How to Paddle Effectively

So you’ve mastered the white wash – well done! Now it’s time to play with the big boys and girls at the lineup.

In one of our previous blog posts we talked about the different types of ways to paddle past the impact zone, but what about just paddling in general?

Below we outline how to paddle effectively and efficiently so you don’t waste your energy before you’ve caught your best wave!

 1.    Correct technique
First and foremost, you must have the correct technique. It is a good idea to practice paddling where there are no waves so you get familiar with the motion. 

If you’ve done a lesson before, you should know where the ‘sweet spot’ is when lying down. It’s not too far forward or too far back, it’s just right! Your torso should be close to the centre of the board as this is where you are most balanced and have the most control.

Arch your back so your chest is up and the weight is distributed towards the bottom of your rib cage. Look up and forward. We like to say “paddle proud”. Place your feet together and lift them slightly above the water to avoid any drag. This may feel hard at first, but your muscles will soon get used to the feeling.

For the stroke, slightly cup your hands and reach your arm forward. As you bring your arm through the water, keep it extended and strong making sure your hand and forearm are submerged in the water and acting as the “paddle” to propel you forward. As you bring that arm out of the water and back to the starting position make sure you do not raise it too far out of the water. You want your finger tips to hover over the water level as you bring this arm back to the starting position. Make sure you’re alternating arms – as one arm is coming out of the water, the other is going in. Calm, strong, deliberate strokes are the key to paddling! It’s not how many paddle strokes you’s however effective and efficient each stroke is that will ensure you achieve a great paddling style.

2.    Look for channels
To be able to get to the perfect spot in the lineup, we first must understand and identify what channels (often referred to as ‘holes” or ‘gutters”) are. As waves come to the shore, the bodies of water also need to go back out, and to do that they find the easiest way which is the path of least resistance. These are usually deeper parts of the sandbank, so the waves don’t break over them – and this is how you can identify channels. Generally, reef breaks will always have fixed channels (ie the channel will stay in the same location day in day out). Beach breaks (like Perth Go Surf’s locations at Brighton Beachand Leighton beach) on the other hand generally have dynamic channels that move from day to day.

3.    Time the sets
Every wave you duck dive or turtle roll through will set you back, so you want to minimise their impact as much as possible. Spend some time looking at the ocean before you paddle out to get a feeling of the rhythm and timing of the waves on any particular day. You will notice that there will be periods of time where the waves are smaller which are often followed by ‘sets’ of larger waves. By identifying these ime periods before you enter the water, you can better time you entry into the water and avoid constantly being pushed backwards by the larger ‘set waves’.

4.    Paddle with purpose
The slower you paddle, the more waves you will encounter in the impact zone and the more turtle rolls/duck dives you will have to perform. And from the third point above, we know every wave you break through will set you back a bit. Paddle with purpose to minimise your time fighting the impact zone. Just remember that once you have paddled past the impact zone and have reached the clear water ‘out the back’ you will have time to catch your breath. Once you have caught your breath it’s then time to look for the perfect wave to surf back to shore!!


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