Arguably the most visually impactful area of stand up is waves. There’s nothing like an image of a rider dropping in to peeling waves to grab the attention. It’s the reason many decide to pick up a paddle and take to the water (even if they never venture anywhere near a moving wall of water).
When Laird, Kalama and co re-introduced SUP to the masses (the Waikiki Beach Boys of the 50s had been paddling for years and stand up can be traced back even further than that) it was all about flow, glide and style – not the hack, bash and slash you see today.
In the last few years stand up paddle surf boards have gotten smaller and more technical to ride. The paddlers themselves – while certainly talented – are usually on the lower end of the weight spectrum, most likely sub-25 years old and more often than not have access to idyllic (warm) waves. For the layman this couldn’t be any further from their experience of SUP in surf – especially in this neck of the woods (UK).
Here we have Mother Nature’s fickle temperament to contend with as well as most of us not being in the same demographic to those described above. SUP by its very nature is a relatively pricey sport. For sure there are more expensive activities around but you do need some disposable income if you’re planning on taking up SUP. As such you’ll most likely fall into the middle aged category (or you’re a grom with parents willing to purchase your kit!). This then means work, family and other associated life commitments that come with being a ‘grown up’ conspire to cut down your water time – not exactly conducive to developing the necessary skills to tackle world class waves!
But do we even need to? Isn’t the point of paddle surfing being able to make use of less than perfect conditions, smaller days and/or waves deemed of no use to surfing’s glitterati?
Listen to any industry pundit within SUP and predictions of wave sliding kit getting smaller, more technical and therefore harder to ride permeate. Yet it doesn’t need to be this way at all. McConks (as you’re well aware from reading this blog) are providers of high quality inflatable stand up paddle boards. And yes, you can quite happily ride waves with your iSUP. OK, you may not be smashing grinding lips or hucking tweaked airs but your inflatable board will take you to more spots than you’d first imagine.
Picking your days and locations are key. If it’s macking then chances are these aren’t the right conditions. Up to around shoulder high clean surf, however, will be more than doable. Of course you’ll need to have some fundamental paddling skills under your belt and being aware and adhering to surf etiquette will ensure a harmonious line up. By and large though surfing on an inflatable is more fun than you’d first believe.
And it doesn’t stop at round nose boards. There are tonnes of example online of people ‘surfing’ touring and race SUPs. Our McConks GoExplore is fine for tackling ankle/knee slappers. Gliding along, on barely a wave, when more hardcore surfers aren’t anywhere to be seen, is what makes stand up paddle surfing so special. In the extreme/gnarly times we live, when everything ‘going off’ is pushed by marketing types, ripple riding is far more refreshing and most importantly FUN without being life threatening.
As with all areas of SUP paddle surfing is what you make it. The main point being don’t let anyone tell you what you’re doing isn’t correct. SUP can be as elitist as you want while at the same time being mellow and fun. The next time a wave presents itself, why not check out your surf SUP style and broaden your paddling horizons?
Tips for AirSUP surfing
- Aim for a quieter location with less water users about.
- Add a more PSI (air) to your iSUP to increase rigidity – a trait that’ll help when wave hunting.
- Know, understand and adhere to surf etiquette (rights of way).
- Gen up on the surf environment and know what hazards to look out for.
- Know, understand and be aware of tides.
- Ride with others.
- If in doubt, don’t go out – know your limits.
- Get a lesson!