SUP hacks this time around with some stand up paddle boarding progression tips. Read on for more and check out the vid below.
Last week (October 5-8, 2021) saw a significant pulse of swell hitting coastlines around the UK – the first real one of autumn/winter. Whilst Cornwall, Devon and the SW had macking waves (possibly beyond many every day stand up paddle surfers) there were more suitable locations elsewhere fit for a slide. During a three day period of surf many newbie SUP wave heads were to be seen stepping up to the plate. All did a sterling job of tackling Neptune and put in great efforts. Time and again, however, there were comments back on the beach about turning a stand up paddle board on a wave face. How do you?
Those that can were being watched intently, for any technique takeaways. With this in mind, our latest SUP hacks post features a bunch of tips and tricks to help paddlers on their way to better SUP surfing. Hopefully, along with the accompanying vid (featuring the McConks Freedom 10’6) you’ll get a better understanding of fundamental stand up paddle surfing techniques.
SUP surfing boards.
Your choice of stand up paddle surfing board can be as simple as your all round model. A standard sized 10’6 will have enough surf performance built in for riders to progress and advance. With newly acquired skills a more dedicated SUP may be sought. But be warned about going too low volume, short and narrow – this isn’t actually needed. More attention should be paid to the board’s shape and your own technique.
McConks’ Freedom 10’6 hard shell sup is a flatter rockered glider. It gets into waves early and makes good use of slack swell by keeping momentum and speed. Whilst a more curvy board will sit in the wave’s pocket better (on critical waves) it’s not needed for many spots.
The location in the video, whilst having its fair share of waves in winter, suffers from swells that form, back off, suck and disappear. They’re also slower and can have a lot of current swirling about underneath. Any stand up paddle surf board, such as the Freedom 10’6, that can overcome this, aid speed (which in turn delivers additional stability and ability to turn, carve and hit lips) is a good idea. No board can be left on autopilot, without paddler input – unless you’re happy to just glide along. For maneuverability you need that additional zoom on sloppy waves as well as a bunch of other tricks in your bag.
Fins for SUP surfing.
Fins play a massive part in stand up paddle boarding performance – whether in waves or on other stretches of water. They can make a bad SUP better and a great SUP feel rubbish. We’ve talked about fins a lot but taking the time to tinker and alter your configuration is definitely worthwhile.
For the day in this vid the larger Freedom 10’6’s middle fin was swapped out for something smaller. It’s a 17” flex tip that’s being run for additional whip through the top turn. The waves in the vid are sectioning and don’t have a massive amount of face for drawn out turns. Instead it’s all about quick drops, bottom turns and eyeing up the crumbling lip wanting to be hit. The Freedom’ speed aids the drop and bottom turn, although using your paddle is a real must as well (more about that in a mo). Once at the critical point the rider uses the smaller, looser fin cluster and board’s whip to roundhouse off the top.
One downside of a smaller fin configuration on a big stand up paddle board means you lose a little drive through bottom turns – hence why it’s important to keep paddling! But the trade off can be worth it.
Use your SUP paddle.
Using your paddle is a way to keep speed going when on a wave, navigate round sections and add more zing and dynamism to your overall SUP surfing. It’s there, in your hands, so utilise it.
Good practice is to use a slightly shorter SUP paddle in surf as this allows riders to really get low when paddling into swells. Once on the face a shorter type will bring the paddle’s blade closer to the rider and allow fully submersed strokes in the wave face – rather than poking it behind the swell into thin air.
We see all the time riders catching waves, dropping and in holding their paddle clear of the water. It’s great to be enjoying the ride but if you really want to improve then efficient paddle strokes whilst surfing are key. Ultimately a rider should be as proactive as possible with a variety of strokes put to good use. As an example: when whipping off the top, as well as maneuvering the board a wide sweep stroke is employed for enhanced spray chucking fun. As you flow through the turn the paddle ends up behind the rider thereby helping to stabilise as he/she comes back down the wave.
Bottom line is: the more you use your paddle the more efficient your stand up paddle surfing will be.
Use your head.
Simply from a safety point of view using your head – i.e. looking up, not at your feet, and knowing what’s going on around you – is crucial. If you’re shoegazing then you won’t have spotted other water users in the vicinity.
But vision plays an even bigger role in terms of scoring good wave rides. Firstly, he/she need to be observing where and how the waves are breaking. This gives opportunity to position oneself in the right spot to take off. Even when you’re about to drop in glancing back over both shoulders will keep you in the zone.
Once on a wave looking down the line, spotting sections and eyeing where you want to go will see you get there. Looking at your feet or at the beach won’t help when trying to carve towards lips. Of course, every now and again head turns towards the shallows is good practice. This way you’ll avoid colliding with others.
In the accompanying clip the rider spots his wave walling up to the left. He goes backside but upon looking back sees the wave start to form right. He changes tack and goes front side back in the direction of travel. All this is achieved with efficient use of vision and allows the longest wave ride possible.
SUP board trim.
Another often overlooked aspect of stand up paddle boarding is trim. When talking SUP surfing trimming your board is another way to aid speed as well as making the most out of those hull and rail contours when turning.
Waves don’t break at the same speed throughout their life. Depending on the venue’s bathymetry (seabed contours) dictate how a piece of surf breaks. At points it’ll jack up and provide steep, fast sections whereas at other times the wave will fatten up and slow down. Altering your board’s trim (in conjunction with the other SUP surfing skills mentioned above) will see riders stick with the wave, in the most critical part and have the most fulfilling ride.
When dropping in usually the paddler will be towards the tail of the board as this should be a steep section. As you slide towards the trough engaging a rail – whether you going left, right, front side or back side – will coax the SUP in your desired direction of travel. If you start to slow then edging towards the nose, as well as paddling, will increase board speed. Sometimes boards can run out onto flat sections, away from the wave’s pocket, so shifting back towards the tail will slow you down and allow the wave to catch back up.
When carving rail to rail weight transfers need to be snappy from side to side whereas more vertical lip whacks should be done from the board’s tail. SUP pivot turns on flat water can help with this last maneuver.
As you paddle back out towards the peak white water will try to knock you down. Get low and move towards your board’s tail as a wave approaches. Be dynamic with your stance and powerful with your paddle stroke. As you climb the froth aim to transfer weight back towards the nose and level off. Keep paddling powerfully and hopefully you’ll be out back in no time.
Putting it all together.
For SUP surfers the above are fundamentals to wave riding improvement. Each key ingredient can be practiced as its own entity before putting it all together. To be really efficient, and maximise your stand up paddle surfing, the whole thing needs to work as one.
We said at the start of this article that most riders will be aiming for real world waves – rather than overhead death bombs. And with that in mind these skills will help paddlers wring every drop of fun from their session. If you then fancy overhead death bombs the same skills apply. And likewise with dribblers. Any wave is game for SUP, you just have to choose how much envelope pushing there’ll be.
And further reading can be found via these links –