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Connor Baxter on Paddle Length and SUP Stroke Technique
I recently had the chance to sit down and interview Connor Baxter at the 2017 Starboard distributor meeting on Maui. This video features Connor talking about the length of his paddles for SUP racing and Stand Up Surfing (his paddles are dramatically shorter than they used to be) and has some great stroke technique tips.
Connor explains how he uses his legs and core muscles more and keeping his upper body relaxed. He also talks about his choke down stroke, "porpoising" his board when sprinting and some other great insights. You can't argue with his results, please give the thumbs up on youtube if you enjoy this video and subscribe to the blueplanetsurf youtube channel!
Click the CC symbol for subtitles, sorry about the poor sound quality.
Connor Baxter demonstrates his stroke technique in this video and talks about how it changes over the years, including a dramatically shorter paddle length, and how he watches and tries to mimic the strokes of other top paddlers like Danny Ching and Travis Grant at races. He uses the analogy of pulling and propelling yourself past a fixed steel pole on a skateboard by pulling the hips back and then throwing them forward, a good analogy.
Subtitles from the video:
I'm Robert Stehlik with Blue Planet, here with Connor Baxter. How's it going? We're at the 2017 Starboard distributor meeting on Maui here. Yep. I had a a chance to sit down with you Connor. So there's always a lot of talk about the length of the paddle, have you changed the length you like to use, how long is your personal paddle? It's crazy, you know when I was probably 14, doing some of the big channel crossings, my paddle was 83 inches and now I'm taller way bigger and I'm actually at 76 inches and that's more for the sprint races and most of my 12'6 racing and then for long-distance on my unlimited board I'm on a 78 inch paddle. So, it's crazy the drop I've made and I've gotten taller but paddle technique is changing, you know, we're finding out longer it's way worse on the shoulders, it's nicer on the back, but we're finding out how to paddle without using our back and hinging as much with a shorter paddle and it's making a huge difference because now our shoulders are not getting worn down and we're taking a lot of the stress from those areas and putting it into our legs and our core so that's the main reason behind going shorter. So 76 or 70, how much, how far above your head is that? It's at about I want to say half a shaka, so a thumbs down you know without the pinky up in the air, it's about more or less like that above my head. What about for surfing, how long a paddle for surfing? Surfing it's even been getting more ridiculous, our boards are getting a lot smaller and right now my board I'm using is 7'1 and the new one is 68 Liters and I mean I'm 155 pounds - 160 pounds, so I sink that board very easily so half the time when you're trying to get up on a plane you're underwater so if you have a super long blade it doesn't really work that's one of the reasons that I have my paddle pretty much eye level, the top of my handle is either up by my eyes or in my forehead and then, also another reason is if you think about it you're putting your paddle out there and bottom turning around it and same vice versa you're putting your paddle on the outside and paddling and going around your tail so you got to think about it when your bottom turning that bottom turn is that much bigger or has to be that much bigger with a longer paddle we're with our short paddles you can really make a tight vertical turn get up to the top and still have enough paddle to crank the turn on the top. Ok, so your paddle is actually shorter than you, eye level or forehead. So yeah, a lot of my wave paddles are more or less shorter than me. So what kind of paddle do you use when surfing? Surfing, I'm using the the new Sean Pointer Enduro. Even with the shorter paddle, do you still choke down on them? So going shorter is definitely you know maybe not, when I was younger I was using the choke down the whole race sometimes, you know. You had a super long paddle. So now having the 76, you know, not going down to that as much, mainly hard up wind, hard you know 200 meters sprint, that last little bit. I'll send it down here, just because I can get more power more reps and I can actually switch sides a lot faster and a lot quicker.
