How to set up your surfski

SurfSki set upSki set up is the fundamental component to good comfortable paddling technique and positive training. I thought it would be easier to explain in writing for this one rather than video. So here goes:

Firstly getting the right leg length. Push your bottom right back into the seat then place a fist under your knees – this position is your neutral sitting position. Make sure your footplate is firm against your feet while keeping that fist distance under your knee. This means you should not be able to completely straighten your legs out but they shouldn’t feel too cramped up under your chin that you can’t move.

This position allows you to engage your legs during your paddle stroke. Having your legs too long means they will be floppy, you will have little balance and you won’t be able to use your legs when you paddle. If your legs are too short and cramped up under your chin, your center of gravity will be too small and you will also be in a position where you can’t use your legs paddling and you shut down being able to use your core.

Ok so legs are good, now, keeping you bottom pushed into the back of your seat, I want you to sit up nice and tall, chin should be up and eyes towards the horizon. Shoulders are back and down and chest is out. Now add a slight lean forward just about 5 degrees so chest is still open, shoulders are back and down and chin is up. This is over emphasizing everything to start with so it will feel a little bit uncomfortable and a little silly but the more we over emphasize the sooner you will fall into good paddling habits and the sooner they will feel comfortable. Now with you shoulders back and down imagine there is a string attached to each bottom point of your shoulder blades and someone is pulling that string down towards the middle of your bottom so your shoulders pinch together a little, your chest is opened up and your shoulders are down. That great posture our mums tried drilling into use. No slouching!!

Now this is also a perfect exercise you can practice wherever you are, at work, walking, watching TV, eating dinner. Initially your back will feel like its working over time but as we introduce the strength and conditioning components, that workload should start to ease off as you learn to engage your other muscle groups.

SurfSki set up

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  • larryl49

    Hi Teneale, I have a question about setting up the foot brace on a Surf Ski. Although I am primarily a single blade paddler I have messed around with a variety of kayaks (sprint, slalom, sea kayaks, and a couple years racing whitewater in downriver boats). All these boats have relatively flat bottoms from a longitudinal perspective. Most of the surf skis that I have seen or tried have a bump between the butt and the foot wells. When you talk about putting a fist under your knee to set the foot brace length I assume you’re talking about flat bottomed boats. I am not sure how that translates in a ski that has a bump under the knees already. Should I adjust the foot brace so that the back of my knee just clears this middle bump when my leg is extended? Looking forward to reading more about surf ski technique because there seems to be a lot more emphasis on leg power in addition to the focus on torso rotation that I remember from when I was racing whitewater kayaks back in the 1970’s.

  • Teneale Hatton
    Teneale Hatton

    Hi Larry, good question. The space under your knee suggested takes into consideration the hump under your legs in a ski. Your knee should not make contact w that hump. Your calves may make contact and that is ok but you want to be able to put pressure and tension through your legs throughout the stroke to help maintain balance and to convert that power into your stroke through rotation etc.

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