This guy doesn’t even have arms, but he’s still gonna teach you how to paddle more efficiently.

The Inertia

As a beginner, you probably don’t enjoy the paddling part of surfing very much. Whether you love it or not, it will still make up 80% of your time and effort surfing. This post is designed to show you how to do it more efficiently (you can download a tracking worksheet here).

Remembering that 80% rule, paddling is clearly of the most important things you should focus on learning properly and eventually doing efficiently. Give yourself two weeks with this drill and take note of how your paddling power and efficiency have improved. And to help understand this we will look at the cobra for inspiration:

Quick Analysis — Typical Beginner Paddling Mistakes


Paddling becomes more difficult and your energy is used far less efficiently when your head and chest are pressed down against the deck of your board.

Of course, when you start any new sport neither your physical conditioning or technique are going to be great. In the beginning, your back will tire easily easily. By doing this drill, you can avoid lying on your board as a ”dying cockroach.”

3 Keys to Paddling 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 controlling their legs, which end up in the water. This acts as 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. 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 simplest exercises to practice:

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

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.



Note: Let me know if this helped you, or what you want me to cover next by emailing me at


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