Back in Oct 2010, I taught an Improve Your Surfing Workshop: 1. Paddling at Anita Noone’s very cool Solana Beach Feldenkrais Studio. I had meant to write about it, slacked, and I’ve finally been kicked in the bum.
One issue that many surfer’s have as they get older is that paddling becomes more and more difficult. Unlike swimming, paddling a surfboard requires the ability to extend throughout the entire back to effectively paddle. This is because on a surfboard one cannot rotate the torso during a stroke cycle – as one can in freestyle swimming – otherwise one rolls off of the board. By extending the back, the shoulders are elevated over the water surface making the paddle stroke easier. Furthermore it also allows one to bring the face and eyes to the horizon so one can see where one is going, where the waves are, etc. Often older surfers lose the ability to extend leading to a cascade of effects including 1) reduced paddle power, 2) not being able to comfortably handle late drops into waves, 3) surfing bigger bulkier boards they might have disdained when younger, and 4) neck, shoulder or back pain.
Thus the focus of the workshop was to improve extension from the prone position. We did a number of ATM lessons. The first 3 are posted on the Workshop page. Participants got to evaluate their paddling position with a paddling simulator – an old surfboard mounted on foam pillows to provide some instability like when paddling in the water. Some pictures were taken both before and after, and here are two case examples
The first is from T. (see below) who has been surfing since he was a kid. His initial paddling position isn’t too bad, but notice the difficulty with getting the face and eyes to the horizon
After the 5 1/2 ATMs (!), T. got back on the paddling simulator and notice the ease with which the face is to the horizon and the lift through the entire back
Another example comes from C. (see below) who has learned how to surf much more recently. Notice the great difficulty in raising her head and shoulders. This severely limits paddling power and probably leads to tired shoulders and neck even after short surfing sessions.
After the workshop, notice below how C is laughing at her surprise as to how much she is able to lift her head. The back is extending now when before it kinda wasn’t.
Of course there is a lot more to paddling a surfboard than just extending the back. But for many surfer’s, improving this is the most simple way to better more pleasant paddling. The clever will notice that of the 1st 3 ATMs in the workshop, none involved extension movements and only a little bit of lying prone (on the stomach).