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Surfcraft Skills and Techniques

Click for Ski Paddling Skills and Techniques
Click for Board Paddling Skills and Techniques
Click for Surf Swimming Skills and Techniques
(on this page)
Click for Elite Surf Athlete Training programmes (links to separate page)

Ski Paddling Skills and Techniques

Efficient, correct technique needs to be taught from the beginning. The stroke is divided into four phases catch, pull, exit and recovery.

The Catch

Ski catch diagram


  • The blade entry angle at the catch should be 48 to 53 degrees.
  • The blade should be square, not open or closed.
  • The top hand should be between the shoulder and the top of the head.
  • Body position is with shoulders in front of the hips.
  • Body rotation (twist) should be from the waist.





The Pull

Ski pull diagram


  • Keep the blade/shaft in a perpendicular (vertical) position for as long as possible.
  • Keep the angle of the top arm the same without pushing, but maintaining a downward pressure on the shaft.
  • Controlled leg drive.
  • Controlled buttock and hip movement.
  • Symmetrical (equal to and fro) body rotation.






The Exit

Ski exit diagram


  • The pulling hand should not travel past the hip.
  • Exit range is between mid thigh and the front of the hip.
  • The blade/shaft angle should be approximately 45 degrees.
  • The blade should exit with the outside edge being as close to vertical as possible.






The Recovery



  • The hand should come up to head height quickly.
  • There should be a slight pause to allow the kayak to run and to achieve effective set up for the next stroke.
  • The elbow should not go above shoulder height.
  • The top hand should come across in front of the face.





Board Paddling Skills and Techniques

The knee paddling stroke can be broken down into five phases - reach, catch, pull, release, recovery.

The Reach

Board reach diagram


  • Reach out and take a full stroke.
  • The arms should extend to the maximum.
  • Look forward and keep the head and chest close to the hoard, your butt should be up.

Common Errors:

  • Not fully extending arms
  • Keeping head and chest too high.
  • Looking down instead of forward.
  • Sitting back with your butt on your legs.


The Catch

Board catch diagram


  • There should be a feeling that your hands have caught something solid as they enter the water and you are pulling the board over it.
  • Propulsive force on the hands should go from zero to maximum load instantly.
  • Keep your hands relaxed and you should feel the water on your fingertips.

Common Errors:

  • Maximum power is not applied.
  • You don’t feel the solid grip of the water on your hands.




The Pull

Board pull diagram


  • The hands are driven deep and the arms are buried up to the elbow.
  • Maintain an even pressure with maximum power.
  • The hands should travel parallel to the centerline of the board.
  • Chin and chest remain close to the board with your butt up.
  • Do not lift or throw the water.

Common Errors:

  • Not burying arms deep enough.
  • Allowing the head and shoulders to move up and down. This causes the board to hobby horse and slows you down.
  • Hands not traveling parallel to the centerline of the board.
  • Not taking a full stroke.


The Exit

Board exit diagram


  • Do not lift or throw water back as it wastes energy.
  • The exit should be quick and smooth to eliminate any drag.

Common Errors:

  • Throwing or lifting water
  • Hand exit is not smooth and quick.





The Recovery

Board recovery diagram

  • The elbow is bent and high.
  • The hands are close to the surface of the water and close to the board.
  • The hands are relaxed and they move straight forward.
  • Look straight forward and keep the head and shoulders close to the board.
  • This keeps the board on a smooth even glide.
  • Keep your movements relaxes, easy and smooth.
  • The best way to check an efficient recovery is from head on.
  • The hands should travel a straight line.
  • This is the shortest most relaxed route.

Common Errors:

  • Elbows are not bent.
  • Hands and arms travel to the side or up instead of straight forward.
  • Looking down at the board instead of straight forward.
  • Shoulders, arms and hands are not relaxed
  • Duration of recovery is too long.
  • Head and shoulders are lifted causing the board to rock nose to tail.

Surf Swimming Skills and Techniques

Surf swimming can be broken down into four phases - pull, push, exit, recovery

The Pull

Swim pull diagram
  • High shoulder position at start of pull
  • Catch position simultaneous with opposite leg kick
  • Good catch position down and out with elbow fixed
  • The leg actions during the pull should be a relatively soft kick or cross-over action
  • Limited hand slip during pull and always sliding forward, allowing body to follow
  • Arm position in mid-stroke must be vertical with elbow and hand on shoulder-line


The Push

Swim push diagram
  • Accelerate through the push with elbow and hand close to the body, wrist cocked
  • Timing of recovery arm’s entry must be at the mid-point of the opposite arm stroke
  • Kicking during push phase should be with the same side leg ensuring good transfer of force, correct timing for fixing knees and hip at end of kick
  • Avoid early exit of the elbow
  • The hand should be holding the water all the time


The Exit

Swim exit diagram
  • The exit of arm must begin with elbow first, but not too early, after push is over.
  • The exit hand only pulls as far back as the hip bone (iliac crest) rather than the thigh.
  • The exiting hand must face backwards, towards the feet – not upwards, towards the sky.


The Recovery

Swim recovery diagram
  • Make recovery arm relaxed elbow forward before hand.
  • The body should be rolled ninety degrees to the recovering side.


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