Knowing how to paddle correctly on your bodyboard is energy saver and provides the necessary speed to reach the takeoff zone quickly. In theory there are two different bodyboarding paddling stroke actions you can use, depending on the situation.
The first, is the alternative arm stroke, similar to good ol’ fashioned freestyle, is the smoothest, fastest and most efficient method over long distances. For greatest efficiency, your hand should slightly cupped and your elbow bent approximately at right angles during most of the pull phase. Your stroke should follow the pattern of an ‘S’ beneath your board, so that your hand is constantly pulling through dead water throughout the stroke. Think of it this way – your hand shouldn’t be moving backwards beneath you – rather, you should be moving forward over the top of your hand.
There’s a second method of paddling, although be warned, it could look a bit kookish – it’s the double arm style of paddling, where both of your arms stroke at the same time, like in that weird swimming stroke that we all hated in the pool at school – butterfly! It can be handy sometimes for short bursts of acceleration, but to be honest unless you ride drop-knee (or a 10 foot longboard) in which case it assists in immediately getting you to the push up stance, it’s not really considered a stylish or functional method of getting onto a wave.
You should constantly be striving to improve your paddling technique by keeping the above paddling tips in mind. You should also try to develop paddling fitness by maintaining strong paddling during all sessions in the surf, and by swimming in the pool or flat water when there is no surf.
You’ll really notice the difference on a big day when you’re paddle-fit and all the other chumps can’t keep up… and you will end up scoring all the best waves!
Next, let’s learn how to time your paddle out to the takeoff zone.