SUP surfing is, for some, is seen as the most fun you can have on a board with a paddle in your hand. The waves don’t need to be big. They don’t even need to be perfectly formed. If there’s a bit of ocean movement then you’re good to go. It’s trickier than it looks, however, with newbie SUP surfers often making a few mistakes that can easily be rectified. Here’re are three key tips to improving your stand up paddle surfing.
Take off low, with your head and shoulders forward, head looking in direction of travel.
Having spotted a wave with your name on, you’ve manoeuvred into position and you’re ready to take off. All too often, however, we see riders get picked up via their board’s tail as the wave surges forward only to have the paddler bail off the back. This is usually because the unusual sensation of rising causes an (at first) involuntary standing tall of the SUPer in question. What you should be doing is keeping your knees bent and your trunk (head, shoulders and torso) leaning forwards into the wave’s trough. Your head should be up with your eyes looking in the direction of travel down the wave’s face, whether that be a right of left.
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Paddle hard! And paddle some more.
Tickling the water with your SUP paddle won’t cut it. You need momentum to pick the wave up so burying the blade is essential. Combined with the first point the propulsion of your paddle stroke will work in harmony with the wave’s energy thereby forcing you down the wave face at speed. It’s this speed that gives additional stability and manoeuvrability. As a general rule of thumb it’s a good idea to add three extra paddle strokes as you take off, even if you think you’ve caught the wave. This extra boost ensures you’re on the swell and sliding.
Be proactive – around the break and on your board.
Waves don’t always break in the same place. Depending on the size of each set, and a few other factors, means swell can swing wide, back off, loom in from way out and every other scenario you can think of. Your aim is to take off on the peak – the steepest part of the wave – as this’ll ensure the fastest (and most fun) drop that’ll allow set up for riding the rest of the unbroken part of the wave. But to be in the right spot you’ll need to move about, look to the horizon and spot for approaching surf. Judging where it’s going to break and positioning yourself accordingly should follow suit. This gets more efficient as you spend more time SUP surfing.
Once on the wave moving around the board is good practise. Board trim will allow longer rides and the ability to speed up or slow down according to how the wave’s breaking, staying in the pocket (where the power source is) as much as possible.
There are plenty more SUP surfing skills to be developed but these will certainly get you well on the way.