Kelly Slater, paddle power. Photo: ASP/Rowland

Kelly Slater, paddle power. Photo: ASP/Rowland

The Inertia

Surfing is at least 80% paddling. That may not be sexy, but it’s true. Paddling is what puts you in position to ride on top of the waves and feel the freedom that surfing can give you, yet I regularly see so many people complain about how quickly they get tired while paddling.

The first basic mistake of paddling is this: If your back is not in hyperextension, you will get tired much faster than necessary. Having the right posture while paddling can help your power, speed, and endurance. The great news is this is actually easy to improve.

To strengthen your back and practice right form, try these hyperextensions. Do three sets of 45 seconds each.

To help master this and track your progress, I created a simple cheat sheet. It includes this drill and four others that will build your foundation and endurance for paddling.

Do the drill in this sequence:

1. Lie on your stomach.
2. Raise your chest, legs, and arms from the ground.
3. Squeeze your glutes and the lower part of your back, raising the upper body.
4. Hold your arms next to your hips, creating a V shape.
5. The arched position will create a space between the ground (board) and your chest (ribcage). This is the perfect position you are looking for.

Make sure you do the drill the right way:

-Keep your legs in the air and balanced over the stringer (above the middle line of the board).
-Keep those legs closed or crossed.

Common mistakes include:


-When beginners paddle, they often forget about their legs and drag them in the water. This acts like an anchor and significantly reduces your speed in the water. This exercise is also meant to correct for this, forcing you to lift your legs up.
-If you find the drill too easy to do, hold an extra weight in your hand (e.g. 0.5-liter water bottles, or 1-2 kg weights)

The above drill helps your body memorize the correct posture for paddling. Try it out in the water for yourself and enjoy the benefits it will bring to your paddling. Simply repeat the above drill in the morning for at least three days to start reaping the rewards during your next surf session.

In a few weeks, I will post a more difficult version of this exercise. Make sure you practice this in the meantime and let me know if this helped you, or what you want me to cover next by emailing me at




Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.


Weekly. Free.
Just like a set wave.

Everything that matters in surf + outdoors
directly to you inbox.

We take your privacy very seriously.
Unsubscribe at any time.
Subject to Terms and Conditions.

No thanks