allow you to accelerate out of turns.

Watch the video below of Kai Bates through the lens of conservation of speed.  Watch where he places each maneuver, how he uses the paddle, rails and where his feet are for different types of turns.  This is a strong mental representation frame to help in decision making in wave riding.  Anders Ericsson, author of Peak, was on the podcast yesterday (should be out in about 2 weeks) and we spend a good deal of time on types of mental representations.  Changing the way you think about and approach skill acquisition will significantly ramp up your learning curve…  And I think you’ll enjoy training at a much deeper level!


Progression Journal


  • Simon

    This is pretty much where I’m at right now.

    I realised a few weeks back that my turns were a little confused. I constantly wanted to generate speed, throw up loads of spray, get vertical, slide the tail out… all over the place and at the same time with my foot positioning just as confused!

    So now I’ve put my maneuvers into 2 categories, radical and speed. When doing speed maneuvers keep my feet over the front fins and then only attempt radical maneuvers with my foot back towards the kick. I even try to remember to say “radical” (in my head but not always) as I decide to transition my foot position towards the kick for that “big” move.

    Back at home I’ve got the distances marked out in the kitchen for where my feet should be to achieve that foot positioning on my 7’4 and I do squats based on that (sometimes with a kettle bell). To try and work on my strength, endurance, flexibility and make it second nature to switch between those foot positions.

    Hopefully it will result in some marked progress come spring!

  • Horsch

    Incredible surfing by Kai. Very stylish

    Interesting that on his backhand the paddle is always on his toe side. Thus, no need for paddle switching. Fast and vertical. Shoulders and eyes facing the lip when needed. Smooth transitions.
    It seems to me the natural way to do it if you paddle-surf such an small board.

    Any thoughts?

    • Erik -- PaddleWoo

      It is easier on a smaller board but both Colin and Kalama predominantly surf backside with their paddle toeside.

  • Mitch Roman

    Is it possible you can post video on Youtube instead of Vimeo? Youtube allows the user to slow down the speed of the videos which is really helpful for me to see foot placement etc. Just a thought
    thanks. Love your work.

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