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Nicholas Cryder: Advanced Surfski Balance

(Originally posted on surfski.info)

Part 1: Maintaining Connection with the Water

If your balance paradigm relies on reaction, then you are essentially juggling. This works fine with many scenarios like flat water or even medium size downwind… but truly messy, rough water adds many more balls moving in many different directions. The brain can only do so much, and eventually you drop a ball and in you go. Not good.

If however your balance paradigm is based on connection, then you are using a premeditated skill that mitigates the need to react to what the water is doing. You paddle on your own terms, despite what the water is doing. It makes a world of difference in rough water.


Ten tips to embrace connected balance paddling:

  1. Realize YOU are the biggest balance liability to your ski. It is fine without you, and it is also designed to listen to you, and will do whatever you tell it. So its up to you - you need to learn to tell it what to do…
  2. The more unified your stroke, the less chance for errant movements to compromise your balance. If your hips are moving slower than your shoulders, your stroke is compromised. If your push hand is diving or your arms are not stable with your torso, your stroke and balance is compromised. Think of your hips and shoulders as the two hinges that hold a door in place as it rotates. Your torso is the door. Real power will come from your hips, not your shoulders or arms.
  3. If your body moves as one unit, with three essential points of contact with the ski and water, you will greatly limit your ability to pull yourself into the water (remember, a tripod is generally very stable).
  4. The three points of connection are: Footboard, your butt and your paddle in the water. Get them to move in unison, each one balancing out force.
  5. The first thing to disappear in rough water is foot pressure. It's a fear based fetal reflex that allows your ski to loose contact with you, and it will listen to the water… not you.
  6. So when the going gets rough verbalize this command out loud “FIND YOUR FEET!” Repeat every stroke if it's really rough. Verbalizing commands helps override the “lizard brain” fear response, and your body will listen to your voice.
  7. Your paddle is absolutely powerful enough to pull you in. Connection skill limits and directs its force to work for you, not against you.
  8. MANY paddlers are self-cursed by bad footwork, as the foot pressure comes off before the paddle is even out of the water… so the exit is sloppy and exerts rolling force on the ski, and then when the catch happens the foot pressure isn't there so the ski isn't listening to the paddler.
  9. A powerful catch is the best brace. But your catch is only as good as your footwork. Make sure that you have 100% foot pressure on the board before that paddle goes in the water. This means you have to keep your drive leg down at the end of your stroke with your hip back until you make the opposite side catch and unload all your torso's energy on the fully submerged blade.
  10. If you must brace, always finish the brace with a powerful catch on the opposite side. Most paddlers fall in at the end of the brace when the ski slows down and the brace looses leverage or the paddle sinks. When the ski starts to slow, sweep the brace forward and then slam the opposite side catch. BANG! You are back in control and connected again.

Go to Part 2