On Paddles

We talk so much about the role of paddles in paddle surfing, but we haven’t spent much time on the paddles themselves.  Today’s journal is observations on paddles from personal experience.

Blade Size –

For surfing, small is where it’s at.  The needs in paddle surfing are stability and acceleration, both are aided by smaller blade size.  Smaller blade size increases cadence and allows faster adjustments for balance.  I’m currently using an 85.5 sq. in. blade, but would like to test smaller.  Dave Kalama’s blade size for surfing is around 80 sq. in.

Going smaller reduces stress and injury potential.  Larger blades mean more pull, effectively more weight.  This stresses ligaments and tendons.  I did massive damage to my elbows in my first year paddling a few hours a day with a bigger blade.

Bigger blades also pose a risk in surfing.  At times, when you’re finishing a turn, you can get the paddle pinned against the board with the wave pushing at your back.  The bigger the blade, the more force exerted on your shoulder.

Shaft Size –

The tactile feel of a smaller diameter shaft is better.  If someone could figure out how to make a small shaft strong, with very little flex, it would be what I’d prefer, but in my experience, they bend and break.  I have broken two Naish and 3 Kialoa paddles – all in the center of the shaft.

So, I’ve grown comfortable using a touch bigger shaft.  Not big, but a bit bigger than the smallest out there.

Shaft size doesn’t affect surfing.

Flex –

Over the past three years, as my surfing has evolved, I’ve come to love very stiff paddles. Stiff paddles are more responsive and sensitive.  As your paddle surfing level improves, use of the paddle is more important in maneuvers, and the forces applied to the paddle are stronger.

Less flex gives a more direct connection to the wave.

Handle –

Not terribly important in my experience.  You get used to it, whatever it is.

Blade size and flex have a significant effect on surfing.  I haven’t found that same relation between shaft size or handle.

Length –

While not intrinsic to the paddle, worth mentioning.  In interviewing all the top pros I’ve found the following:

  • Paddle length range for all top surfers is between mouth height to two inches overhead.
  • There tends to be a inverse relationship between athlete height and paddle length, shorter athletes tend to use longer (relative) paddles and taller athletes tend to use shorter (relative) paddles.  I would guess this has to do both with arm length and center of gravity.

I “raced” down to mouth level and have recently gone back to eyebrow height.  I find that I have more power in paddling and reach in surfing.  Any longer and I trip on the paddle and shorter ruins my stroke and leaves me wanting in turns occasionally.

After testing 6 brands of paddles I found the best paddle for me to be the Kevlar paddle from 27 North.  I used their paddles before they starting sponsoring the show, and in fact, they started sponsoring because I told them how much I love their paddles.  I am over a year without breaking one paddle.  The Kevlar paddle comes with a lifetime guarantee.  You can get a 25% discount by using promo code “Paddlewoo.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on paddles in the comments!

F-One 7.5 x 26 Review and Sponsoring Paddlewoo

Well, the surf was lacking today, so I’m going to do some housekeeping for Paddlewoo.  After some thought I’ve decided to allow sponsorship of the site and podcast.  I’ve toyed with the idea for a while and decided that the pros outweigh the cons.

The pros are that I’ll be able to focus more on the site, journals and interviews and bringing top-level content in the niche of paddle enhanced surfing.  The cons being that once we have sponsors there is a need for content and this project goes from passion/hobby to job.  But seeing as I have kids to feed and would like to fund other projects in the sport, it seems the time is right.  So, if you’re interested contact me here.

The podcast averages 23,000 downloads/month and the site has over 3,000 active monthly readers.  The majority of you spend 3-5 minutes reading each article – gear reviews and tutorials are the most popular subjects.

Alright!  On to the 7.5 x 26 F-One.  

If you haven’t gotten to hold one yet, the weight will surprise you.  She’s light.  A good bit less than the Starboard.  She’s also strong.  I surfed the F-One daily for 7 or 8 months, and I ride boards hard.  I only put one ding in the nose – paddle slam while learning backside slingshot snaps.  And now I have a touch of delam under the toes where I bottom turn, right over the front fin.

