While it may look easy to some, stand up paddleboard (SUP) surfing can actually be quite difficult. Many people find that when they first try it, they end up falling a lot. It can be challenging to stand and maintain one’s balance. Even for people that have experience on other types of boards, the transition is rough.
Typically paddle board surfing is a whole different ballgame. It’s important to understand that they require different skills. The learning curve may be off-putting to some, but it is well worth the reward.
In the following, we’ll tackle the basics of SUP surfing. We’ll also go through some tips that can really help speed along the learning process. It is an enjoyable experience that people of most ages can enjoy.
Choosing Your Paddle Board
Picking the right board is essential. You want to stay away from raceboards, touring boards, and inflatables. They’re not designed for surfing and trying to learn SUP skills on one can only serve to set you back in the long run. Choosing a board that offers stability and buoyancy is key. You’ll want to look at boards ranging from 8 to 10 feet. They should also have a volume between 140 to 200 liters and with a width of around 30 inches.
The space that takes up the bottom curve of a board is known as a “rocker”. You’ll want to have ample rocker so that the nose of your board does not take a dive each time it hits a wave. If you have a friend or know of someone with any kind of knowledge on boards, definitely consult them beforehand. They can be a big help.
Some of our choices for SUP surfboards include:
- Bic Sport Acetec Performer
- California Board Company
- Naish Nalu
If they have a board you can try out, take advantage. Try it out. Getting a feel for different boards can make a big difference in your selection process. Also, the workers at any board shop should be able to point you in the right direction.
Don’t forget, always to have a leash attached. This is for the safety of others and yourself.
Transporting Your Board
These boards are huge. Sometimes, they may prove difficult to lug to the ocean. There are a number of options available for transportation.
- Flying – If you’re flying, there are board traveling bags available. These can easily be purchased online or at most surf shops. Even though they are generally constructed with sufficient cushioning, you may want to add some extra padding. Before booking your ticket, inquire with your airline as to whether they have any board fees. Each airline kind of does its own thing.
- Carrying – There are two different methods. First is the shoulder carry. You do the should carry by holding your paddle in one hand while balancing the board on your other shoulder. Do this by lifting the board with the nose laying the ground and then shift the weight of the board behind as you walk towards its center. Follow these steps in reverse to lay the board down. Sometimes boards are equipped with a carry handle in the center of the board. This makes carrying it by hand much easier. All you have to do is use the handle to lift and you’re on your way!
- By Car – Most of you will be driving to the beach. Boards can easily be tied down to vehicles that already have a car rack. Just use the straps that are already there to tie down your board. Some boards are equipped with locks, which is great for security. You should be able to attach your SUP board to most surfboard roof racks. You’ll often see people laying some sort of cushion like a towel on the roof of their car and then strapping the board with a makeshift hook system. The choice is yours!
Now that you’ve made it to the beach, it’s time to SUP surf! It’s always important to take a look at the ocean’s conditions and see where the waves are breaking. This helps you make a decision as to where you want to go. If you’re going out for the first time or just learning, look for an empty area with calm waves. Make sure there are no hazards. Submerged rocks or coral, a shallow break, and swimmers can cause you and others serious injury.
Powering Through the Whitewater
Next, you’ll want to wade out with your board until the water rises to about your waist. Then, get on. It’s much easier to get through the “whitewash” by paddling on your knees or prone. Standing might be difficult. When you’re going through the whitewash, be sure to be in a stance similar to surfing. Keep your knees bent and feet slightly staggered. This will aid in your balance.
It’s important to paddle hard at this point while shifting your weight to your back leg. This helps you push the front of your board over the foam. It also uses your momentum to propel you forward. Leaning towards your back foot is a great way of getting through the whitewash.
Another technique you can use is a bit more advanced. It’s called “edging”. You can edge by angling the face of your board towards an oncoming wave. While doing this, you also want to push one rail down with your foot. This technique offsets the wave’s power as you paddle through the crest.
Don’t forget, never lose your paddle! Or let go! It’ll end up running away from you to shore. It’s always an exhausting and humiliating experience retrieving it.
Catch a Wave!
You’ll find that after enough practice, it’s easier to catch a wave on a SUP board than it is when you’re traditionally surfing. At first, you’ll want to be picky with your waves.
SUP surfing gives you a nice advantage. Since you’re standing, you get an excellent view of incoming waves. Don’t rush this process. You’ll have to learn how to pivot turn to make quick turns. You do this by stepping back on the tail of your board. Make sure to lift the nose above the surface of the water. Then, paddle on the opposite side of the direction you’re turning towards.
Don’t make the mistake of pointing your board to shore as you would do on a traditional board. It’s better to turn into the wave as it nears you. Paddle parallel to the wave before taking several deep strokes to turn the nose of your board toward shore as it nears. As you turn towards shore, shift your feet into a traditional surf stance.
Riding is by far the easiest part. Once you catch the wave, let your surfing muscle memory take over. The paddle ends up being an incredibly useful tool for you to catch waves. It helps you maintain your balance while taking tighter turns. Ultimately, you’re going to need to put in the work. Continuous practice is the best way to learn. You’re going to want all of this to become natural.
General Paddle boarding Tips
Here are some tips to avoid some of the most common errors we see out there.
- Ensure that you always grip the paddle with one hand on the handle and your other should be gripping the shaft. Your hands should be spread and not both gripping the shaft.
- Work your back muscles. Be sure to fully immerse the blade of the paddle into the ocean in a lengthy motion.
- Again, focus on your back muscles. Try not to use your arms. This will quickly tire you out and you won’t be able to enjoy yourself as much.
- It’s best to keep your feet should width apart. They should be parallel and your toes always pointed to the board’s nose.
- Keep your grip shoulder width as well. The shorter the grip, the weaker your stroke will be.
- Never attempt a surf stance. This is a really common error that you should avoid. It makes paddling all the more difficult. You will immediately fall.
Remember, we all started off learning the same way you did. It’s not easy. The growing pains will quickly be behind you as you become an expert SUP surfer. This is a great way to exercise while being out on the ocean. It is even a sport you can take to the lake and other areas that you can’t traditionally surf.
Complete gear list you will need:
- Stand Up Paddle Board ( Preferably a surf SUP)
- Paddle (Adjustable paddles are best “ SUP Paddles”)
- SUP Leash (Similar to surfing leashes)
- Swim Suit Or Wetsuit (Depends where you live and time of year)
- Board Bag (Optional but very nice for storage and transportation)
Beginners Guide Suggestions…
When starting off, we suggest that you surf in calm waters and catch smaller waves until you improve your skills. Only then, move on to larger waves. I would also recommend that you also understand proper surf etiquette and be respectful of other surfers. The surfing culture is not always welcoming of paddleboarders so be aware of where you are surfing and the general guide lines for that area.
We hope you enjoyed our article on paddle board surfing. Be sure to check out our other paddleboard articles and reviews for more great info.