In Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) surfing, water and gravity conspire to create the perfect playground between water, paddle, and board. Even though it’s much easier than typical prone surfing, there is still a booty of tips and tricks to keep you out of Davy Jones’ Locker and mastering some sick shredding. With that in mind, how do you master SUP surfing and take your skills to the next level?
The key to mastering SUP surfing is to read the ever-changing conditions, conquer the whitewash, position yourself perfectly to catch waves and navigate the lineup appropriately. It includes knowing the proper paddling form, board positioning, and reading and navigating through the waves.
SUP surfing is climbing the charts as a popular must-do sport combining exhilarating versatility and stability when riding waves. As soon as you have the nitty-gritty down to master the art, you’ll shred your masterpiece, using the ocean as your canvas. Read on as we help you get ready to level up your skills and climb into the thrilling world of SUP surfing.
Table of Contents
SUP Surfing Technique 1: Proper Paddling Form
Paddling is the foundation of SUP surfing. It’s how you get from points A-B, catch waves, and maneuver on the board. Without proper paddling form, you’ll waste energy, lose speed, and miss out on the fun. Here are some tips to improve your paddling form and power:
How To Hold The Paddle: Tips & Tricks
The paddle is your trusty companion in the water, so make sure you hold it with finesse. Grip the handle with your top hand and place the other hand halfway down the shaft.
Remember, the blade should face forward, not backward, like a rebellious rookie.
This forward-facing position gives you stability and the power to slice through the water and embrace the wider-arm stance for extra control and leverage – it’s the secret sauce to keeping your SUP surfing journey steady.
Paddling is it’s a full-body symphony and not just an arm workout. Engage your core muscles and let them serenade the water as you paddle. Keep those legs slightly bent and springy, ready to absorb any wild waves that come your way.
To execute the perfect paddle stroke:
- Reach forward, extending your paddle without compromising your balance.
- Immerse the blade into the water, close to the board, and feel the connection with the current.
- Pull back with conviction, using your core and torso to rotate as if you’re harmonizing with the ocean’s rhythm.
- Lift the blade when it reaches your feet, ready to repeat the symphony on the other side.
Using Your Legs To Generate Power
Ah, the hidden treasure of SUP surfing – your legs, which are not just for standing; they hold the key to unlocking the wave’s potential. The more comfortable you become using your legs, the easier the process becomes.
Here are some steps to follow when embracing your leg power:
- Hold the bend in your knees, the spring in your step, and let your legs become the driving force behind your paddling prowess.
- As you reach forward with your paddle, push down with your front leg like a surfer ready to launch into the unknown (try to stay on the board, of course).
- As you pull back, feel the power of your back leg pulling up, propelling you forward with a surge of energy.
- Switch legs, ensuring each stroke is a synchronized masterpiece.
Proper paddling form is the gateway to SUP surfing greatness. It will elevate your speed, increase your wave-catching prowess, and unlock a world of endless fun. Remember these tips the next time you’re paddling it out, and you’ll begin to notice the effect.
Practice with passion, and soon you’ll be gliding effortlessly on the water, leaving a vibrant trail in your wake!
SUP Surfing Technique 2: Positioning On The Board
Positioning on the board is like finding your groove, setting the stage for balance, speed, and maneuverability. To navigate the waves tactfully, you must master the art of finding the proper stance, adjusting your weight for balance, and positioning yourself on the wave. Here are some tips to enhance your positioning on the board:
Finding The Right Stance
Almost like a performance, your stance on the board is everything. Stand with feet fairly wider than shoulder-width apart, slightly putting one foot in front of the other. Point your toes outward, embracing the surfer’s swagger.
Remember to keep your knees bent, back straight, head up, and eyes locked forward. And to help you find your sweet spot, place a foot in front of the carry handle (which is located dead-center of your board if it has one) and the other about two feet behind it, allowing your weight to flow almost effortlessly over the board’s center, providing control and stability.
Adjusting Your Weight For Balance
As the waves sway beneath you, your weight becomes your ally in maintaining balance. Let your feet, hips, and core muscles be your guides.
A few steps to finesse your weight adjustments include:
- Shifting your weight to your toes or heels to move frontward or backward on the board will help you catch waves or stylishly dodge a nose-dive.
- To carve left or right, gently shift your weight to your left or right foot, allowing the wave to become the momentum to move forward.
- To maintain balance, expand your stance or lower your center of gravity by holding the bend in your knees. This move absorbs the water’s surprises and keeps you in control.