The ride is fast.  Faster than the 7.4 and 8.0 JPs and faster than the 7.4 2015 and 2016 Starboards.  The bottom has significant concave, with V about 3 inches off of the rail.  I believe it gives more bite in rail turns and thins out the rail a good bit.  Compared to the JP and Starboard the rails are much thinner, which comes at a price of volume.  At 82 liters she is a liter smaller than the 83L Starboard and 8 less than the 90L 7.4 JP.  A definite sinker for me at 80kg.  The extra length and width over the 7.4 Starboard does aid in stability.

Thoughts on the board –

  • The F-One is the closest feel to my custom boards.  Both in weight and rail work.  She feels more like a surfboard than augmented windsurfer in trimming and down the line carry.
  • I don’t like the fin placement.  The fin setup feels too far forward to me.  But, in writing this, post-Tyler FCS discussion, I am going to revisit the board next week and try large front, small rear and see how she goes.
  • The center fin (the board is a 5 fin setup) is in front of the stomp pad, so if you back foot is squarely back on the tail, it’s behind the fin which will create slide.
  • The deck pad is terrible.  It’s slick and gets heavy in the water.  I might rip it off and try something new.  I’ve realized that deck grip changes stability.  My 7.4 Starboard grew 3 or 4 liters when I put a grip on her.
  • Not enough rocker.  This might be my biggest issue with the board.  If it had just a touch more tail rocker, she would come through turns so much better! I’ve been going back through my quiver of shortboards this past month, and this week spent time riding the Lost Grocket.  The Rocket is an all-time favorite of mine, and the Grocket takes it up a notch in performance. On that board, the tail rocker lets you draw tight cutbacks without the need to slide.  I’d really like to find a paddle board with that feel.  Last year I tried three times to build one, working with a local shaper and using the Rocket as the base shape, we got the tail to feel correct, but never got the rails right.  The board would turn great off the tail, but there was a terrible difference between tail and rail work, I think because of thick rails, and she’d bog in drawn out turns.  The F-One is so close to an incredible board, but the flat surfing holds her back.

Some notes on surfing boards with little rocker.

Boards with flatter rockers will tend to surf better in steeper conditions, where you can use the contour of the wave to draw the line.  The steeper wave allows more of the flatter board to be out of the water, so you can draw your turn on a smaller section of board which makes it tighter.  When surfing flatter waves with a flatter board, more of the board is engaged in the turn and the flat rocker draws out the turn.  This is when using a slingshot turn can help, as the inside paddle position allows you to weight the tail, with support from the paddle, and use less of the board to draw the turn.

That’s enough for now.  I’m going to ride the F-One in the next few days with some different fin configs and report back.



JP Australia 8.0 Session Notes

Session Notes – JP Australia 8.0 x 27 at 95L

I’m a believer in the race to the bottom, the idea that it’s worth the time and energy needed to learn to paddle smaller boards, because surfing them is much easier.

Last week Garry Menk, of JP Australia, came though Nosara.  He brought with him a few boards that happened to find a home in to our extensive board bodega.  One of those boards was my first performance shape, the 8.0 x 27.

On my race I blew through the 8.0 on the way to the 7.4 Starboard Airborn and then landed on the 7.4 JP for a few months.  Now I ride equal V/W, normally in the 82-85L range.  But, with this brand new beautiful 8.0 in the quiver, and some bigger surf on tap, I decided to give it a go, and figure the board out.

