How to Paddle a Surfboard

Paddling is probably one of the most important skills to develop in your first months of surfing. Studies have shown that surfers spend over 50% of their time in the water paddling.

Most of the common problems of catching waves can be directly related to a poor or inefficient paddling technique.

Paddling a Surfboard
Paddling a Surfboard

Paddling is what makes us tired, but it is also how we can save energy. When you are paddling well, you'll be able to get out the back faster and not spend your time battling against the white water and using up your energy. Paddling is also how we catch waves, so if you are paddling well, you'll be able to catch all the waves you want.

Steps and Technique to Paddling

When paddling keep your body and head straight, chest up and back arched, so the bottom of your rib cage is the uppermost part of your body on the surfboard. Once you get the balance right, lift your feet up off the board also. A rule of thumb is the nose of your board should be 1-2 inches above the water. The other thing to remember is that the bigger the surfboard you are on the easier it will be to paddle and catch waves.

Read more about choosing the right surfboard

Paddling a Surfboard

  • Your paddle stroke should be essentially like a crawl swimming stroke.
  • Keep your fingers relaxed and spread
  • Use deep strokes, as close to the surfboard as possible.
  • Be relaxed, tense arms make for an inefficient stroke.
  • It should be smooth and not splashing lots of water about the place.
  • Your head and body should be straight and balanced on the surfboard.
  • The paddling stroke should be efficient not necessarily fast.

The basic paddling stroke is easy to learn, but paddling efficiently takes lots of practice. Over time you will get better at paddling your surfboard, which will eventually result in you having to paddle less as each stroke becomes more efficient, and you will be catching every wave you want.

Paddling a Surfboard

Get a feel for paddling around on the surfboard and the balance of it, one of the most important skills that helps with paddling is where you lay on the surfboard.

Other Paddling Points

When you first start out you will get some chest discomfort after surfing, especially around the bottom rib bones. The next time you go surfing it can be quite painful. This is normal and after a few times out in the water you won't experience this anymore.

The other thing that you will get is a rash on your chest and nipples, this can be painful too!! This is also normal and will also go away after a few surfs. If not, invest in a rash guard or rash vest. Now you know the reason why a rash guard is called a rash guard/vest.

Paddling Tip

Once you get better at paddling, you can try the 'S' stroke this is not much different except that you curve your stroke so that your hands go under the surfboard. The S stroke helps the water move faster under the board giving you more power and speed.

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