Knowing Where To Position Yourself On The Wave
The wave becomes your rhythm, and your positioning sets the pace. To flow with the waves, keep the following in mind.
- To catch a wave, paddle with gusto, matching its speed and direction. Position yourself at the wave’s peak, where it first breaks. This prime spot grants you enough time and space to ride the wave like a maestro.
- To ride the wave’s rhythm, angle your board slightly toward the desired direction. Position yourself on the face of the wave, where it curves down, granting you speed and power to navigate the path in style.
Positioning on the board is the gateway to SUP surfing brilliance. It unlocks your balance, amplifies your wave-catching prowess, and immerses you in an ocean of endless enjoyment. Practice these tips and techniques until they become second nature.
SUP Surfing Technique 3: Turning On The Wave
When it comes to SUP surfing, turning on the wave is like adding a splash of style, creativity, and skill to your ride. It’s how you adapt to the ever-changing shape and speed of the wave, expressing yourself on the board. Let’s dive into the different types of turns that will take your SUP surfing to the next level: bottom turns, carving turns, and cutbacks. Here are some tips to perfect your turning game:
Different Types Of Turns:
In the realm of SUP surfing, there’s a treasure trove of turns to explore, but let’s focus on the essentials:
- Bottom turn: After catching a wave, this inaugural turn sets the stage for your ride. Your board should be angled toward the wave’s face, putting weight on your back foot and employing your paddle as a trusty lever and rudder.
- Carving turn: Picture yourself graciously flowing along the wave’s curve. Change your weight from the back foot to the front foot, lean into your rail, and let your board carve along the wave’s face. And don’t forget to use your paddle as a counterbalance and steering tool.
- Cutback: Ready for some sharp, explosive action? Swing your weight from the front foot to the back foot, lean into your rail, and watch your board pivot around its tail, changing direction with a burst of energy. Use your paddle as a pivot point and stabilizer.
Performing A Bottom Turn
Ah, the bottom turn, a pivotal moment in SUP surfing. Master it with finesse using these steps:
- As you catch the wave, angle your board slightly in the desired direction, avoiding the temptation to go straight down and lose speed and control.
- As you reach the wave’s bottom, bend your knees, lean into your back foot, and initiate the turn while lifting your nose out of the water.
- Extend your paddle forward and place it on the same side as your turn, pulling it through the water as you lean into it, finding balance and control.
- Look up toward your next destination, letting your head and shoulders guide your board’s path.
- As you ascend the face of the wave, shift your weight slightly forward, poised for the next thrilling maneuver.
Carving And Cutbacks
Prepare for the next level of excitement with carving and cutbacks, the gems of advanced turns. To enhance your skills:
- A smooth Carv requires a synchronized motion of your entire body. Engage your hips, torso, arms, and paddle, creating a fluid motion along the wave’s curve.
- For sharp cutbacks, summon more force and speed. Push hard with your back foot, rail, and paddle, executing a quick pivot around your tail, leaving an impression with power and style.
Mastering the transition between carving and cutbacks demands impeccable timing and positioning (as mentioned in step 2). Carve on the open face or shoulder of the wave, where space and speed prevail. Execute a cutback near the lip or pocket of the wave, harnessing the power and spraying in delight.
SUP Surfing Technique 4: Navigating Through The Waves
Navigating through the waves is like riding the untamed currents—a thrilling challenge that separates the masters from the amateurs. It’s your passport to the surf zone, where the best waves await while dodging the gnarly crashes that can leave you breathless.
To conquer this adventure, you must master paddling out, handle the breaking waves, and synchronize your strokes with the ocean’s rhythm. Here are some tips to glide your way through the waves:
Tips For Paddling Out Through The Surf Zone:
The surf zone, where waves transform into whitewater chaos, can be an intimidating maze, especially for beginners. And to make things easier, follow these tips to navigate through the surf zone:
- Approach waves upright with purposeful momentum, allowing you to rise above their watery embrace effortlessly.
- Engage in a swift, concise stroke—short and sweet—for maximum speed and power against the wave’s resistance.
- Before colliding with the wave, drop into a low, wide surf stance, lifting your board’s nose for a seamless transition over the crest.
- Upon impact, execute a stroke behind the wave’s peak to regain momentum and restore your balance.
- If the wave looms too large, two techniques can save the day:
- Duck dive: Submerge your board by gripping the nose and pushing it downward with determination. Bend your knees, diving alongside it, leveraging your paddle as a lever to deepen your dive.
