Different Paddling Stances and When I Use Them (with photos)
Surf Journal – Rode the Starboard 7.4 again. I’ve got about a week or so to decide what board I want to ride for the last contest of the year here in Costa Rica. It’s in Playa Hermosa, which is a heavy beach break, lots of barrels… and it will be in June which is our S swell season, so the likelihood of bigger surf is high. Lots of power, hollow sections, possibility of breaking a board, means I might opt for the starboard for the contest. Today I worked on timing more vertical turns. Amazing how that board comes off the lip. I think I can turn it almost as hard as a shortboard… and it’s way faster. I wish I had a touch bigger back fin to test. Right now I’m using an adapted AM2, which is a bit smaller than the Performer L that I have up front. I lose a bit of drive off the bottom and it probably contributes to why I don’t like surfing it on rail so much. But I hate it as a quad (with what I have tried) and don’t have a larger option. My plan is to ride it for the next week and get a video session in… then review it against the Infinity… see where it’s at.
Here’s a photo from the morning on the Starboard… Weight ALL the way back trying to keep the nose out. Just took the traction off that board, switching for an OAM Pad that Boehne gave me… that thing got so heavy. His new pad is way lighter.
My recent posts about surf stance and race stance has prompted a number of emails and comments asking for more information on the subject… So here it goes. I’ve taken some (bad) photos of feet on a surfboard (it’s a shortboard, but I didn’t feel like taking fins out of a standup to get the shots… great board by the way, Tomo is on to something special). What follows are photos of the different stances and when I use them. Note… I’m no Danny Ching, Connor or Kalama. I only took an interest in the paddling side of paddle surfing about a year ago and that was just to catch more waves… I’m a surfer who believes that paddle surfing is more fun on most days than surfing. Now I do find it an art, and spend time on the craft… Anyways, here are my best practices.
1. Parallel, Race Stance
In the course of my paddle surf journey, I’ve used this less than any of the others. I find that paddling smaller boards requires the need for front/back balance and I feel very unstable while in a parallel stance. That said, I do work on it now, and feel ok in glassy conditions. I surf a reef break that requires a 15 minute paddle to get out to the break and my current “game” on the paddle out is parallel stance and trying to “J” stroke on my weak side. It’s coming, but in good surf you won’t see me paddling around in this stance.
2. Semi Parallel Stance
What separates the semi parallel stance from my normal stance is the separation off the stringer. It squares me up a bit more and I have more drive off of my weak side. I am not as stable as in my normal stance, but I’m not bad either. There is still more of a transition than I’d like to get to a surf stance, so when paddling for a wave I won’t use this stance. But I do like the front back stability, back toes are a bit ahead of front heel. And it is a fast way to paddle.
3. Normal Paddling Stance
This is my 70% stance. The front foot is very close to the centerline of the board and back foot is tucked under so that the heels line up. I find the back foot, pointing out at a 45 gives you a ton of stability side-to-side and you’ve got the front back covered as well. What is great about this stance is that you can, and I do, move my back foot a lot. When you ride a smaller board, that sinks a bit, at times you need to get back close to your tail to keep the nose up. If the nose goes in, you’re more likely than not to fall. If you can keep the nose up and the paddle in the water, you can keep stable. Also, on a smaller board the sweet spot for balance becomes smaller. If you’re riding a 32 inch board, it’s going to be hard to control balance side-to-side with both feet on the stringer. On a 24-26 inch board, you won’t have a problem.
4. Narrow Surf Stance
I would say that I paddle into 80% of the waves I catch close to this stance. It’s very similar to my normal paddling stance but the front foot is now pointing at your toe side rail and your back foot has dropped back 3-6 inches. It’s very powerful paddling on your toe side rail and you’ve got a ton of stability as long as you keep your weight erring on that side, because you can always use your paddle to keep you up. To transition to surf stance when you catch a wave, it’s just front foot back to back foot and back foot to tail. There are places in surfing where time matters more than others… Of of those time-critical places is the takeoff. If you’re spending 1 or 2 seconds getting your feet right after you catch a wave, that’s time your not setting the wave up. You’re missing speed and not drawing the lines you should be drawing.
5. Full Surf Stance
I tend not to use the full surf stance unless the wave is steep and I’m pretty late. It compromises your stroke by limiting your extension and pull. In this stance I shorten my pull and really dig. Cadence matters. Fast and hard. The beauty here is that you can take off SOOOO late. Most folks don’t realize how deep you can take off on a paddle board. Once you get confident, you can pretty much catch a wave as it’s breaking. Depending on how late the drop is, I’ll keep my front foot in its normal position or I’ll transition all the way back to the tail. To make a super late drop, you’ll need to use the paddle right as you’re catching the wave to pull your nose up and keep your board horizontal, while pulling hard into the wave. You can basically land at the bottom of the wave like a floater.
Hope that helps!