If you’re new to surfing, even the simplest of things can prove daunting.

Take paddling out for example.

Easy in theory, but a lot more difficult in practice.

So in this article you’re going to learn exactly how to paddle out in the surf, with tips for doing it big and small waves alike, from an expert that’s been doing it for over 30 years. 

You’re in the right place, so sit down, grab a coffee, and get comfy - as you’re about to learn a tonne.


WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘PADDLE OUT’?

To 'paddle out' is to paddle past the breaking whitewater waves, out the back to where the waves no longer break.

This is easier said than done.

Why?

Well, each broken wave that hits you as you paddle out is effectively pushing you back to shore, so without the right skillset, you’ll most likely just end up at the beach right where you started. 

Hence why it’s important to learn how to navigate over, under and through these waves to help you paddle out successfully. 


HOW TO PADDLE OUT: STEP BY STEP GUIDES TO SMALL & BIG WAVES

I’ve split things up into two sections here, one for beginners, the other for intermediates and above.

Why?

The skill sets for paddling out will vary quite a bit depending upon the size of the waves, and the size of your surfboard too. 


HOW TO PADDLE OUT IN SMALL WAVES [BEGINNERS]

With beginners generally on much bigger, more voluminous surfboards, the skills required to paddle out are very different.


STEP 1. LEARN TO PADDLE EFFECTIVELY

There’s no use trying to paddle out the back to surf the unbroken waves if you’re not already a proficient paddler. 

Sure, everyone can paddle (to a degree), but there’s a big difference between doing it, and doing it well. 

So, in as little time as possible here’s how to do it:

  • Make sure your weight is centred on top of the board.
  • Find the sweet spot (not too far forward, not too far back).
  • Eliminate drag (legs together).


STEP 2. LEARN HOW TO READ THE WAVES

To make paddling out easier, it helps to know how to read the waves so that you time your paddle outs better. 

Understanding how waves break, where the break, and which types of waves to avoid, will go a long way to helping you paddle out more effectively.

the stages of the wave


STEP 3. PUSH THROUGH, CLUBBY METHOD & TURTLE ROLL

On beginner surfboards you have three ways to navigate over and through waves they are:


THE PUSH THROUGH METHOD

The push through is a way to push over small whitewater waves without getting pushed back.


THE CLUBBY METHOD

The Clubby Method is inspired by the surf lifesavers navigating their huge boards over big whitewaters. 


THE TURTLE ROLL

The turtle roll is a method used to get under bigger whitewaters, or waves that are about to break on your head.

Master each one of these techniques and you’ll be well on your way to navigating out the back.


STEP 4. DON’T GET STUCK IN NO-MANS LAND

There’s a bit between the shorebreak and the outside that we call 'no mans land', and it’s this spot that so many beginner surfers get stuck in when paddling out.

Don’t be that person.

Instead, put your head down, as this is your time to paddle hard and really make it out the back.


STEP 5. KEEP GOING

Keep going, and don’t stop until you have made it past the breaking waves, then and only then are you able to rest up.


HOW TO PADDLE OUT IN BIG WAVES [INTERMEDIATE > ADVANCED]

With intermediates and advanced surfers generally surfing bigger waves and riding shorter boards, you’ll need a different approach. 


STEP 1. SURVEY THE LINEUP

Survey the lineup before you paddle out. 

Look for

  • Where the waves are breaking.
  • Where the gutters and channels are.
  • Where the waves are breaking soft vs hard.

A few key details like this will put you in the right place to get out, with the minimum energy spend. 


STEP 2. IF THERE’S A RIP, USE IT

Good surfers use rips to help them paddle out in the surf quicker.

Why?

Well, a rip is effectively a body of water moving out to sea, and as such, can act as an elevator pushing you out past the breaking waves quicker - saving you a bunch of energy in the process. 

To spot a rip, look for the areas either side of a sandbank where you can see a conflict in the water, and where the waves are struggling to break. 

That’s your rip right there, and your rocket booster to get you out the back quicker.


STEP 3. LEARN HOW TO DUCK DIVE PROPERLY

There’s no getting around it, to paddle out through the waves you’re going to need to know how to duck dive. 

It’s a difficult one to explain, but this video below will help.


STEP 4. TACTICAL PADDLE OUTS

Tactical paddle outs are all about timing your paddle outs with the sets.

So, before you throw your leash on and run and dive in the water, take a moment to wait for a set to come first. 

Wait for the set, then go. 

Pro tip: I like to be up to my chest in the water before waiting for the final wave of the set to approach, then, paddling like a maniac from there. Being chest deep when that last wave hits give you that little extra time to paddle out before the next set comes. 


CONCLUSION

There you have it, two ways to paddle out in the surf that’ll work regardless of what size board you’re riding or your level.

Go try out these tips and let me know how you get on.

Yew!Rowan 🤙

ROWAN CLIFFORD

Rowan is the technical nerd behind the scenes. A lover of everything entrepreneurial, and living a minimal, simple life.

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