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What type of wave should I be looking at if I want to SUP surf?

With autumn already here, and winter just around the corner, the time for waves is now. It doesn’t matter which part of the UK’s coastline you head for you’ve more chance of scoring a surfable/SUPable wave during the off season. Low pressure systems whip up storms, close to shore and miles out at sea, all of which can deliver surf in various forms. But what type of venue and wave should you be looking at if you’re thinking of having a crack?

Waves come in all shapes and sizes: some absolute behemoths while other swells are mellower and smaller. Surf also breaks on all seabed types, from sand to reef and a mixture of the two. Waves can roll in and dump onto steeply shelving beaches as well as curling (refracting) round headlands and peeling either left or right. Basically, there are a multitude of scenarios for SUP surfing but not every one is right for taking those first steps.

A wide open sand bottomed beach will serve you well at first. Picking a spot that isn’t mega busy is also a good call. You may want others around for safety but if too crowded there’s nothing worse than a marauding stand up paddle board dancing through the line up, dragging the rider as the white water surges towards shore. Ample space and room to make mistakes is therefore key. Avoid places where heavy marine traffic is operating as well. The last thing you want to end up is a statistic!

The wave shouldn’t be too big. A stand up paddle board – even inflatable – will catch the smallest of ripples. That said you still want the feeling of riding a proper wave so something between knee and chest high will have enough ‘push’ to shove you along and give you the taste.

Whilst you can surf when it’s breezy there’s no point beasting yourselves if a blow’s puffing onto the beach. A windless or light air day will be much more fun and make getting ‘out back’ a doddle. It should also go without saying that obstacles, such as rocks and wooden sea defences need to be avoided. Simply making your life as easy as possible should be best course of action.

Research your intended surf spot thoroughly. Understand how the beach changes its personality as tides ebb and flow. Know how different wind directions affect the break as well. If you need to ask questions then do so. There’s a plethora of info online and most members of relevant Facebook groups will be able to answer your queries.

Finally, wrap your head around surf etiquette – it applies to SUPing in waves as well. Knowing the rules of the road is key to not annoying others and making sure you have an enjoyable time. Also, be sure to smile. When learning to stand up paddle surf you’re going to do a lot of falling. But this is OK and all part of the learning curve. Enjoy!

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