One of the questions we receive most frequently from beginning surfers is this one: “Do I paddle with my back arched“? In the end my dear surfer friends, although there are various answers and discussions about paddling methods and techniques, it is all about the physics of paddling.
Arching your back will make sure that your weight is properly distributed on your board, which translates into a variety of related improvements in your surf sessions. The back arch allows most surfers to paddle faster, dig harder, maneuver better, and distribute their weight more evenly. If you watch videos, or look at photos, of surfers paddling into waves what you will see is that a great majority of them paddle into a wave with their backs slightly arched, or they paddle flat and then arch their back as they approach the wave.
The simple arching of the back – an often times exhausting task for the beginning surfer – allows surfers to use their body posture to make minor adjustments to their fore-and-aft weight distribution at those critical moments right before dropping into a wave. Additionally, once a surfer has managed to paddle successfully into the wave, they may also have to arch their back as a maneuver to avoid digging the nose of the board into the bottom of the breaking wave.
Arching your back also improves your overall maneuverability on a surfboard. By reducing your overall flat contact with the board and moving your weight forward, you shift your weight relative to the center of mass of the board, thus allowing you to tip your board nose down, nose up, right side down or or left side down.
Arching your back also greatly improves your visibility while you are surfing. By placing your head up and allowing your body to naturally shift weight as you turn your head left and right, you can continue to paddle while easily scoping your immediate surrounding area. This simple arch allows you to look around and paddle into a wave without affecting your speed, momentum, or balance. By keeping your head up in the back arched position, you will be able to quickly see potential waves easily. A true sign of an experienced paddler is that the constant head up and back arched posture while paddling.
For beginners looking to improve their back strength and back-arch in and out of the water, there are a variety of “assist-aids” and strengthening regimens available. One of the most recent and innovative surfboard products that assist the beginning surfer with learning the back arch while strengthening the core back muscles is the in-water product called DPop by Denno Pop. For surfers looking to gain more muscle strength outside of the water, yoga poses such as cobra pose mimics the surfer’s pop-up position perfectly.
Whatever path you choose, the goal of arching your back while surfing is within reach … … just remember that arching your back while you paddle is simply smarter!