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SUP hack: Time on the water – quantity over quality?

The old saying: ‘need more time on the water’ is usually used when referring to required improvements in personal SUP performance. And there’s no question racking up the hours will pay dividends.  But is quantity more important than quality?  Is five days straight stand up paddle surfing in average conditions better than one session in groomed perfection?

As with many things paddleboarding, there’s no right or wrong answer to that question!  It’s a difficult one, and a lot of it comes down to individual motivation. From our own experience smashing out the hours has really paid dividends.  There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment, and that’s true for paddleboarding.  It’s perfectly possible to handle, perform in and enjoy less than idyllic SUP weather and still feel fulfilled at the end.  That said, we do appreciate not everyone is the same. Standing at the water’s edge, staring forlornly at grey skies, bucketing rain and choppy water isn’t for everyone. During these stages of your SUP career you’ve really got to ‘want it’ to enjoy battling against the conditions.

It also helps to have a defined plan. As you watch a paddler head off into harsh conditions, you ay wonder why on earth they’re choosing to paddle in such grim conditions. If they’ve got their head screwed on types, however, there’s almost certainly method in the madness. It’s not necessarily that they’re feeling a little masochistic and fancy beasting themselves stupid (although some do just for kicks!); rather the paddler in question has seen a training opportunity and is making best use of what’s on offer.

Picture the scene. Grey, choppy and cold looking water doing it’s best to make the scene uninviting and put you off paddling. Winds gust around 20 knots and there’s a strong windchill.  And despite you see this a stand up paddler putting in.  Really?  Are they insane? Surely they’re not really going in?  But the rider efficiently launches, turns downwind and begins riding bumps (rolling swell) along the coast, all the time  that nagging breeze helping propel him onwards to the next lump. To the observer on the beach it looks effortless, fun, exhilarating, even a little graceful.  And with prior planning, understanding, skills and knowledge it can be all of those things. But this ride hasn’t been earned overnight.   Over the period of several days you can bet your bottom dollar the paddler in question will have done their dues in unappealing weather.  They will have made the most of all weather to build up increased levels of accumulated muscle memory in tough conditions.  And because of this they have an overall higher skill set than those waiting it out for windows of sweetness and opportunity on the beach.

Now don’t get us wrong. We’re not suggesting everyone head for a float regardless of weather (although there’ll usually be somewhere to paddle if you search around). And we also acknowledge that a quality session in optimum conditions will also yield possibly more fun (maybe but see our earlier post on tier two fun). But we do think having that inner motivation to get out there whatever will inevitably help you in the long run – even if it’s simply a few extra hours on the water a week.

With spring a mere sniff away there’s never been a better time to search out a variety of venues that could offer you a bolthole regardless of Mother Nature’s moods. As warmth levels rise, with both water and air temperatures, it could be worth having a plan in place to max out your stand up paddling time and achieve something more than simply floating about. Whether it be working on paddling technique, focusing on board control, tuning your machine (through fin set ups or optimum pressure) and appreciating the subtle nuances of each change, paddling in a more varied range of conditions or anything else you can think of. There’s plenty of opportunity for pushing on your SUP this coming season. Time to get involved!