Kenny Powers Surfing

Technique Critique: Average Joe Edition!

Want your surfing to be a joy not an exercise in frustration? Finesse your technique!

I spent ten hours at the beach today. A Minnesotan’s dream, my worst nightmare. But after watching a full day of amateur collegiate surfing, I feel primed and ready to deliver another installment of technique critiques. The average joe edition!

Disclaimer: this is more of a how-to-easily-improve-your-surfing than a technique critique. It’s based on those faux pas I witnessed today and throughout my lifetime of surfing spectatorship. 


The most basic, brainless aspect of surfing. At least that’s what most amateurs seem to think. In reality, paddling makes all the difference in the world. A strong paddler will improve his surfing twice as fast as a lame duck because of wave count and positioning. 

The first concept is simple. If you paddle faster and more efficiently, you’ll catch more waves. If you catch more waves, you’ll get more opportunity to practice and thus improve more quickly than those around you.  

Paddling to position yourself is one of the most crucial skills in the game. It involves a combination of wave reading, timing, and paddle strength, but if done correctly you will maximize the potential of every wave caught. The key is to position yourself to gain as much speed as possible on the takeoff, while setting yourself up to utilize that speed on the first section. 

Most amateurs don’t know how to get up and boogie. The main reason comes down to foot placement. We all want to rip one off the top and let the fins breathe, and that happens from standing on the kick. But guess what you need in order to perform the vicious lip kick? Speed. And from where do you most efficiently gain this momentum? The center of the board. 

Some basics techniques to improve your paddling include: keeping your head still (this will stop you from “yawing”, when the board shimmies side to side underneath you thus slowing forward momentum), positioning yourself in a way to paddle minimally (sit under an approaching swell and wait for it to reach you, don’t paddle out to it) and making the last three strokes your strongest (acceleration during takeoff facilitates the pop-up and makes skirting past the first section a breeze).


Most amateurs don’t know how to get up and boogie. The main reason comes down to foot placement. We all want to rip one off the top and let the fins breathe, and that happens from standing on the kick. But guess what you need in order to perform the vicious lip kick? Speed. And from where do you most efficiently gain this momentum? The center of the board. 

Surfboards are designed with flipped noses and tails so that you can perform maneuvers without sliding out or nosediving. If you remain planted on the tail when trying to pump, you’ll naturally plow (push water) and lose potential speed. However, if you shift both feet forward (back foot just in front of the pad, front foot just past the midpoint of the board), your sled will plane through flat spots and allow you to maximize speed heading into a section. The downside is that the footwork (getting your feet back to the sweet-spot just before you perform a turn) can be tricky to dial, but with enough practice it becomes second nature. 

Backside lipper

Pick a spot and commit. Once you’ve decided to hit the section, drive hard off the bottom and point eyes and arms toward the trough of the wave. You won’t be able to see any thing, but you don’t need to.  When you feel like your nose is about to pierce the lip, kick back on the tailpad and jam the front foot down simultaneously. This will allow for the Wilko-whipping sensation, providing spray and slide aplenty. But the main thing is trusting your initial instinct and blindly attacking the lip. 


Don’t. Kick. Your. Board. Away. Instead of trying to fling yourself off a section, imagine popping off the lip while taking a small step forward with your front foot. Literally shift your weight (shoulders and hips) forward while lifting your front foot and moving it toward the nose. This will help you stay over it and provide a softer landing position (wider landing stance = more stability and fluffier impact due to rocker and board flex). 

Or just comment about how this should be on The Inertia and continue surfing like a soggy crouton. Your choice!

Trailblazer: Dane does it again!

Has anyone changed our landscape more than Dane Reynolds? Wait until you see his latest brilliant twist!

The number of ways in which Dane Reynolds has changed surfing is close to uncountable. His air game, approach to competition, embrace of the internet, distancing from the internet, video style, personal style, carve game, wave choice, business decisions, surfboard shape, angsty play…



Has any one surfer left his mark more indelibly on our space in the last decade? Has any surfer shaped our landscape more?

But maybe you thought Dane was slowing down. Maybe you thought his innovation had peaked. Maybe you thought there would be nothing new coming from Ventura, California due Dane’s relative comfort and age. Maybe you thought that these were Dane’s middle Liberace years.

Well you are an asshole and Dane Reynolds gives you….

…THE R  A   I     L!

Surfers have been putting their major sponsor stickers on the nose since the beginning of recorded time. Dane, in one Instagram post, flipped convention on its ear.

