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SUP surfing: reading waves and how to take off more accurately.

There’s been a bit of surf about the last few days. And we don’t mean whomping, ‘eat ya board’ death bombs where surfvival is key. We’re talking more accessible waves that allow progression. Big enough, but not life threatening. In particular, the south coast is getting a round of windless juice that’s enticing many a paddler into the action.

With the influx of newby SUPers this year the knock on to winter paddling, it seems, also continues. It’s certainly not as big numbers as seen in summer 2020 – the cooler weather puts paid to that. Yet new recruits are certainly out to experience this side of the sport.

One question we’ve heard is: ‘how do I take off on waves properly?’. As inexperienced riders ‘reading’ (interpreting) the conditions and proper positioning are new skills to learn. Simply paddling for any old lump like a hyperactive puppy doesn’t yield best results. Some thought and a plan of attack needs to be put in place.

All waves aren’t the same. And no surf break works like the rest. There are similarities but that’s about it. We should also add that no two waves break in identical either.

The best word to describe how a SUP surfer should act is ‘proactive’. Sitting in one spot and not moving in rhythm with the ocean won’t get you a ride. Of course, surf etiquette should be adhered to. (If you’re unsure of surf etiquette then familiarising yourself is essential). With proper conduct, however, there shouldn’t be a problem with working your way to the peak. We should add that knowing and understanding tides and factor such as rips is info you’ll need to stay safe as much as actually SUP surfing.

The peak is where the wave starts to form, jack up and become more vertical. At most beach breaks, which is where you should be riding (to start), multiple peaks will exist. This’ll be where the bulk of surfers are sitting. Either side may offer the odd alternative section but it’s the peak you generally need to be on. Note: quieter peaks do exist at many surf spots. You may just have to walk a little to find them. If you’re learning this is worthwhile.

As waves pulse through some will be bigger while others will be smaller. Spotting a set incoming and paddling either out or in, depending on how you judge the size, is a good idea. Your chosen wave should be as vertical as possible. Timing is everything and this only comes with practice. Aiming to drop down the wave face at the wave’s apex is the route you’re aiming to take. Make sure you look around and spot others who want the same wave – avoiding collisions is wise. Looking also means peering behind you, over both shoulders, to see how the wave is stacking up and which way it’s likely to peel. Keep your head up and don’t shoe gaze.

When you feel the I ocean’s energy lift you and your SUP paddle hard! You should already be in surf stance and aiming to trim the board, nose to tail, to stop the front submerging and you bailing or the wave rolling beneath you and you falling off the back – a balanced almost martial arts stance is needed. Look in the direction of travel as you continue to stroke. Don’t stop paddling until you’ve 100% caught the wave and are being propelled along. Bend your knees, trim the board and avoid standing tall with your paddle in the air grinning like a Cheshire cat. We get the stoke factor but this’ll mean you just run straight as opposed to along the wave. It also means you’ll have further too paddle back out against lines of white water. Hopefully you’ll then score a fun ride and be ready for more.

Surf SUPing is something that needs to be done more to improve. With careful practice, however, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy a fulfilling winter of riding waves.

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