Here are some quick notes –

  • The difference in 85 and 95L is MASSIVE!  I feel like I’m paddling a race board.  Getting out in whitewater is fun.  The float and heavy nose rocker let’s me pop right powerful foamies.  Getting in to waves is a breeze, and wave count has been high in big mushy surf.
  • Energy consumption is much lower with a little more float.  It would be interesting to measure calorie burn.  I’m guessing that 10 liters equates to 20-30% more effort.
  • I played with fin placement.  The board works better with the fin all the way back, or about 1cm from the back of the box.  She feels stiff there, and it’s tough to push out the tail, but she keeps speed on the bottom and feels good in what rail turns you can muster.  The area where the board lacks is rail turns, as do most windsurf turned SUP production boards.  She’s a great board, and you just need to adjust the way you surf a bit.  Watch Keahi, he kills it on the JPs – but you won’t see too many rail turns (and he isn’t riding the production model.  He rides  – at the time of the podcast – a 7.6 x 26.).  The sweet spot for fins is smaller center fin pushed all the way back.  I have the GL center now and will be changing to an AM2, with FCS adapter, which will be smaller.
  • Backside length matters more.  Frontside surfing is aided to a larger degree by strength and paddle pull.  Backside surfing relies more on rail work and body swing.  The swing weight of the 8.0 slows down backside surfing.
  • Riding the 8.0 makes me want to try the new JP 7.2 x 25.  That’s an 82L board, it could be incredible.
  • She is a much better board in steeper waves.  Here again, JP and Starboard share the common trait of pushing water in slower surf.  I don’t feel either company has dialed in bottom contours or entry rocker.  I’m not a shaper, but the feeling of both boards is slow once you get on the bottom.  Compare that to my Hobie and Infinity boards and they carry speed like a shortboard, with less volume.

Overall, I love the board.  She has a space in the quiver.  It won’t be a daily rider, but when the reefs get going, and covering distance and dealing with chop are a factor, she’s the best option.

If you like this blog you’d love coming down to surf in Costa Rica with Blue Zone SUP.  We’ve got space in our July 9th-16th Camp!!!

Big Surf for Costa Rica

Today’s journal is going to be session notes from the last 3 sessions.  We just experienced what might have been the biggest swell that I’ve seen hit Costa Rica in the last decade.  A big swell for our coast is 5 or 6 feet at over 15 seconds.  We’ll get one or two swells per year with a solid 18 sec period, but normally we’ll see that only on the build and the swell will fill in at 15 or 16 seconds.

Last week was a different animal.  The frontrunners slammed into our coast Thursday at 4 feet at 22 and 23 seconds and the swell held Friday at 7 feet at 19-20.  Swell energy is exponential.  Here’s the best guide I’ve found to understanding swell period.

I like bigger surf, but that’s relative – Florida grown and ten years in Costa Rica.  I love surf up to 10 ft. faces, double-overhead depending on the break, but the reality is that our beaches don’t hold our biggest swells.

For this past swell Oscar and I did some exploring.

During the Progression Project Origins trip we surfed a left reef break that few folks surf.  It’s a scary wave because of a boneyard that sits 10 feet from the takeoff spot.  If you get lost in the lineup, you can literally run right into a dry rock on your bottom turn.  I don’t like surfing there much, but on this past swell it was the only spot holding.  It actually ended up being less consequential than on smaller swells as the waves were so big it was pushing the break out off the boneyard.

Here’s a pic of Oscar at Oscar’s Reef (Named after Oscar Mon who’s the only person crazy enough to enjoy surfing there)


Some notes on surfing bigger waves –

  • The surfing actually felt slower.  The waves are bigger and moving faster, but you have more time to position and more room for error.  Almost feels like surfing in slow motion as I’m used to surfing smaller, punchier beach breaks.
  • I didn’t realize how fast I was going until I would go to turn.  Burying the rail on the Infinity backside was incredibly difficult.  I had to use the slingshot technique and sit way back on my tail.
  • It is much easier to surf that wave on a SUP than on a shortboard.  We were surfing with a few shorboarders, quite good surfers, but getting in on the shortboard was very difficult, as was being in the right spot.




Social Contracts – Making a Movie

Progression Project Origins – The Project Begins

I was the skinniest kid in my class up until 10th grade.  At some point during that year I realized that being the skinniest kid in the class, and having the nickname “Nothing but Legs” wasn’t going too far with the girls.  So I did what I do and dove head-first into bodybuilding.  When I do something, I do it 100%.  I hit the bookstore learned as much as possible.  Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding was my bible.  I read it cover-to-cover numerous times.  And spent 2 hours in the gym everyday, and the rest of the time eating.  I gained 17 pounds of muscle in the summer between 10th and 11th grade, and came back the strongest kid in class.  The guidance counselor brought me to his office and talked to me about steroids.