- Turtle roll: Flip your board upside down, gripping the rails near the center, exposing the fins. Then grab and hold your board tightly as a shield while it rolls over the wave.
How To Handle Waves Breaking In Front Of You
As you navigate the vast blue, waves may unexpectedly confront you head-on, challenging your mettle. Stay composed and employ these tactics:
- Remain calm and focused, resisting the urge to retreat or outrun the mighty wave, as doing so would forfeit control and momentum.
- Maintain your grip on the board and paddle, steadfastly refusing to abandon your trusted companions amidst the turmoil.
- Brace yourself for impact by leaning slightly forward, securing your hold on the board, and paddle.
- Utilize your paddle as a brace or rudder, plunging it into the water on the same side as the wave to maintain balance and steer away from its formidable power.
- Naturally, ride out the wave or power through it by leaning onto your back foot, gently lifting your nose to navigate the whitewater without sacrificing speed or stability.
Catching Waves And Timing Your Paddle Strokes
The pinnacle of SUP surfing lies in the pursuit of catching waves—a dance between you and the ocean’s energy. Master these techniques to ride the waves with finesse:
- Place yourself at the peak of the wave, where its raw power and form converge, granting you ample opportunity to seize its break.
- Paddle with purpose, matching the speed and direction of the wave. Remember, waves move faster than placid waters, necessitating a surge of energy and slight angling of your board toward your targeted destination.
- Synchronize your paddle strokes with the ebb and flow of the wave. Anticipate its arrival and initiate your strokes beforehand, adjusting their rhythm to match the pace of the wave’s journey.
When you feel the wave lift you, execute a swift and seamless pop-up to your feet. Follow these four steps:
- Plant your hands flat near your chest, ready to spring into action.
- Engage your arms, propelling your body upward as your feet nimbly find their place beneath your hips.
- Rise swiftly, adopting a low center of gravity as you transition into a standing position on your board.
- Find your balance and adjust your feet into a comfortable surf stance, ready to conquer the wave.
Navigating through the waves is an essential rite of passage in the realm of SUP surfing. It grants you access to the wave’s domain, protects you from its ferocity, and rewards you with the thrill of catching its crest. After mastering the art, you’ll be surprised by the transformation they bring to your surfing skills.
Embrace the challenge, master the waves, and forge your path as a true SUP surfer. The ocean beckons, awaiting your glorious ride!
SUP Surfing Technique 5: Reading The Waves
Reading the waves is a crucial skill in the world of SUP surfing. It’s all about deciphering the ocean’s patterns, selecting the perfect waves to ride, and avoiding those pesky wrong-place-wrong-time situations. To improve your wave-reading abilities, consider the following tips:
Understanding Wave Conditions
Various factors like wind, tide, swell, currents, and bathymetry influence the waves. Keep an eye out for these alterations as they impact the waves you’ll encounter:
- Wind: Offshore wind (blowing from land to sea) is the surfer’s ally, creating cleaner and steeper waves. Onshore wind (blowing from sea to land) is the enemy, producing choppy and mushy waves. Cross-shore wind (parallel to the shore) can either make the waves more hollow or bumpy, depending on its direction and strength.
- Tide: High tide means smaller and softer waves due to increased water coverage over the reef or sandbar. Low tide means more giant, steeper waves with less water covering the reef or sandbar. Remember, Tide effects can differ depending on the surf spot.
- Swell: Bigger swell equals bigger waves, more extended periods result in more powerful waves, and a favorable swell direction means waves align better with the coast’s shape.
- Currents: Longshore currents flow parallel to the shore, assisting or hindering your movement along the surf zone. Rip currents, on the other hand, flow perpendicularly to the shore and can swiftly pull you away from the surf zone.
- Bathymetry: Different types of ocean floor shapes lead to distinct wave characteristics:
- Reef: Fast, hollow, and powerful waves breaking over shallow areas. Reef breaks offer consistency but requires caution.
- Sand: Slow, forgiving, and gentle waves breaking over wide areas. Sand breaks are more variable but easier to handle.
- Point: Long, smooth, and peeling waves breaking along a defined line. Point breaks can be competitive but highly rewarding.
- Identifying the peak of the wave: The peak is where the wave breaks first and holds the most energy. It’s the sweet spot to catch the wave before anyone else. Here are some pointers to finding the peak:
- Look for signs of breaking water, such as whitewater or spray.
- Observe bumps or lumps on the horizon indicating rising water.
