Welcome to our new monthly feature on the best ways to be an awesome surfer. Each month we’ll ask some of our favourite surfer legends about the tips and tricks that have had the biggest impact on their surfing.
Why? Because the great thing about surfing is that there’s always room for improvement, you’re constantly learning. And what never fails to fascinate me is that even the tiniest adjustment to what you’re doing can make a huge difference to how well you’re surfing. And even if it’s something you’ve heard before, it never hurts to remind yourself. And so onward to this month’s advice…
First up, I thought we’d start with the most common piece of advice we heard when we started asking people.
“Paddle, paddle, PADDLE! …and then paddle once more”
I know, I know, it’s not groundbreaking, but it’s so important that it’s always good to get reminded once in a while… In fact I think it’s so important that I often think about getting ‘one more paddle’ tattooed somewhere just to remind me!
All too often I see people out surfing who keep missing waves and I feel bad for them and so desperately want to yell at them to paddle harder, because from a distance you can see that if they just gave it one or two more paddles they’d probably have caught the wave.
I blame the good surfers…
…they get out back in no time, half-heartedly paddle for waves, maybe two or three times, and then they’re up and riding and it looks like no effort whatsoever. Yeah I hate them too!
But when you’re learning and you look to the really good surfers to learn, and those few short paddles are all you see. What you can’t read from simply watching them is that what looks like just a few short paddles are actually a combination of great underlying paddle strength and the knowledge and experience of having spent a lot of time in the water to read the waves and get in the perfect spot so that less effort is needed.
Unfortunately for most of us, we’re not that good (and I firmly count myself in this camp) so we have to paddle as hard as we possibly can. I miss waves more often than I’d like because I don’t keep paddling long enough or try hard enough, mainly through being a bit lazy or because actually the wave coming towards me is ever so slightly bigger than I’m really comfortable with and I bottle out! But it was a revelation to me when I realised the difference it can make. And even though I know how much better I surf when I actually paddle properly, I still need to be reminded of it on a fairly regular basis.
The (kind of) science behind it
To get on the wave you need to be going at roughly the same speed as the wave is travelling, so if you keep missing waves even though you’re in the right spot and picking the right waves, it’s likely you’re not going fast enough. Solution… paddle harder (or get a bigger board, but that’s another subject altogether… read our thoughts on board size here)
The bigger the wave gets, generally the faster it will be travelling. Lovely mellow waves will be travelling at around 10mph, double overhead barrels will be going about 20 and huge monsters that need a tow in about 35mph.
So you need to get yourself and your board up to speed and the faster the wave, the harder you’ll need to paddle. That’s why on massive waves (like the ones we’ve seen in Europe this week) people ride much bigger boards and/or get towed in by jetski.
So the motto of the day is PAADDDLLLE! Commit to going and paddle hard, as if your life depends on it!
If you’re paddling like your life depends on it and you’re still not getting anywhere, you might need to work on your paddling strength.
We’re working on an exciting project to help you get fit and surf ready in just four weeks. Sign up to our newsletter (just over there up the top on the right hand side) and you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready. Our awesome new surf fitness plan, Shit to Fit, has just launched and will help you get those arms into shape in no time! Click here to get it now.
Hat tip to Chris Phillips, Ellie Jahnz and Frederick Parkes for reminding me of how important this one is.
What’s the best piece of surfing advice you’ve ever heard, or what small tip made a massive improvement? Let us know in the comments below…