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Learn to Paddle like World Champion Kelly Slater

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Hi my name is Rob the Quicksilver Pro Gold Coast’s just wrapped up and we saw some spectacular surfing eventually leading to Kelly Slater winning it once again this time Matt Kira while the surfing was incredible I want to focus on a paddle battle that happened in Round four between Kelly Slater and beaded herbage now both athletes are in great shape but BD is taller has longer arms and was on a longer surfboard yet Kelly uses some stroke techniques some key stroke techniques that I’d like to point out and I want to show you how it relates to swimming and how you can practice and use them for your own surfing as we watch this clip there are three things that stand out to me head elbow and roll starting with the first one head notice the difference is between the movement of Kelly’s head and Abby’s head Kelly keeps his head stationary while beedis head is rotating from side to side and balanced trying harder and harder to reach and dig so a quick lesson from swimming is this swimmers imagine that there is a straight line from the tip of their heads down to their tail bones they rotate their body on this axis and try to reduce any yawning which is the right-left motion of the body and the head one of the key aspects of this is to keep the head still unless you’re breathing in which you roll your head when your body rolls keeping that axis in alignment so now back to Slater you can see his head stays still it’s up which is different from swimming regular freestyle but the head stays looking forward and is still biddies head all over the place causing him and his board to yaw or move left or right ever so subtly and anytime that happens you lose forward momentum in the water you get off that straight-line axis hence he has to work harder to cover the same distance we are looking to optimize stroke length or the number of feet or meters you move forward per stroke you take so onto the second key element the elbow watch Slater’s elbow stay high as he begins the catch phase to his stroke Beauty’s is okay for some strokes but you can actually see a drop on quite a few especially on his left arm so here’s swimming lesson number two maintain a high elbow in swimming once the arm is extended out without breaking the wrist in keeping the elbow high you begin the catch phase however the power of the stroke when swimming head down freestyle the power of the stroke is on the second half of the stroke so you keep your elbow high as your catch begins and about a little before halfway through the catch phase the power part of the stroke begins and that holds until you get to the recovery part of the stroke in surfing paddling however the power portion of the catch phase is actually in a different place if you’re on a prone paddle board or even on a thicker longboard or are really any craft in which your body is out of the water the power portion of the stroke is actually in the first half of the catch phase on a short board the power portion of the catch is a combination of the power portion of paddling a paddle board which is mostly the first half of the match and the power portion in swimming regular freestyle mostly the middle and second half of the catch and this is because on a short board you’re not completely out of water but you’re not completely in the water either watching Slater stroke his elbow stays high from the beginning which helps him retain more of the first half of the power range then BT whose elbow is low in the beginning even though he brings it up halfway through the stroke BT is actually paddling more like he’s swimming freestyle and more of the powers in the middle to the back of his stroke when he drops that elbow because he’s on this short board he misses out on most of that first half that first part of the power in the catch by not having his elbow high when the elbow is high the forearm and the hand act together perpendicular to the ocean floor giving the surfer the highest power in the stroke it’s like an extended hand with your forearm and your hand the longer you have your arm in this power portion of the catch phase the faster you’ll go third element the role as would the first point keeping the head still the roll has to do with that imaginary line that goes from your head to your tailbone just as in swimming you want to roll your body along this axis reducing the yaw in motion or that right left motion that lateral right left motion as much as possible minimizing that as much as possible however when surfing you don’t want to roll as much as in swimming oh it’s pretty obvious why that is because if you roll as much as you do in swimming regular freestyle swimming you’ll fall off your board the roll from rail to rail for surfing paddling is more subtle what it’s doing is providing you the greatest reach forward without causing that yawning motion that left/right motion of the body in the board so with the roll it extends your shoulder and your arms out and your L as your elbow stays high you get a longer and deeper paddle in the power portion of your stroke so there are the three key techniques that you should also use when paddling your short board head elbow roll head still elbow high subtle roll rail-to-rail so how can I practice this when I’m not surfing well the best training technique in the pool is head up freestyle head up freestyle incorporates all of these aspects all of these elements and mimics a short boards resistance in the water and you know more on the issue of water resistance in in a later post so take a look at the position of head up freestyle looks familiar right looks like paddling on a short board just without the board heads up still looking forward high elbows throughout the power portion of the stroke note that in head up freestyle swimming the power portion of the stroke is the same as on a short board the power portion is more the front half of the stroke all the way through to almost the end portion of the catch phase the reason is that your body is submerged in the water then with head down freestyle whether it is much more glide to the stroke in the first half of the catch the keys to head up freestyle head still looking forward high elbows higher stroke rate kind of like when you’re paddling into a wave you have a high stroke rate and when you’re paddling back out to the lineup your stroke rate is a little bit lower and head up freestyle high high stroke rate and you’re kicking you’re kicking to keep the rest of your body body closer to the surface of the water and that’s why in the exilim for surfers training program after you finish the building the base week and the interval training and get into the surf specific training week that’s why there’s a lot more head-up freestyle it’s more surf specific so there you have it next time you’re on a short board try it out keep your head still looking forward keep your elbow high in the catch face and do a subtle roll from rail to rail as you reach out practice it in the pool practice head up freestyle in the pool either on your own or you can learn more about the xswim for surfers training program at wwx swim for surfer comm I really hope you enjoyed this analysis I welcome questions comments ideas anything that drives the enjoyment of surfing and a fitness more again my name is Rob I look forward to hearing from you and I’ll see you in the water

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