Whilst teaching techniques across watersports have evolved massively there’s still a tricky learning curve for anyone looking to learn how to surf in conventional mode. Surfing has mass appeal, perhaps because of its associated ‘cool’ lifestyle which stand up paddle boarding doesn’t quite own (yet). Boardshorts, bikinis, beaches and barrels coupled with blaring sunshine – you know the deal. So many buy into this, even if the UK’s surf scene is anything but Californian.
For those choosing to actually learn how to surf there are certainly applicable ‘tools’ available. Boards suitable for beginners with an experienced coach at a venue with reliable swell will put anyone wanting to get to grips in good stead. The fact is, however, Atlantic juice can be quite powerful for the uninitiated (even broken white water) and a decent learner surf board is still pretty low volume and relative unstable.
Enter stand up paddle boards, inflatable or hard – it doesn’t really matter which. Due to their oversize nature and additional volume SUPs can be good platforms for learning to surf without a paddle. Their dimensions mean you only need a mere dribble of chop to get it propelling forwards. As such, not only are SUPs way easier to get the feeling of riding waves your choice venue suddenly opens up. What mightn’t even be classed as a surfing location is suddenly on the agenda with a stand up paddle board. And as great as this is for adults it’s also bang on for kids.
One of the hardest things when learning to surf is the pop up, or getting to your feet. A surfboard needs momentum and because of its smaller dimensions requires more power to move forwards. In contrast stand up paddle boards jet off at merest sniff of a wave and reach top speed quicker. This instantly gives stability. Add to the mix a SUP‘s wider deck and more voluminous shape and you suddenly have a platform that allows the practising of those previously tricky pop ups more often. Repeating, repeating and repeating again(with the odd rinsing) is the only way to dial in any kind of technique.
We appreciate out test subject in the associated pics isn’t standing. But he’s pretty little (young) and happy to just have fun gliding along on his belly. The point being, however, that at barely three years old our little chap is getting used to swell shoving him along at speed. Intuitively he’s trimming the board to avoid nose dives (or pearling as the surfing term describes it) and is ready to get to his feet. We actually have it on good authority that blondy can stand up with a little help from dad perched on the board’s tail.
The more often the above is practised the more muscle memory can lock in so when the rider in question transfers to a surfboard, rather than SUP, popping up becomes more doable. Learning to surf on a stand up paddle board therefore helps lay foundational skills much quicker in a lot of cases than learning to surf on a Swelly (as beginner surfboards are often referred to). When the time is right transferring these skills should be much easier. Likewise, if he/she never goes near an actual surfboard then we’re pretty there’ll be no loss of fun. After all, the term ‘surfing’ describes the act of riding a wave and however you decide to do it’s all good in our book.
Finally, you’ve got your brand new paddleboard in your hands. The desperation to get it wet for the first time is almost too much.
Looking adoringly on, your prized machine and engine (paddle) blink lovingly back at you willing you to get to the beach and local put in. The time is now. You’re ready to make a beeline for the beach.
But wait, what’s this? Windy? Wet? Icy?
Or worse. Your put in is out of bounds as Mother Nature unleashes her latest bout of summery chaos on the nation?
No probs, wait a few days for it to clear and all will be right.
Sure enough a small period of time elapses and you’re presented with a window. Quick! To the put in! How sweet that first session is. This is awesome. Time to get back to the coalface. But that’s OK, because you promise yourself that every good wave forecast, you’ll be in the water on your trust steed.
But then life gets in the way again. Thanks to life commitments your next window of opportunity falls (again) during a period of unhelpful conditions. But wait, it’s working over at xxxxxx? A few calls, a few webpages later, a few social feeds later and yes, it’s confirmed. It’s working.
Jump in your motor, trundle off to said launch and…skunked! More condition driven obstacles. Rinse and repeat – sound familiar? Such is what we have to contend with in the UK when it comes SUP weather.
OK, we’ll admit the above doesn’t paint an overly positive picture. And while this is tongue in cheek, and somewhat over-exaggerated, every UK paddler will agree: we do battle the elements somewhat in this country when it comes to stand up. And all watersports come to that.
For sure those heady golden days of idyllic paddle sessions, often during summer, occur often. But we can get days, or even frustrating week long spells, of unhelpful weather conspiring against us.
Take the current run of chill happening right now for instance. For some it’s not so much of an issue but for those newly subscribed to SUP we can bet our bottom dollar there’s zero inclination for getting on/in the drink. So what to do?
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Firstly, you just have to broaden your horizons in terms of where you paddle. Sometimes life means you may just have to take what you can. But at other times you’re free to investigate further afield which leaves you able to optimise your launch based on Mother Nature’s mood. Plus, the added bonuses of investigating alternative put ins will give a more varied knowledge of SUP in general– never a bad thing. After all variety is the spice of life, and experience the best teacher.
If winter’s getting you down right now, then you could consider an overseas holiday. Warmer climes can revitalise and refresh so worth considering if you’re not up to braving the cold. And they can be surprisingly low cost if you’re willing to fly at odd times and stay in budget accommodation.
Or, invest in some new attire. Having specific condition led water wear is another way to make use of seasonal variances in weather. Most seasoned UK paddlers will have a number of SUP wardrobes ready to combat all the gods can fling at us. Drysuits, wetsuits, compression suits, boardies and amphibious tees. But this all comes at a cost of course. So combining different seasons wardrobes can give you additional protection in the winter. A summer wetsuit with rashie windproof outerwear might even be enough if you’re paddling somewhere sheltered and with no risk of being stranded. It was for me in sub zero temperatures earlier this week!
A positive way to look at it, is to think of our changeable weather as an ever changing watery canvas you can draw bold SUP strokes on (cheesy but true!). Change should be embraced, with no one SUP session ever the same as the previous paddle, you never get bored.
Embrace the change and you’ll develop much faster, with your paddling progress being swift. Paddle, glide, repeat!