The rocket kick-off



It’s a common belief that the best way to enter a wave is right before it begins to crest (crash) when you must start paddling freestyle. If this is true, so far it seems not to be working as well as it could be.

For thousands of years, there has been no real significant improvement in bodysurfers’ form and efficiency. They seem to deal with energy consumption and drag not only in the “entry phase,” but during all phases of bodysurfing a wave.

Getting stronger and stroking fast aren’t the problem. They can be part of it, but the key is that thus far, attempts have consistently been made at solving the wrong problem.

You can be stronger and have a faster stroke, but if you have to deal with drag and wasted energy, surely you can only worsen the same repeated mistakes, especially with regard to entries or kick-offs.

Actually, using arm strokes to catch a wave is against natural law.  If you want to be a good bodysurfer, you would do much better by thinking like an aquatic mammal, instead of a terrestrial mammal, churning your arms and legs.

Dolphins and seals know that. They don’t use their “arms” to catch a wave, or to escape from a shark attack. They do the dolphin kick.

We're embarrassingly inefficient in the water, able to convert at best three or four percent of our energy (kicks, strokes, and general underwater exertions) into forward motion. For an unskilled swimmer, that conversion will likely be MUCH less. Think of running. To run faster isn’t hard—your body figures it out immediately. However, swimming faster requires a different technique, as well as utilizing significantly more energy.

Really good bodysurfers can boost their efficiency up to 10 percent by adding fins. But, as happens with swimmers, for an unskilled bodysurfer that conversion ratio would likely be MUCH less! Every dolphin (an aquatic mammal) by comparison can turn 80 percent of its energy into thrust. These sprinters of the sea can swim up to 33 miles (53 kilometers) per hour!


Maybe because dolphins swim like … dolphins?

In that case, it may be easy to accept that swimming like dogs is not the best option. Nor is swimming like a chimp or leopard or whatever terrestrial mammal you like. And most bodysurfers still swim like terrestrial mammals. The same goes with the kick-off or entry technique.

So, how can you get faster in the water swimming from point A to point B?

Well, if you ask swimmers what the fastest moving style is—fly, back, breast, or freestyle—the answer is going to be freestyle. BUT THIS IS SO WRONG!  Michael Phelps didn´t race the great white shark by swimming crawl or using a short and flexible fin like the ones used by 99% of bodysurfers today.

The correct answer is: the fastest movement style is the underwater undulatory body movement using a large fin.

Monofins, plus underwater undulatory body movement, or finswimming, provided Michael Phelps with 349% more propulsion, allowing him to swim 87 % faster than his 2009 World Record!

If you want to develop a better start and a better kick-off, there is no substitute for practicing a lot. Don’t wait until the next swell to refine your technique. A good kick-off requires many subtle but significant motions and positions. It takes time to develop and master each of these techniques to the point where you will be able to perform them well in the surf line. Practice makes perfect.

The good news is that practice does not require waves!

Since the frontal drag forces are proportional to the square of the bodysurfer’s speed, it would help if the bodysurfer assumed the position of lowest drag coefficient during the kick-off or at the start phase of catching a wave. And use LeblonFins. As an energy conversion element, the fin’s most important property is its ability to channel the energy of the kick in the most efficient way, transferring that energy to the water. And this LeblonFins does very well.

The small and high flexible fins, like those you find on almost every bodysurfers feet, bend under pressure of the kick and of the wave. The more you kick, the more the rubber heats up and the more it softens and looses the ability to propel - or to work as rudders.

At any given speed, the energy expended to cover one unit distance is lower with the lowest kick frequency. LeblonFins is able to let you reduce your kick frequency at any given speed and hence to produce the greatest distance per kick. It's always better if a large mass of fluid is accelerated to a low velocity than if a small mass is accelerated to a high velocity, as happen with short and flex.

This would be the swimming hyper-streamlined position, that is defined as having the chin on the chest, the arms placed behind the head (as much as possible), tightened as close as possible, pulled forward as far as possible, with hands overlapped, aligned with the forearms, wrist on the wrist, and  fingers clenched.

The video you are about to watch is the basic ROCKET (or catapult) entry. It’s a simple combination of a breast stroke with a dolphin kick. But the initial leg position comes from a hyperflexion of the knee. Note: you must be sure that you have healthy knee ligaments before performing this movement.

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