Let me ask you another question: In terms of technique you've always had kind of a unique style you know like a little bit maybe different than what other guys were using, Sure, like the standard Dave Kalama technique or whatever, so you've always done your own thing. Has it evolved over the years? What would you say, like do you have have any pointers for guys that want to get into racing or improve their technique like what do you do and what have you learned over the years? For sure, what I've really kind of gone by from the beginning far as paddle technique is every person is mechanically built different, every person is designed different, paddle different, stroke different, like have strong suits and distance strong suit and sprinting, so you don't really want to adapt and be ok, this is the only type of stroke you're doing, you really want to hear everyone's theory and that's what I've really been doing the last few years as I've worked with Dave Kalama, Danny Chin, Travis Grant, all these guys. I've either work with and I've also seen them and raced with them you know, so in a race, you know a long distance race we got time to kill because we're all in a train. I'll actually pull up side by side and really try to copy their stroke and with guys like Travis and Danny they got it so down to a T, you know, like my one stroke is not as powerful as their one stroke, so I find myself doing more rpms, and that's what I've learned over the years, that's how I will, you know, kind of rise above them and beat them in those kind of races, but you know I'm really finding out using a lot more legs a lot more core by kind of dropping down and reaching and then planting it and really trying to relax my shoulders and my arms and my fingers and not really death gripping the paddle and not really tense up here just really open up, plant it when I drop down, and then once I'm instead of pulling through, I kind of stand up and what that's allowing my body to do is just work as one movement, instead of just shoulders, just shoulders, or just back, just legs, it's all one movement so squatting down reaching planting a really good plant have the blade- you know the deeper the better, your blade's here, you're not going to get much power, deeper the better you know, so I'm going right here to the bend and really when I stand up throwing those hips forward and getting a hip thrust through it and you know I've been playing around with that and then also Dave Kalama's technique is real real technical but it really makes sense you know and that's dropping the hips back and set it down so not really bending the knees as much and still that open big twist planting and then throwing the hips forward even from farther back so instead of coming from up here. Different techniques, obviously you know you have different rate times of racing different times that you want to do stuff and I mean the total head down 200 meters finish is obviously, I've always loved the choke down and really bouncing with the board and especially with the Starboard, those boards are really designed to porpoise in a sense and they really like that- load it up, load it up, and then when you're reaching from the next stroke release and the board can catch that glide, and then load it up and then release so for that sprint I really likethat whether your hand is on the handle or down here you know having that release and real high rpms all in front of your feet you never want to go behind your feet because as soon as your paddle passes your feet you're dragging it it still feels like it but you're dragging it and then if you think about it you're pulling the water up so you're sucking your board down. So you really want to keep the power stroke right here in front and then, obviously, advancing, I can't keep that kind of a technique going up for a really long time so races like Carolina, Molokai, all those kind of long distance races I've been trying to adjust and figure out what's the strongest paddle and obviously I found the legs and the core and the glutes are this biggest, strongest muscles, so I'm really trying to adapt those into my paddle technique and use less of my shoulders less of my forearms so pretty much this right here is just kind of locked, but loose. It's a really weird feeling but you don't want to be death gripping the handle you know you don't want to be death gripping anything and you just kind of want to be loose and you drop down and plant and when I say drop down and plant you want to be on your tippy toes almost a lot of the weight on the tip of your toes, and really pushing that paddle into the water so that you can get about this deep and really try to play around with that, get your problem this deep and just play around with it see how much more power you're getting out of it. Would you say you're pushing your paddle down during the stroke where you keeping it
kind of at the same level? So, from the first plant that's where your paddle is going to be the paddle is going to be, so you're catching yeah you you don't really want to change it you know if you go down you're gonna, it's going to affect how your your stroke is, so just commit to it and just play around with it you know so you obviously want to learn how to go deeper and deeper and that's another reason why I've always choked down I'm getting my paddle way deeper and instead of leverage, try paddle like this and try paddle like that there's no leverage it's all it's all strength, so that's the theory about behind that but going back into this you really want to go catch it plant it really tight so that it's down in the water and then you want to stand up and kind of throw your hips forward in a sense; and if you look at how Danny paddles, he's always switching his feet so he has this staggered stance and it's giving them even more room to drop the hip to the opposite side, plant, and then throw it forward, plant, throw it forward and then he will switch to this side and it's same thing dropping the hip to the opposite side bending the knees dropping the hip and then when you're coming up, this is loose, you just want this loose, all the power is coming from here and just sending it forward. It makes sense, say you have a metal pole, it's planted here, you're on a skateboard, you got one pull to get all the way down to the other end, what are you going to do? Are you going to go like this all arm or are you going to set back, obviously all the way back like this, you're going to be able to throw the hip forward and get continuous glide.
Allright, thanks for watching, give us a thumbs up please, hope you enjoyed the show!
This is a link to a facebook video of Georges Cornsteadt that shows him using the forward thrust coming from the hips in a paddling drill:
Evan Leong and I discuss stroke technique and this video in this episode of Board Meeting:
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