Arch like a cobra: the most efficient way of paddling while surfing

Yes, probably you don’t enjoy the paddling part of surfing that much. But it will be still 80% of your surfing. Here is how to do it more efficiently. (you can download a tracking worksheet here)

In this series, we have covered fixing the nosedive, having better hand placement for standing up, fixing your stance and controlling your speed so far.

Now it is time for the least favorite, but most useful subject, paddling.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Surfing is 80% paddling and 20% surfing on the waves, particularly when you are beginning.

Considering this, paddling is one of the most important drill what you should learn properly and do efficiently. Do this drill in the last 2 weeks before your next surf trip to get yourself ready for the waves.

To help you understand how to do this, we will look at the Cobra for inspiration:

Quick analysis — typical beginner paddling mistakes

If your head and chest are pressed against the surfboard deck, it is harder and more inefficient to paddle with your arms.

Of course when you start a new sport neither your physical condition, nor your paddling technique is great.

In the beginning, your back muscles will give up easily. By doing this drill, you can avoid lying on your board as a ”dying cockroach”.

How to paddle efficiently

1. Arch your back

The best posture for paddling is with your back arched and your head up, looking forward, as opposed to lying flat. This arched position makes it easier for your shoulders and arms to paddle. It can also help you with the orientation during paddling.

2. Keep your legs in the air and intertwined on the stringer (above the middle line of the board).

When beginners paddle they often forget about their legs and they end up in the water. This acts like an anchor and significantly reduces your speed.

3. Keep your elbows high above the water when bringing them forward

This will change the angles in your shoulder and give you more power. Paddle by alternating arm strokes, replicating the freestyle stroke. Cup your hands somewhat and keep your fingers slightly apart to maximize efficiency. Even if you think you are a good swimmer, it is a good video to watch a video like this to drill in the correct movement.

How to practice the correct technique

This is one of the easiest exercise to practice. To drill in the right movement, you can do this simple exercise at home:

Take down a book from your shelf. The thickness of the book needs to be around 5–10cm.

This will be your friend and also your enemy during the paddling drill 🙂

1. Lie on the floor on your belly

Concentrate on laying in the correct position (close your legs, head pointing forward)

2. Hyperextend (forcefully arch) your back

Squeeze your glutes and the lower part of your back and raise up the upper body. The arched position will create a space between the ground (board) and your chest (ribcage). This is the perfect position what you are looking for.

3. Put the book close and right below your chest

Exaggerate the prone position and push the book as close as you can. During the exercise, your chest can not touch the book.

Pay attention to the arched back and the chest that does not touch the books. This is the correct form.

4. Start paddling with your arms

Keep the distance between your chest and the book. The goal is to increase the endurance of your back muscles by practicing the drill based on the paddling chart.

5. Use the paddling worksheet to track your progress

I created a simple paddling worksheet that you can download here to track your progress.

Print it out and put it somewhere where you can regularly see it (e.g. on the fridge door or on your dining table). This will nudge you to do this exercise more. You will see your progress clearly.

Beneficial side effect: By doing this drill day by day you will be surprised that how quickly your posture will improve!

Using this simple drill, you will have a chance to ride a lot more waves and have more fun surfing. And that is what matters.

Because fun in surfing = catching the most waves during your session.

Let me know if this helped you, or what you want me to cover next by emailing me at [email protected], or sign up below.



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