During that year I learned about making goals, and self-motivating to keep them.  It’s easy to start a journey,  much harder to finish, especially when you’re only accountable to you.  I discovered somewhere there that social pressures were a great motivator.  And I learned the trick of the one-way social contract.

The trick – put yourself and your reputation on the line by stating your goals as accomplishments, you’ll  find a way to come through.  In working out, I’d tell anyone who asked that I could bench press 5-10 pounds more than I’d ever done.  This wasn’t a lie, it was a verbal contract that I had to fulfill on the next opportunity.  It’s amazing how deep you can dig when there’s something on the line.

Since it looks like we don’t have funding for editing the Progression Project Origins movie (Colin, Boehne and Kalama) – and I ran out of runway well before the finish of the first Progression Project movie and am bootstrapping that –  I’ve decided to make Origins the movie myself.

The plan was to get incredible clips from incredible videographers and then turn the project over.  We got the clips, but there’s not budget to turn the project over.  I thought I’d be able to find sponsors for the first movie and not eat it all out of pocket.  That didn’t happen.  I underestimated the industry’s support of the performance wing of the sport. (The industry is underestimating paddling surfing’s potential) 

I’m putting it on record, right here, in this blog.  I’m going to edit, start-to-finish, the Origins movie with a September release.  This blog is my social contract.  I’ll bookmark it and use it for motivation when the project feels too daunting.  Your end of the contract is to ask me about the progress, and hold me accountable.



Eric Goodman Interview – Diving Deeper into Foundation Training

Eric Goodman, creator of Foundation Training, discusses back pain, core strength and his love of helping people.

The Dude practices Foundation Training – What!!!!!

Foundation Training saved my life!  We’ll not my life, but my surfing life.  In 2008 I was interviewing doctors trying to decide if spinal fusion was the right course of action.  I had already tried yoga, pilates, chiro, in combination with prednisone, and anti-inflamitories.  Nothing was working – to surf for an hour a day I was training for 2 to be able to walk the next morning.  God forbid I’d have to sneeze in the morning – if you’ve had major back pain you know what I’m talking about.

Eric Goodman of Foundation Training
Eric Goodman of Foundation Training

Then a close mutual friend, Karen Rinaldi, who at the time was working with Eric on his 1st  book, introduced us.  Karen loves Nosara and surfing, and brought Eric down for the first time.  Over the next 5 days of surfing Eric changed my understanding of core strength and proper movement.  Changes happened over the next month and continued for a year.  Back pain became past tense.  But it’s like lifting weights, you don’t keep the gains if you stop, and I’m reminded at times that I need to keep on.  En la lucha (in the fight) as we’d say here in Costa Rica.

Foundation Training and Eric Goodman are still important in my life 8 years later, so much so that I do everything I can to help him spread the message – as do the thousands of others who are living a happier, more pain-free life.  Just like Jeff Bridges.  You couldn’t buy publicity like that, and Eric didn’t.  Foundation Training affected The Dude in such a way that that’s what he chose to share on The Late Show – and that says it all.

Ok, so you’re intrigued, how do you start?

First watch this video – 12 Minute Foundation Training Workout

Then read True to Form

Here’s the first book, Foundation

Once you’ve started training and realize how deep the exercises go, you’ll want to learn more.  In 2017, Eric, Dustin and some of the Foundation Crew are headed to Nosara, Costa Rica and we’re hosting a Foundation Training retreat with an adventure waterman component provided by Paddlewoo. If you’re interested shoot me an email on the form below and we’ll keep you in the know about the retreat as we plan it.

Building Confidence in the Water

An essay on building confidence in the water and 4 tips to immediately increase your comfort level in challenging conditions.

I made a decision when my kids started to show interest in surfing to make confidence in the water the goal.  The idea is that if they feel confident in the water the surfing will come, but if they don’t and have a bad experience our surfing journey won’t last too long.

