This is a repost from a series written by Katie Elzer-Peters last year on how to paddle in the ocean.
Part one of this little series covered the concept of “Angle” as it relates to Ocean paddling.
I’m recapping some of the most helpful, important information I learned at Dan Gavere’s “Intro to Ocean Paddling” clinic at the 2015 Carolina Cup. We’re working through the three part acronym “PAL.” “A” is angle. “P” is power.
Before I get much into the power part, I want to stress that if you’ve never paddled in the ocean before, it is a GOOD IDEA TO TAKE A LESSON. Did I type that in all caps? DID I? WELL YES I DID! The ocean is a whole different beast than flat water, as as we have so many beginner and intermediate paddlers reading this website, I want to stress that it is important to learn ocean board handling skills. It is also a good idea to take a buddy with you. If you look in the “recommended posts” at the bottom of this article, you’ll find some other useful ocean info posts to read. AHEM. Let’s get started.
Sign Up for the Clinic, Always
Why do you want to take a clinic if you can read things here?
Because I am only covering a fraction of the things I learned. Because there is NOTHING like having a pro, who is also a good teacher, standing next to you, individually helping you figure out what you need to do to be better. Because you need context for each of these tidbits.
Dan told us “When you decide to go, you have to commit.” That’s part of power. You go and you paddle and you don’t stop until you’re out. If you hesitate you’ll get pushed back to the beach by incoming waves as they break.
I had generally wondered why racers would run into the whitewash and dive onto their boards. It’s all about the momentum. You start going and you keep going by getting your paddle into the water as fast as possible and stroking.
If you’re me, you walk into the whitewash, freak out, stand there trying to keep the board from flopping all over the place, and then get pushed around by the waves. IT IS TIME FOR ME TO BREAK THAT HABIT and having Dan standing next to me saying “Go! Go now! GO GO GO GO!” helped a lot.
My problem seems to be that I wait until too long to decide to go so I don’t get any benefits of the messy shorebreak. I end up trying to paddle smack in the middle between waves instead of hopping on and hammering the split second right after the previous wave passes my knees. Then I don’t have the time to get out, up, and over before the next one breaks.
If you time it right you can actually harness the momentum of whitewash flowing back into the ocean after it runs up onto the beach.
To do that you have to be on your board somehow–knees, lying down, or standing up–before the whitewash starts rolling back at you. You might even end up trying to get your board on top of the unbroken wave, sliding down the back of it. That’s how quickly you need to get “on board” after a wave passes to get out before the next one.
(I drew myself lying down because sometimes I tend to fling myself on my board and just prone paddle out. Dan can just run and jump on his board and start paddling. I aspire to that. I also don’t want to break my ankle again. In this gallery-worthy drawing, I should be sliding down the back (away from the beach) of this wave and then popping up!)
Some of this has to do with the “L” in “PAL.” “L” stands for lift, which is the position of your feet on the board and the angle of the nose and tail (up and down-not left to right) in the water.
However, if you can time it right, be on your board at the right time in the right place, you can power out through the waves.
When getting out, every second counts. There’s no time to hesitate. There is no advantage to being in the impact zone, facing out. Get on and go.
I’ve taken the liberty of drawing Dan paddling in a screenshot from Starboard’s 2014 Battle of the Paddle video highlights. Dan told us about how, during BOP, he found himself at the finish debating whether to wait for a swell to ride in or grind out the last yards which could put himself in a place where the guys he had just spent the last hour leaving behind would catch a wave and catch him and he would be clobbered. Or maybe he didn’t chose to wait. Point being, he WAS stuck at a bad place in between sets and ten guys behind him DID catch a wave at a good time and pass him.
Whether you are racing or just paddling in from an ocean session you have to decide whether to surf a wave in or paddle in between waves or sets. Sometimes power means deciding to wait. Sometimes it means hammering to catch a bump and pulling up if you don’t catch it.
For me, currently, it involves getting as close as I can by riding bumps in and then getting down on my knees before the waves break. Then I scootch back on my board and get as close to the beach as possible before rolling/hopping/flailing off my board. (But that’s lift.) Dan said “YOU ALWAYS GET POINTS FOR SELF-PRESERVATION FROM ME.” I’ll take it. Again, until I’m better, I’d like to avoid broken bones caused by jumping off my board in shallow water.
And don’t forget about your leash. Dan says to take it off just before you get out of the water, before you can touch.
Stay tuned for part three.