- Notice darker colors or shadows on the surface, indicating deeper water.
- Use landmarks on shore, like rocks or trees, to align with consistent wave peaks.
- Take cues from experienced surfers and follow their positioning.
Analyzing Wave Shape And Size
Wave shape and size play a vital role in determining which waves are ideal for surfing. Consider the following pointers:
- Wave shape: A good wave shape is one with a smooth curve, peeling evenly along its length. Avoid choppy waves or waves that break all at once.
- Judge the wave’s vertical or horizontal orientation when it breaks. A more vertical wave offers speed and power but presents greater challenges. A more horizontal wave provides ease in catching but with less speed and power.
- Assess the wave’s peel angle, observing how fast or slow it moves along its length when breaking. A faster peel angle offers excitement and challenge but shorter rides. A slower peel angle allows for more relaxation and longer rides.
- Wave size: The ideal wave size depends on your skill level, preferences, and equipment.
- Consider how high the wave reaches above your head when it breaks. Head-high waves are suitable for most skill levels and preferences, offering moderate speed and power.
Double-overhead waves are for advanced surfers, providing extreme speed and power, and are ideal for experienced riders. Knee-high waves, however, are best suited for beginners, offering minimal speed and power.
- Assess the suitability of the wave based on your board’s compatibility with the wave size. Longer boards perform better on smaller waves, providing more stability and volume for easy gliding. Shorter boards excel on larger waves, allowing for quick maneuverability.
Reading the waves is a complex yet essential aspect of SUP surfing. It grants you a profound understanding of the ocean’s dynamics while ensuring your safety and enjoyment!
SUP Surfing Technique 6: Safety Considerations
Safety is crucial in SUP surfing, ensuring a positive and secure experience on the water. Take precautions and adhere to guidelines to avoid injuries or mishaps. Here are three key safety tips to consider:
- Wear proper safety gear: Essential safety gear should never be overlooked. It includes:
- Leash: Attach a leash from your ankle to your board, keeping you connected and aiding in staying afloat, avoiding collisions, and swiftly retrieving your board if you fall off. Leashes are particularly vital in rough conditions.
- PFD (Personal Flotation Device): Wear a PFD, such as a vest or belt, to stay buoyant in the water. It is essential for survival if you become exhausted, injured, or unconscious. Check local regulations and conditions regarding PFD requirements.
- Helmet: Consider wearing a helmet to protect your head from potential impacts with the board, paddle, rocks, or other surfers, particularly in crowded or rocky areas.
- Sunscreen and insect repellent: Apply sunscreen and insect repellent to safeguard yourself from harmful UV rays and pesky bugs. Regularly reapply throughout the day.
- Understand local surf conditions: As mentioned in technique 5, familiarize yourself with the ever-changing local surf conditions affected by elements like wind, tide, swell, currents, and bathymetry. Check weather forecasts and surf reports on sites like com before heading out, and be prepared for any alterations during your session.
- Know when to call it a day: Recognize when it’s time to stop surfing for your own safety and the well-being of others. Examples include:
- Fatigue or hunger: Rest and refuel when feeling tired or hungry to maintain proper judgment, coordination, and balance.
- Injury or illness: Cease surfing and seek medical attention if injured or sick, as it can exacerbate the condition and pose risks to yourself and others.
- Boredom or frustration: If experiencing disinterest or frustration, take a break and take part in activities that uplift your spirits. Surfing, while emotionally affected, can diminish enjoyment and mood.
Prioritizing safety in SUP surfing is paramount. Don’t underestimate the significance of cautiousness and awareness. Adopt these practices as habits, and witness their positive impact on your performance.
Conclusion: Bringing It All Together
SUP surfing is a fun and rewarding sport that requires technique, practice, and a deep connection with the ocean. To improve your skills in the water, you need to focus on four main aspects: paddling form, positioning on the board, turning on the wave, and navigating through the waves. Each part involves specific tips and tricks that you can learn and master over time.
The best way to practice your SUP surfing techniques is to get out there and try them for yourself! You’ll love to learn that nothing beats the feeling of catching and riding a wave. You’ll also learn from your mistakes and successes and other surfers around you. Always have fun, be safe, and respect the ocean and its inhabitants!
Torsten Bird is a talented and adventurous waterman from Western Australia, passionate about surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, hydrofoiling, skimboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding. Torsten has spent countless hours mastering his skills and his dream is to one day represent Australia as an Olympic athlete. Follow Torsten’s adventures on Instagram.