Jamie Tworkowski, the great founder of TWLOHA, author and winner of the coveted Most Handsome Humanitarian™ in both 2013 and 2016 texted me the image along with “Rail stickers!!! Has it ever been done?!”

No it hasn’t and Dane Reynolds has done it again. Who will be the first professional to follow Dane to “The Rail?” Will it be Kolohe Andino? Will it be Joel Parkinson? Will it be the entire 2017 field?

It really is aesthetically pleasing.

And I thank you, Dane Reynolds, on behalf of surfers everywhere (not counting the surfers who write for/visit The Inertia).

Sabre Norris: Gaining Fame and Fortune!

Beyoncé who?

Oh to be twelve and holding the world in your palms. Sabre Norris is on the fast track to stardom and that is a wonderful thing. Too long has surfing been defined by Laird Hamilton in the mainstream media.

Did you know that Sabre’s initial bout with Ellen went huge, amassing upwards of thirty-million views? I’m not sure where her count resided before Ellen, but Sabre now boasts 102K Instagram followers, a number that could be easily monetized if managed correctly.

But while we love watching her fame and fortune grow, we shudder at the thought of Sabre becoming an organic-non-GMO gluten-free-green-tea peddler. Because she’s bigger than that. Better than that. In a perfect world we’d watch her stardom transcend the petty millennial blogosphere, and expand outwards to create true global resonance. I’ve never met Sabre, but she seems like a genuinely great human. Someone who could make the world a better place.

I guess Ellen felt the same, as she invited Sabre back for another episode and presented her with the opportunity to serve as a red carpet correspondent at Nickelodeon’s Teen Choice Awards. Juvenile as that may sound, it’s yet another opportunity for Sabre to showcase herself to the non-surfing masses. She could be on track to real celebrity — perhaps even becoming Australia’s sweetheart. Is that a thing?

How this exposure will affect her surfing (and skating), I do not know. At such an important stage in her developmental years, one might think Sabre should focus on the athletics and pursue extracurriculars later. Certainly you wouldn’t want to jeopardize her immense abilities, but at the same time it’d be hard to pass up all these media opportunities. The Norris parents have a lot to think about, especially with little brother Biggy headed in the same direction.

One thing I think we can all agree on: anytime Sabre feels impassioned to share her voice in a more literary sense, she’s highly encouraged to stand on our little soapbox and shout to the heavens. Let’s just hope she doesn’t forget about us little guys!

Sabre x Ellen pt. 2:

Inside: Surfing Magazine’s wake!

The last hurrah!

There was a wake last night for Surfing magazine (RIP) that was very well attended. A veritable who’s who of surf industry stalwarts, lower tier professional surfers, surf media personalities and hangers-on said goodbye to Surfer magazine’s better half by drinking booze, fighting, cursing, fighting, getting drunk, kicking, cursing, drinking booze, puking, throwing bottles, fighting, drinking, kissing, kicking, cursing.

I didn’t feel sad, personally. Surfing magazine was most useful at bringing people together, I think. Some of the greatest I know from Travis Ferre to Evan Slater to Taylor Paul to Jimmicane to Peter Taras to Chato Aganza walked those halls and none of them are dead so… whatever. Right? So long, Surfer. I mean Surfing.

As fate would have it, I got a chance to speak with Taylor Paul and Chris Binns yesterday during the Volcom Pipe Pro about the state of surf media. Taylor once edited Surfing and Chris once edited Australia’s Surfing Life (RIP) (RIP). I used my time to shit on The Inertia and will also crash its wake when nature finally murders it.

My memory of specific events from last evening is, anyhow, very fuzzy but I did manage to catch some video.

Technique Critique: Gabriel Medina

World's best surfer? We say no!

Considering how much you all loved the first one, I decided to do a technique critique of Gabriel Medina.

The first step would be to find a clip that visually demonstrates the points I’m trying to cover. This proved to be harder than anticipated.

Isn’t it surprising that Gab hasn’t produced a single video of himself in years? Sponsor flicks aside, Medina doesn’t have a single rip-clip of his own making since 2011.  Pundits are quick to highlight John’s modesty and aversion to attention, which in most cases is used to juxtapose Medina’s snarky attitude. Yet, who is the one with two films, countless individual edits, and an entire web series dedicated to his life? John!

Mind you Gabriel has an autobiographical book and a manscaping advertorial to his name, but still! Why doesn’t he want us to witness his brilliant wave riding?

Eventually I stumbled upon this single-session edit from Hawaii.

