Experienced surfers go through an unconscious mental checklist each time they paddle out in the surf. 

This checklist helps them to paddle out the back quickly, with minimal energy loss, and way less chances of getting smashed. 

Beginners on the other hand make the same simple mistakes time and time again.

The result?

They get zapped of energy, they get smashed, and they oftentimes don’t even make it out the back. 

All of this can be avoided however, as your about to find out.

WHY ARE BEGINNERS SO BAD AT PADDLING OUT?

Granted, beginner surfboards are generally bigger, and more buoyant than the surfboards used by more experienced surfers, which makes it harder to duckdive under waves.

However, that’s not the main reason they find paddling out so difficult. 

Instead it’s because they hit the water with no plan, they’re unable to read the waves, uncomfortable using rip currents (or unable to spot them altogether), and are unaware of the ebbs, flows, and rhythms of the ocean. 

All of these factors together result in beginners getting smashed & gassed way more than they need to.


TACTICAL PADDLE OUTS: PRE PADDLE OUT CHECKLIST FOR BEGINNERS

Ok I mentioned earlier that experienced surfers go through a mental checklist unconsciously each time they paddle out, a checklist of signals they look for before even touching the water. 

We call this process ‘Tactical Paddle-Outs’. 

Let’s break it down below:


STEP 1. IDENTIFY RIPS, GUTTERS, OR CHANNELS

Experienced surfers are always looking for the easiest way to paddle out, the path of least resistance. 


So before they step foot in the water they’ve already surveyed the lineup for any easy pathways out. 

They’re looking for:

  • Rip Currents: Rips are bodies of water moving out to sea. 
  • Gutters: Gutters are deep water sections between the shore and out the back.
  • Channels: Channels are deep water trenches that separate one sandbank from another (or one reef from another).

Once you’ve identified the path of least resistance from the shore out the back, move onto the next step. 


STEP 2: IDENTIFY ANY CROSS SWEEP

Water doesn’t just move from the shore out to sea, it can also move across the beach too. 

This is called a cross-sweep.

Failing to identify a cross sweep can result in you entering the water in one spot (the path of least resistance), yet getting swept off your path into the path of MOST resistance - where most beginners are usually found. 

So, it’s important to identify cross sweeps before you enter the water, and make any adjustments to your entry point in the process. 


STEP 3: WADE & DELAY

Most beginner surfers pay little attention to the rhythms of the waves, oftentimes just strapping on their legrope and paddling full force from the get go. 

The result?

They rarely time their paddling between the sets, and end up getting wave after wave on their heads. 

Experienced surfers however will wade out to their waist/chest, wait for the last set wave to break then begin their paddle out the back. 

I suggest you do the same. 


STEP 4: AVOID NO MAN’S LAND…

There is a place we call ‘No Man’s Land’, and this is a place that beginners love to congregate and crystallise in the water. 

It’s the one place you don’t want to be, yet it’s the place beginners are always found…

No Man’s Land is that spot between the shorebreak, and out the back. 

Beginners love this spot as they often think when they’re paddling out that they’ve made it all the way out - but they haven’t.

Chilling here is a sure-fire way to get set waves dumping right on your head. 

So, do like advanced surfers do and don’t take your foot off the pedal until you’re fully out, 100% past the breaking waves. 

Then, and only then, should you relax.

 

BONUS STEP: REST & REGATHER

You’ve completed the tactical paddle out, so well done on that front, but there’s one last piece of advice you should follow. 

Rest, recoup, and regather yourself before you take off on your first wave.

Why?

Well, when you’ve just exerted so much energy paddling out you’re naturally going to be out of breath, and this is not the time to be taking off on waves - unless you’ve got a strong breath hold that is. 

Instead, take a minute to get your breath back, get settled, and then go. 

You’ll avoid getting stuck in a sketchy situation, trust me. 


WRAPPING IT UP

Paddling out in the surf is a huge part of the sport of surfing, and learning how to do it well, with minimal effort is only going to help you in the long run. 

So, next time you hit the surf don’t just wax up, strap up, and paddle straight out.

Survey the lineup first, and follow these tactical paddle out steps instead. 

You can thank me for it later. 

Yew!

Rowan. 

ROWAN CLIFFORD

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

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

ONLINE COURSES

World class tuition, taught by world class teachers.

LAST MINUTE DEALS

Last minute deals on surf charters, camps & retreats.

SIGN UP

Sign up for last minute deals & new content weekly:

>