Paddling is one of the essential elements of surfing, but it's an integral part of the activity. Novice surfers often don't understand the importance of paddling and how much physical effort it requires. Many a first-time surfer will awake the following day to find their arms feeling like wet noodles. It then becomes apparent just how much paddling can take out of you from a physical standpoint.
Paddling is the first thing a surfer does when they enter the water. The paddle out to the lineup is necessary to put yourself in a position to ride waves. Paddling technique is important and can have a significant impact on your surfing. Here are the necessary steps for paddling on a surfboard:
- Find a balanced center of gravity with your stomach on the surfboard.
- Arch your back, so you're looking forward over the nose of your board.
- Begin to propel yourself forward by stroking with each arm, one at a time, alternating back and forth.
It's important to keep your body relaxed and breathe with each fluid stroke. Finding a good paddling rhythm can make it a lot less strenuous and save energy. Knowing when to begin your paddle out is important, as you don't want to have to paddle through a big set and expend additional energy that you could be using to catch waves.
The paddling certainly doesn't end once you've made it out past the whitewater. A surfer needs to constantly paddle to get into the best position to catch a wave. Catching a wave in the precise spot can make all the difference in the world. The better paddler you are, the more waves you're going to catch and the easier it will be to catch those waves. Some waves are easy to stroke into, while others require much more skill and strength. Be sure to select a surf break that fits your ability.
The best way to build up paddling strength and stamina is simply to surf as much as possible. As with many other activities, your body will become more accustomed to the physical rigors of surfing the more you do it. There are also useful stretches and yoga positions that can aid in building up paddling prowess out of the water.
Paddling is the unsung hero of surfing. People may marvel at the big turns and flashy style of surfers riding waves, but those surfers would never have gotten there without paddling. One cannot become a great surfer until they are a great paddler.