Paddling Out: How to Master the Fundamentals of Surfing


As we’ve said before, surfing is approximately 90% paddling. So, it’s no coincidence that the best surfers in the world are also the most efficient paddlers. To navigate a lineup, you need to be able to read waves and understand surf etiquette, but ultimately, it’s your paddling ability that will determine the type of session you have. If you’re new to surfing and haven’t made it out to the lineup yet, or you’re an experienced surfer who struggles to paddle efficiently, our surf instructors have a few helpful tips to make your next surf session a little easier. Try these tips next time you paddle out for a North Shore surf lesson or at your home break. Continue reading below for Paddling Out: How to Master the Fundamentals of Surfing.


The goal of proper paddle technique


Oahu surf lessons

Paddling seems pretty straightforward, but you’d be surprised how much energy surfers of all skill levels waste by paddling ineffectively. When utilizing an effective paddle technique, a surfer will minimize resistance and maintain forward momentum. Ineffective paddle techniques often slow surfers down by either adding resistance or reducing their momentum. For example, if a surfer follows throw too far on each stroke, the direction of momentum shifts from forwards to down towards the water’s surface.


Common paddle technique mistakes

surf etiquette

A common misconception between surfers who paddle well and surfers who don’t is the belief that paddling harder is necessary to paddle effectively. You should be able to maintain proper paddle technique for long distances without wearing yourself out and then turn it on when you need to catch a wave or scrape over an outside set. Another common paddle mistake is leaning from side to side as you paddle, which shifts your weight and adds resistance. Lastly, the most common paddle mistake that new surfers make is performing short, shallow strokes rather than long, deep strokes. If your paddle strokes are causing an abnormal amount of splashing, chances are you’re working a bit too hard.



How to paddle effectively

paddle technique

To paddle properly, make sure your weight is centered on your board to reduce drag, keep your legs straight directly on top of the board, and keep your head and upper body still as you paddle. Perform long strokes, dragging water backward. Paddle with slightly bent elbows, not straight arms. As you conclude each stroke, lead your hand back towards the nose of your board without reaching too high out of the water. If you want to save your shoulders some work, you can even slightly drag your thumb in the water as your move your hand back towards the top of the stoke. Breath evenly between strokes and maintain a steady speed. Keep your head up, looking ahead, not resting on your board.


Our instructors at the Jamie O’Brien Surf Experience will guide you through proper paddle techniques on land before you head into the water for your North Shore Surf Lesson. The more efficiently you paddle, the more waves you will catch and the more fun you will have. If you’re planning your trip to Hawaii, book your stay at the Turtle Bay Resort so you can be close to the non-stop action on the North Shore.


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