Getting Started Tips

Paddling Out Efficiently

paddling out efficientlyPaddling out into the surf is one of the best feelings.  You finally freed up some time to surf, your whole session awaits you, the possibilities are limitless, today could the the day you finally perfect that new move you've been working on.  But that is a lot less likely if you get tired out after only an hour in the water.  So stop wasting your strength on the paddle out and save it for the parts that count like catching the wave, riding to your fullest potential and of course high fiving everyone in the lineup after you nail that maneuver. 


Paddling out is a necessary evil, but if you do it smart, you can save up to 50% of your energy, which can easily allow you to double your session.  The three tips to paddling out efficiently are: look for channels, don't extend your paddle back, time the sets & finally, paddle with purpose. 


1. Look for Channels: this tip alone can save you tons of energy and frustration.  Heck, even the pros couldn't surf many of the worlds best waves if it weren't for channels. 


So what exactly are they?  Basically as waves go to shore, they bring water in with them, that water needs to go back out to sea somewhere and water always finds the path of least resistance.  There are certain spots where the water is literally channeled back out to sea.  These spots are usually deeper, and so the waves aren't breaking in them, which means there is less resistance coming at you.  So do the math, +1 water moving out to sea, -1 waves going towards shore = +2 a good place to paddle out. 


surfing paddle out channelsHow do you spot a channel?  Well first, look at where all of the surfers are paddling out, that is probably it.  If you're at a remote spot, a good thing to look for is a spot where there is no white water.  At beach breaks the channels might not be as well defined because the waves are shifting constantly, but reef & point breaks usually have a pretty specific paddle out zone that once you learn once, you can use again and again.


2. Don't Extend Your Paddle Back: This tip is for everyone that tries to milk out that last bit of juice from every wave they get on.  You know who you are.  You ride until the wave isn't really breaking and you have to do that awkward move where you pump up and down on your front foot trying to get back in the wave.  It isn't good surfing, it won't help your session and quite frankly, you look like a kook.  (After seeing you do that, do you think any girl could take you know what I'm getting at) 


So, when the wave dies, get off of it.  You want to spend all of your time surfing in the critical section of the wave.  Once it peters out, duck over the top and get back into position for the next wave.  This might seem contradictory, because if you're only getting a few waves an hour, you want to extend them, but trust me, if you do this, you will have more energy to win those paddle battles and in the end you will get more wave time in a higher quality of wave, which is what you need to improve. 


3. Time the Sets: Every wave that you have to duck dive/turtle/push through will set you back a few feet.  That is just what happens.  So consider this, if a paddle out was 100ft and each wave pushes you back 10ft, and during your paddle you must go through 5 waves, you total paddle out will be 150ft, 100 for the distance and 5x10 for the waves.  That is 150% of the paddling you intended to do and probably took 150% as long. 


If you can time the sets, you can catch the last wave of the first set and get out just under the first waves of the next set, meaning you saved yourself a few waves on the head.  In reality, you paddle out might be 300-400ft long, which could mean the difference between an extra, 200ft of paddling (400x 50%) every time you end up near shore.  Over a day that could easily be 1,000-2,000ft of paddling you saved just by timing the sets. 


This tip can even work if you're only half way in because most of the waves will have broken and begun to fade by then.  If you paddle out into the breaking zone in the middle of the set, you'll take the brunt force of the waves, but if you sit on your board in the shallows, you can make a move once the set is coming to an end. 


4. Paddle With Purpose: If you don't paddle hard when its time to get out, you will greatly increase the amount you have to paddle.  As mentioned in tip 3 every wave you go through will push you back and mean more paddling.  The slower you paddle, the more waves you will encounter.  The more waves you encounter, the more you will get pushed back and the more paddling you will have to do.  By the time you get to where you just were, there will be another set and you might very well spend your whole day paddling out without ever reaching the outside.  Does this sound familiar?  I know it has happened to me before. 


So here is what you do.  Suck it up and paddle hard.  Read the other tips, read our article on proper paddling technique and get your butt to the outside fast.  Don't overdue it and burn yourself out, but for Slater's sake, get moving like you want to be out there in the lineup.  It might not be easy the first time, but keep it up and you'll be in good shape in no time. 


So remember; look for channels, don't extend your paddle back, time the sets and paddle with purpose.  Do you have any other tips for paddling out?  Let us know how these worked for you or your other tips in the comment box below.

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