The Zen of Paddle Surfing and Paddling Underwater Tip

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
April 28, 2016

I’m enjoying the process of being mindful while surfing and taking the time to notice what I’m experiencing.  And blogging it all makes me reflect on the session and solidifies it somehow.  I don’t really need any more reasons to be excited to surf, but this process as added a bit more stoke.

Read Yesterday’s Post on The Frontside Slingshot Turn.

Listen to the Latest Podcast with Kalama, Colin McPhillips and Dave Boehne.

One of the big draws to paddle surfing, and I don’t talk about it much, is the forced distraction of paddling a smaller board.  Short background on how I started…  I surf almost everyday, have now since 2003 since finally moving to the beach… moved to Costa Rica in 2006.  I’m a shortboarder.  Around 2010 my expectations for surfing where all out of whack.  It took incredible waves to get me pumped and most days I was disappointed or angry getting out of the water.  Three years ago we spent a couple weeks in Tavarua and it was the most fun I’d had in the water in years.  Scored Cloudbreak, Restaurants, Wilkes…  Amazing.  But it made the reality of Costa Rica beach breaks even more disappointing.  So, I started taking more risks.  Going up to heavier beaches and just pulling into closeout tubes.  It was amazing, until I took a lip to the head in a backside barrel and it tweaked me.  Separated the cartilage in my ribs and sidelined me for a bit.  To rehab, a Dr. buddy, told me to paddle.  That was my first time on a paddle board.  I was very anti at that point, but if it would get me back in the water faster, I’d do it.  So I started paddling…  A few weeks later I decided to take one out in the surf.  Being a lifelong surfer, and having made fun of SUP surfers for a while, I expected to dominate from minute one.  I was on a 9.0 C4 Waterman, at 130L.  It was windy and choppy and I couldn’t catch a wave.  It humbled me, and I hate being beaten. So I tried the next day.  Got a wave…  and that’s how it started.

At this same point, the company I was running was stressful.  My life was stressful.  So much so, that it came with me in the water.  It added to the frustration of surfing, as the downtime between sets was taken by issues I’d have to deal with later in the morning.  I think what hooked me on paddle surfing, and what fueled my race to the bottom was the zen focus that paddling an uncomfortably small board requires.  Lose focus = fall.  It took me out of my head.  Still does…

What brought that up is that today, paddling out, our first week of the “rainy” season here, we had a unique signature on the water.  We have dry and wet, not hot and cold.  This week it started raining.  Which also means a switch from offshore winds to variable winds and remnants of the storms that past overnight still bouncing around in the lineup in the morning.  I love paddling in a bouncy sea.  There’s a signature, fingerprint of the day.  Today we had a South swell, refraction off the point, South wind make a small surface chop and a N-S rip pulling out across the lineup.  Enough to make the mental part of paddling fun.  That’s one of the things I love paddle surfing vs. surfing is that there are more mental games to play.  When I used to drive on highways, I’d try to see how little I could touch the wheel in a give stretch, anticipating turns.  It’s similar paddling, anticipating bumps and being lose and calm in a bumpy ocean.  Then someone says hi and I fall…

Some progression notes from today.

  1.  Paddling underwater is efficient.  For a while now I’ve used my paddle as a tool in the whitewater while getting worked.  I have a few tactics to not break leashes… like at the beginning pull of a big wave swimming backwards underwater towards the beach to soften the yank.  Then using the paddle to slow you down a bit.  Today I discovered paddling underwater works.  High Tide and bigger surf means you’re a bit deeper than usual and today instead of swimming I decided to paddle to the surface.  Never took more than 2 strokes.  I think you can cover 4-5 feet with each stroke and it’s easier than trying to swim while holding a paddle.  I’ve also used the paddle to push off the bottom for a while.  It was too deep today which is why I decided to try paddling.
  2. I’m always amazed at the distance you can cover on a paddle board vs. shortboard.  2 waves today were fully closed-out by shortboard definition but I made both.  Enter with speed, stay super high and then get that one hard paddle on the drop into the flats.  One wave I cleared a 15m section and still had enough speed to hit it on the other side.
  3. I don’t have time to do it today, but a future blog will be about surfing in a lineup…  I’m pretty opinionated about this and we’ll get into it soon 🙂


Progression Journal

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