If you frequent coastal SUP venues you may at some point come up against the perceived dreaded shorebreak. This is probably a phenomenon more associated with south coast UK spots – although not exclusive to. Some locations elsewhere in the country also feature shore dump.
Shore dump usually occurs where the beach steeply shelves – particularly at high tide. Even small amounts of swell can surge out of deeper water and unload energy straight onto the beach. It doesn’t take a lot of wave activity to create shore dump. In some cases boat wake may be the culprit. It can also be the case that just beyond the shoreline the water’s flat calm. So having gotten off land efficiently you’ll be fine paddling with no unsuspecting flotsam ready to knock you off. But you’ve got to get out first…
Launching in shore break is all about timing. You should be at least a little familiar with how waves break. Usually swells roll towards the beach in sets. A set is a train of waves that have a defined number (but this can change). Taking a moment to watch and time the waves is good practise. After each set there’ll most likely be a lull where the waves are smaller or disappear for a moment (although if it’s boat wake then this won’t be the case). Once you’ve gotten a handle on how many waves are in the set you’ll be better prepared.
Next step is to ready yourself and your kit. Paddle should be in one hand with your board in the other. You’re going to throw your board forwards as you launch so having it secure in your dominant hand is a good idea. Standing in ankle to knee deep water will put you in a good position. Keep your board and paddle high so as to not have the wave catch them and drag them under.
When you spot the lull rush forwards throwing your SUP in front but keeping some contact with it. Aim to jump onboard in prone position your paddle under your chest. Momentum is key so with speed in the mix get to your knees and begin paddling. Quick smart you should be out of the impact zone as shore dump occurs along the shoreline. Once clear you can compose yourself before getting to your feet as normal.
Coming back in you need to be looking behind you regularly and spotting oncoming waves. As with launching aim for a lull and try to paddle in on the back of the last set wave. You’ll need to be vigorous! Once in the shallows quickly jump off having your board next to your dominant hand again. Before the wave sucks back lift your stand up paddle board and walk quickly out of the water.
The above makes shore break sound scary, when actually it isn’t too bad (even if you get caught out). As long as it’s not too hectic that is. Should the wave action you’re confronted with be too manic then consider another location with a mellower launch/landing.
Launching and landing with shore break does take practise. And you’re also going to fluff it at points – this is inevitable and happens to the best. If you do get caught it’s advisable let your board go and dive under the wave (hopefully there’s nobody behind you!). Keep hold of your paddle though. Having passed through the wave drag your SUP via its leash out to where you’re floating. It won’t be pretty but it’ll work. You may choose to wear a helmet if paddling in an environment with wave activity as well, just for additional safety.
Bottom line is practise makes perfect. The more you paddle in locations like this the less daunting everything becomes.
The following video isn’t specific to launching in shore break, it’s more about launching at a proper wave venue for SUP surfing fun. But it does give some additional tips and shows the technique being described above.
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