Paddling is everything in the world of surfing. It’s the way you get out to the waves. It’s the way you get back in from riding the waves. It’s the way you get out of the way of other people, and it’s the way you catch up to other people. Most importantly, it’s the way you catch the waves. If you paddle the wrong way, you will go very slow, and any small wave that comes up will push you back. It is very frustrating paddling for hours and realize you haven’t gone e anywhere and you aren’t going to be going anywhere anytime soon. Learning to paddle and taking the time to become good at it is nothing but beneficial. Back in the days of the Polynesians who rode on logs, they were made to be able to paddle around an island and back home before they were allowed to “walk on the water as gods” (history of surfing, Stevens, 1982)
Assuming you can lay on your board, and you are laying on it correctly, you are ready to paddle. A few things to keep in mind not to do: Do not place your legs splayed out behind you apart. This is tempting to do for balance, but will only create drag. Do not lay on the board with the nose barely out of the water, or int he water for that matter. The nose of the board should be about 2-3 inches above the water. This is the optimum way for the board to cut through the water. The weight of a person doesn’t matter unless the rails of the surfboard are underwater. If you are laying on the board, and there is water flowing over the board as you sit motionless, you might think about getting a bigger board. The board submerged like that will also cause a lot of drag. The more drag, the less speed you’ll have, and the more work you’ll have to do to paddle to get less distance.
Now that you are laying properly, reach as far as you can with one arm(it doesn’t matter which one) straight and in line with your body. If you were standing up, your arm would be directly straight above you, not angled in any other way. Cup your hand and place your hand in the water. With as much strength as you can muster, pull your hand back toward you. You’re going to pull your hand in such a way that when it comes close to the board it is going to almost go under the board, and then curve out until your hand naturally comes out of the water. As soon as your one hand comes out of the water, your next hand should be ahead of you entering into the water. The curve and slice of this stroke allows you to not disturb the natural flow of the surfboard through the water, and will not create any drag.
This is the most efficient way of paddling. It will cause you to cut through the water in the most graceful and the least drag. You r body is always balanced so that you are not sinking any part of the board at any one time, and you will quickly get to wherever you want to go. It will be tempting to paddle your feet, since we learn to swim first, do not do this. You will also be tempted to use the “windmill” method. This will cause a start stop effect, which will increase drag, and cause a great number of problems. Practice this till you can paddle with no problems and you don’t accidentally loose your balance. The more you practice the better you will be. Because of the importance of this one skill, the more time you take with it the better you will be.