(Photo – Kai Sotto)

So, we started a building process.

It sounds strange, but 10 years ago, I had to opportunity to start training Dutch Shepards.  Here in Nosara there’s an incredible tactical K-9 school. Military and police fly in from all over to train.  The facility is top-level and I spent a few years learning to train working dogs.

There’s a process in training working dogs of building confidence slowly.  The first time a dog is exposed to a human threat, the dog wins whenever she shows the smallest amount of aggression.  The bad guy runs away.  This process repeats and the dog learns that showing aggression removes the threat and she becomes more confident the next time.  The process continues until dogs are attacking through fire, up ladders and across lakes.  They never learn to lose, so they believe they can do anything.

This process also works for us.

The trick with applying it to ocean is finding the balance between confidence and respect.  The ocean is the ultimate equalizer.  She doesn’t care how old you are, how much money you make or if you’re a good person.

My focus with preparing my monsters to surf has been trying to find the confidence/respect balance.  Confidence comes first in benign conditions.  Then the build starts with bigger, more challenging conditions and lots of hand-holding.  The hand-holding is dropped for proximity, followed by more freedom in the water.

This has been the process, one of the most fun I’ve been a part of, for the last 6 months.  It working.  It’s all about confidence in the beginning, but then you have to learn respect.  My daughter had started paddling for waves already breaking, going over the falls and laughing about it, trying to paddle out in surf she couldn’t handle and then getting mad at me about holding her back.  All passion and love without much respect.

How do you teach respect without instilling fear?  I thought about this for a while and decided to take her out on a day last week with a building swell –  3ft. at 18secs with long intervals.  We went out just the two of us, so I could focus on her, and the goal was to get  caught inside – she didn’t know this was the goal.  I’d be right by her, and let her deal with it on her own.  She’s a great swimmer and I’d have fins on, so there wouldn’t be much risk.

It worked.  We paddled out and she picked off the two biggest waves she’d ever caught.  Head-high on me, so massive on her.  She’s not a great surfer, her surf skills are way behind her water skills right now, so she was just holding on for dear life on the waves –  grinning ear-to-ear.

After her second wave, I body surfed the one behind her so we were back together, and a good size set came through.  Solid 6-7 foot faces.  We got drilled.  She was ditching her board and doing great for the first three.  The fourth landed right in front of us and the water was already all churned up and we got thrown around a bit.  When she popped up she looked at me and asked to go in.  It’s the first time she’s ever asked to go in.  We dove under the next two, holding hands at this point, and then caught one to the beach.

Respect learned.  She never got scared, and now she understands what I mean when I say it’s a bit heavy today.  You just have to feel that power once and you know.  I felt it first in Playa Hermosa in 1996.  I remember the wave and I bet she will too.

Pulling this back to paddle surfing, and how the idea for this journal came to be – the question most asked by guests is what can I do to prepare for a week paddle surfing in Costa Rica.  The answer,  which I just learned last week, is whatever you can do to be comfortable in the water.  Surfing is the easy part if you feel at ease.

Here are a few things I did to feel comfortable pushing my Florida comfort zone when I moved to Costa Rica –

  • I learned how long I could really hold my breath.  Not on the couch, but how long I could hold my breathe after sprinting 50m and blowing out all my air.  My number was 19 seconds.  After that test I knew that no matter how bad things got I had 19 seconds.  Now if I wipe out in bigger surf I just start counting.  I rarely get past 9.
  • Start open ocean swimming.  I don’t think you should surf in conditions you don’t feel comfortable swimming in.  We don’t feel comfortable swimming in the open ocean because we don’t to it much.
  • Learn to breathe deeply.  Mark Healy says the biggest thing is exhaling all your air before a big breath.
  • Learn to slow down your heart rate.  I think “Slow – It – Down” with each beat and after a few my HR will come down quickly.

You do all these things so you don’t have to worry – not because you need them.  By knowing how long you can really hold your breathe, how to get oxygen and how to slow your heart rate you can surf without worrying.

And that let’s you put the focus where it should be – on having fun!