How to improve your paddling skills - with Jamie Mitchell
To limit the risk of injury when surfing, it is very important to acquire a good technique, and not only when standing on the board. Since the surfer spends most of his lying time rowing, he must above all have an efficient rowing technique. The questions you ask yourself when you talk about rowing are how to use your hands, how to get them into the water, how to put your fingers, etc. To try to improve our train, here are some of the answers in this article.
To answer these questions, no one is in a better position than paddleboarder Jamie Mitchell, who has won the prestigious Molokai-Oahu race 10 times in a row, and who recently won the "Surfing Life's Oakley Big Wave Awards" for the biggest wave taken in rowing (video).
For Jamie Mitchell, it is useless to squeeze his fingers together; the fingers must certainly be close together, but a small space must be kept between them. The hand must remain soft and firm. A preconceived idea is that it is better to have your hand folded up like a cup. In fact, the most efficient technique for rowing is to keep your hand flat.
It is important that the hand enters the water in the right direction: the hand must not start from the board towards the outside but on the contrary, must go towards the middle and the bottom of the board. Then, when it approaches the stomach, it should come out of the water as naturally as possible.
It is also very important to be well positioned on your board to row as well as possible (not too much in front of where you will be biting nose, not too much behind or you will sink); on each board you will find the "G point", the correct positioning, which also depends on our size and our template. The goal is to have as much board surface as possible in contact with the water in the most comfortable position possible.
Jamie Mitchell notices that many surfers have a tendency to throw their arms in all directions. He calls them "windmills". These surfers waste unnecessary energy through parasitic and inefficient movements. By comparing the oar with boxing, he explains that the arms should not make the same movement as a right or left hook but rather that of a direct.
Jamie Mitchell advises observing well the movements of the champions of swimming, in free swimming (crawl) in particular, as Alain Bernard for example. Drawing inspiration from technical swimming books, we learn many interesting things.
For example, we realize that the arm should not be in full extension when rowing. Having your arm stretched out means pushing downwards, rather than backward (which is what interests us most). Ideally, the arm should enter the water with the elbow slightly bent.
When the hand enters the water, it should not hit it but rather puncture it cleanly: instead of making a dish, it should go in clearly. If you tap into the water, the air bubbles formed around your hand will make your oar less efficient.
It is important to find the right rowing rhythm with continuity between movements to take advantage of the momentum generated: rowing in a jerky manner requires much more energy.
You have to feel resistance when you row; you have to feel your arms and shoulders working." No pain, no gain," says Jamie Mitchell. An Australian study* has just shown a link between upper body traction and surfers' rapid rowing ability.
He concludes by saying that everyone has their own way of rowing and must find the technique that is most comfortable for them, without being afraid to try different ways of rowing until they find the optimal technique. Jamie Mitchell, who is an aesthete of the paddle, finds as much pleasure in improving it as working on his glide when he is standing on his board.
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