Ever watched those surfers who get outback in a matter of seconds and wonder how they do it? Or those who do just two paddles and get straight onto the wave? These surfers have got their paddle technique dialled – they make it look effortless!

If you’re new to surfing, paddling can be completely exhausting. Even when you’re a more experienced surfer, the wrong technique can still leave your shoulders and arms burning before you’ve even reached the lineup.

1. Positioning

It is really important to keep straight and centred. Imagine there is a straight line down the middle of your board. You also don’t lie too far forward or the nose will sink. Likewise, don’t lie too far back; this will create drag and a lot of extra work for yourself. If you’re on a foamie or mini-mal, try keeping your toes just off the tail of the board – it’s a great way to get the right feel.

2. Arm strokes

Keep your hands relaxed and your fingers slightly spread, this will give you more surface area, without creating drag. Paddle in LONG freestyle swim strokes down the length of your board. Use the rails of your board as a guide if you need; you don’t want to waste any energy on pushing water sideways. Bent elbows allow you to reach forward for your next paddle whilst maintaining momentum.

3. Elbows

At the start of each stroke your elbows should be high and your hand and forearm should enter the water in a vertical position, which will help propel you forward with a greater surface area, for a greater length of time.

4. Head

Keep your head up and arch your back when paddling. Tightening your core and pushing your hips into the board will help with your mobility and stability.

5. Legs

Try and keep your legs together and raise your feet slightly – This will engage your core and help keep you stable as you drive forward with your paddles.


Control your breathing like you would with running. Keep a good rhythm. With each paddle, Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…

If you want some extra help with your paddling, check out our Rip Curl Surf Academy

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