The 300 Paddle Rule
For the average beginner to intermediate surfer, there is a certain number of paddles everyone has in the gas tank before becoming exhausted and using a poor paddling technique. After working with a number of students and observing their energy level with 2-hour private surf lessons. A large majority of them would burn themselves out within the first hour and struggle during the back half of the lesson.
This became a common trend in most of my advanced surf lessons. I completely understand that surfing uses new muscles which are different from any other sport, but I couldn’t understand why they were getting tired so quickly.
Now as for myself, I can paddle almost nonstop with very few breaks for 2-4 hours no problem, but again, this is from surfing almost every day for 20+ years. But more importantly, it’s my paddling TECHNIQUE that allows me to maintain energy levels so I can stay out as long as I want.
This is where I discovered the 300 Paddle Rule. We basically have on average 300 strong paddles in us per session. The key is to use proper paddling techniques so we do not waste all of our energy early in the session. We need to save our strong paddles for when we need them most. For example: When you are catching a wave, big sets coming in, someone looks like they might run you over and you need to get out of the way, etc….
So the question is, how do we maximize our energy?
There are 2 types of paddling techniques that you must learn. The first one, and most important in my opinion, is the “Jog paddle.” This is a smooth and steady paddle that if done correctly, should really not waste very much energy at all. Unfortunately, most beginners do this incorrectly. The key to properly excelling with this paddle is to not tense up on your muscles. The best way to tell if you are tensing up too much is the limp wrist test. When you are in this Jog paddling mode your hands should not be stiff in one position, instead, they should feel loose and relaxed in an almost floppy feel. It should feel like your arms are on autopilot.
The second paddling technique is the “Sprint paddle” which is the one that burns energy the quickest. These paddles should only be used when needed. The most common misuse of this is when beginners are trying to catch waves. They expend way too much energy paddling for waves they can’t catch. And then turn around to see bigger waves breaking outside- which puts them in another situation where they will lose more energy paddling back out. The key here is to use the Jog paddle to get yourself into a better position to catch waves, this way you only need to use 3-4 Sprint paddles per wave which will help conserve energy and lengthen your time out in the water.