With most of our time in the water spent paddling, it is in a surfer's best interest to maximize their paddling potential to catch more waves and surf longer sessions.
Your surfing paddling posture plays a massive role in the efficiency of your paddle speed and power. Seeking improvements to your posture is a great place to start honing in on paddle perfection, and here are a few simple ways to do so.
Your paddling posture is the way your body lays on the surfboard when paddling. If you are new to surfing, you want to ensure you build the correct habits and avoid the bad ones. To practice this posture, we suggest removing the fins from the surfboard and laying it in the sand/grass, and then taking the board into flat conditions to give it a go in the water.
You need to position yourself on the 'sweet spot' of your surfboard to reduce drag and increase speed while paddling. The goal is to find the point of equilibrium on your surfboard that allows it to glide on the water effortlessly. Too far up on the deck, and your nose will start to sink. Too far back, and the tail will push into the water and increase drag. Position yourself within the middle of the board, and make adjustments based on how the board responds. Take mental notes of where this sweet spot is (when the nose extends just about an inch out of the water and where the tail doesn't sink), and even slap a sticker down for a reference if needed.
Once you've found your board's sweet spot, it's time to get your surfing paddling posture position right. Starting with your back, you want to keep it nice and arched as you paddle. Don't lay flat on the surfboard, and hold your chest up high and open, keeping the lower abdomens on the board's deck.
You want to keep your head up, as well, with your eyes forward. Don't plant your forehead on the surfboard deck. As you paddle, try keeping your head as still as possible, versus moving it side to side as you would when swimming, to keep that forward momentum going. Instead of moving your head, you can lightly roll the center of your body left and right against the rails as each arm paddles.
Now for the legs and feet, as this is vital. Many new surfers keep their legs down, which places their feet and lower legs in the water, and this acts as a sort of anchor on the back of the surfboard that increases drag and slows you down, requiring more upper body strength than needed when paddling. Avoid keeping your feet in the water, and lift them up by bending your knees. Keep your feet closed, and you can try intertwining your feet by wrapping them together, centering them along your board. If your board has a stringer, you can use this to reference exactly where the center of the surfboard is located.
The key to good surfing paddling posture is to properly position your arms along the rails of the surfboard by keeping your elbows nice and high. With your elbows high, you are utilizing the simultaneous strength of your arms, chest, and shoulders to the greatest extent. High elbows ensure that your forearms and hands remain vertical when placed into the water to initiate a paddle stroke, which results in longer, more defined, and stronger paddles.
Paddle one arm at a time, and as you reach each individual arm out to paddle, position them close to the rails of the board, pulling your arm back parallel to the rail. Don't reach too far to one side, and instead, extend towards the nose of your board by keeping your arms parallel to the deck.
Hand position is a subtle aspect of proper surfing paddling posture that makes a huge impact. To increase the speed and power of your paddles, keep your hands cupped throughout the entire motion. This cupped hand positioning allows you to 'grab' more water as you pull your arms back, like webbed fingers, for more efficient paddling.
To perfect your paddling posture, try this simple exercise at home:
Paddling posture requires a good bit of flexibility and loose joints. If you find that you are particularly sore after a long session or if there are small bouts of discomfort as you paddle, then chances are you need to work on your flexibility while increasing your range of motion.
Simple stretching before a session will help out a ton, but it's a good idea to make flexibility exercise a consistent practice, even if you're not surfing that particular day. Focus on stretches that work to extend the back, chest, shoulders, and arms.
Yoga is honestly your best friend, as many yoga poses are very similar to surfing paddling posture, such as the cobra position. We've outlined some of the best yoga poses for surfers, so give it a look when you're ready to increase your overall flexibility and enhance your ability to remain in the proper surfing paddling posture for more extended periods and to reduce the risk of injury and post-surf soreness.
As well as flexibility, general strength will help to keep your entire body healthy and strong to ensure the physicality required while maintaining the correct posture is met. There's never a better time to implement an effective surfing fitness routine, as this is a sure-fire method to become a better surfer (and paddler!), even when you aren't spending time in the water.
Visit our page, "Boardcave's Guide to Surfing Fitness," for all the resources needed to reap the endless rewards of amped-up physical fitness and to further ready your body for the hours of paddling soon to come.