Gabriel’s surfing is incredibly different from that of Jordy. Let me explain.


Medina’s positioning on the surfboard could be described as ultra-neutral, meaning that if you were to take a photo of Gabby and remove the surfboard, it’d be hard to tell whether he’s regular or goofy. His legs appear very boxy, with knees hovering over ankles and his torso always centered. In my opinion this stance is good for general balance and backside surfing, but detrimental to style and forehand surfing.


Backhand competitive surfing can be summarized in one maneuver — a hard, snappy, vertical tag of the lip, perhaps with a  fin drift if they’re feeling frisky. As seen in the video above (1:05), Gabs has mastered that maneuver. This is majorly thanks to the mechanics of backside surfing, wherein the rider can utilize his hand to administer weight to the front part of the board during the latter stages of a turn. This is mostly impossible frontside, though some old-school guys used to do it on occasion.

The hand-on-board maneuver is advantageous because it provides extra stability, plus it removes the need to shift the front foot forward (something I explained in detail in Jordy post) during snapping maneuvers. This then facilitates speed and flow between maneuvers, as there’s no need to reposition your feet after every turn. When combined with impeccable timing and explosive hip rotation, Gab’s boxy stance and manual weight distribution allow for technically perfect backside turns. Though frontside is a different story.


Gab’s apparent lack of flexibility and natural hip displacement force square, clunky turns on his forehand. Where Jordy and John go full-Gumby through their maneuvers, often knocking knees and contorting their bodies, Gab remains stuck in the poo-poo position. This is not only aesthetically unappealing, but it actually detracts from angular mobility and leads to less impressive and a smaller variety of turns. Unfortunately this is a flaw in his body mechanics, so he hasn’t much room to improve in this field.


Gab is a wizard in the wind. He consistently lands some of the biggest, highest-scoring airs our sport has seen, and all of them without soft feet.

You know how in football or golf, someone with a surplus of “feel” is considered to have soft hands? The phrase refers to a person’s ability to smoothly absorb the pressure of impact through impeccable timing and dexterity. The same principle applies to the feet (really more like knees and ankles) of surfers.

Soft feet enable a smooth compression of the knees and ankles, so that landings are less abruptly impactful. A couple guys who retain this flexible quality are Yago Dora and John Florence. Meanwhile, Gabby’s rigidity would be considered disadvantageous in landing colossal punts, yet he manages to make them time and time again.

So then how does he do it? Commitment and recovery.

Gab’s courage when approaching large sections is genuinely disconcerting. Remember his massive backside rotation in France a few years ago? That’s a section most CT surfers would float warily, if not avoid it altogether. But then there’s Gab, who decided to throw knees, ankles, and caution to the doldrums, only to magically ride out on his feet. Great timing combined with one-hundred percent commitment is what keeps Medina over his board and allows him to stick these hellbent rotations. But not all airs are stuck so cleanly.

That’s where recovery comes into play. Next to Slater and John, Gabs is the best at pulling it back under him. This seems contradictory to the Jordy piece, where I sated that non-knocked-knees provide insufficient leverage for resurrection; what that idea fails to recognize is that Gab is a freak of nature. His ability to recover can be partially attributed to impeccable physical conditioning, but believe it or not, much of the recovery process is mental, and Gabby’s drive to win has him doing Superman shit. You know those stories of people who lift cars off of loved ones? Medina’s doing that with his abs.

Long story short, Gab lands huge airs because of his natural ability and mental fortitude — not superior technique.

Tube riding

Gabriel is one of the best forehand tube-riders in the world, mostly because of strength and positioning. When in the tube, Gab rides forward on his board — a technique that allows the rider to gain or lose speed with ease, hold a line with great efficiency, and remain evenly balanced throughout the ride. He accompanies this positioning with a flat-footed approach, which is a structurally superior technique to the drop-kneed, cocked-foot stance of most RVCA riders. When you combine a solid base with efficient positioning and sprinkle in a couple thunder thighs, foamballs no longer seem so treacherous.

But backside tube-riding is a completely different animal, and for me, Gab has some work to do in this area. Medina’s pigdog consists of a firmly planted front foot and a completely flattened back leg. There’s no space whatsoever between his back knee and front foot, making him unable to effectively pump or stall. A small stance also limits your balance, by the simple principle that the closer your feet are, the easier you are to knock over. If I was Gabby, I’d start watching videos of John at Pipe to learn how to properly utilize the legs and body in a backside pit. Then again, they don’t surf many right barrels on Tour, so he probably doesn’t care.