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SUP River Surfing

Stand Up Paddleboards (or SUP) come in a variety of sizes for different purposes. Flat water boards tend to be longer and track better so its easier to paddle in a straight line. Boards designed for surfing are flatter and shorter so that you can turn quicker. Of course, you can justify getting more than one board because the waves will be different. You need a short board for a steep wave. You might need a longer board for a flatter, smoother wave. So the big board on the right, although it's designed for surfing, is really multipurpose. I find I can paddle around with the dog on the lake, that kind of thing. Whereas the shorter boards are really fun to carve up the surfing waves.

The first time you pick one up you'll notice right away how light they are. It's a really nice change from lugging around a big, heavy kayak or canoe. Some paddlers will typically wear either a dry suit or more often a wet suit. The wet suit gives you a little extra padding and flotation since you do end up swimming quite a bit and of course wear a PFD and if you're going to do white water, a helmet. Attach your leash to the quick release of your PFD. The fins, which you'll discover quite quickly stick down in the water, assist in tracking.

Mark's on quite a small board so he'll find it a little bit unstable and as you can see his back end is sinking. That's not because his back end is heavier or anything like that. Once you're on the board, you can play with foot position, then start paying attention to your forward stroke. Nice vertical paddle laid in close to the hull will keep your boat... well, I guess I should say your board going straight. Acclimatizing to the feel of the board happens quite quickly and your feeling of stability can be greatly enhanced by bracing. You can brace on either side of the board and they really will save you from falling off. When you're surfing, letting the paddle rotate around behind you so you can brace on either side really helps. Mark's demonstrating a back brace here where he stops the paddle down behind him to keep himself from falling off backwards. When you do fall off the rule is feet last. This prevents any danger of foot entrapment on the bottom of the river.

Now you'll discover one of the best parts about SUP, you climb back on, stand up and you're good to go again. No emptying the boat, it's great. Mark's demonstrating a perfect technique for falling off, feet last, crouches down, grabs his leash, pulls the board towards him, then climb right back on and paddle to the eddy. It's a quick recovery and it saves a lot of swimming.

Since I still fall off the waves a lot, I perfected the technique of dropping to my knees and paddling to the eddy and I don't actually fall off the board. The technique for surfing with a SUP are very similar to that of a canoe or kayak.

Johno Foster is demonstrating how to get on a wave here. Controlling the board with your feet is the key to really shredding up with style. Maintain a knees bent, relaxed position, keep your butt in and push down with your heels or your toes to curve the board in the direction that you want to go.

One word of caution: SUP is really fun and very addictive...

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Tags: Video, SUP, whitewater, technique