SUP Surf 101

Although most stand up paddlers will stick to flat water lakes and rivers, the sport actually originated in Hawaii as an offshoot of traditional surfing. Starting from a standing position, and having the power of a paddle makes it easier to catch waves. But surfing an SUP has its own unique challenges and skills to develop in order to become proficient. 

In this episode we're going to look at a few key tips that will help you enjoy your time in the surf more quickly and safely. First, an important note about safety. Surfing is one of the few places where life jackets are not required. Of course, this means that you should be a very comfortable swimmer, aware of the surf conditions, and never surf alone. Remember that the Coast Guard recommends that you always wear a life jacket, and it will be required when you're outside the surf zone. 


Leashes are extremely important when you're surfing so that you don't get separated from your board, and it's also important to use the right type of leash to best maintain control of your board, and avoid injury. In particular your leash should be about the same length as your board, and you're going to want to have a straight leash instead of a coil leash, because a straight leash will have less recoil in the event that you do fall off, so the board won't come back and hit you, and also a coiled leash tends to get tangled around your paddle when you do fall off. It's also important that you attach the leash to the ankle of whatever leg is closest to the tail when you're in a surfing stance. 

Learning Location

When it comes to the surfing itself, until you're a competent surfer, you need to practice in areas without other surfers, swimmers or waders close by, because an out of control board can really hurt someone. The ideal place to learn to surf is an open, sandy beach with small one to two foot waves that break slowly out from shore, and don't just dump on the beach. It's also ideal to have a spot that gets light, offshore winds, which means the wind is blowing from the land toward the water. This keeps the waves smooth and predictable. 

So now that you've found the right spot, there are going to be three distinct challenges for learning to surf on your stand up paddleboard. The first challenge is launching and paddling past the breaking waves, the second is learning to catch the wave, and the third is actually surfing the wave. But in this video, we're gonna stay focused on the basics of how to actually catch and surf a wave. 

Catching A Wave

The key to catching a wave is first, being in the right position and second, committing to the wave you select. When waiting for waves, it's best to line up parallel to the incoming sets, standing in a hybrid stance, with your toes facing out towards the ocean, and your paddle on the toe side of the board. When you see the wave you want, you can then easily turn 90 degrees or perpendicular to the oncoming wave. When the wave gets close, take some smooth but solid forward strokes to get up to speed. If you timed it right, after about four or five strokes, the wave should reach you, and start to pick up the tail of you board. At this point, it's crucial that you lean forward to get established in the face of the wave, and then once you're sure you caught the wave, you'll step back and turn your feet into a full surf stance. 

Riding the Wave

Now that you've caught the wave, your board is going to want to shoot straight down the wave out in front of it, and there you're gonna stall and lose your speed. Instead, try to angle your board on the wave to stay in the pocket. The pocket is the spot on the wave where breaking part of the wave that meets the open green face. Most beginner riders find it easiest angle their boards so that they face the wave with their toes, and hold the paddle on the toes of the board. This may sound and look easy enough, but make no mistake surfing is one of the most challenging sports to learn, so be patient and accept the fact that you're going to do a lot of swimming before you much surfing.

Check out all Surf SUPs in the Gear Guide ► ►

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