Tips for beginner to intermediate SUP surfers
My time as a SUP surfer has been relatively short. I’m just a regular guy out there in the lineup with my mind wide open and willing to learn. There have been a few bumps and bruises, a couple of shark encounters, but all in all it has been a fantastic experience. Reflecting back on the past couple of years, there are a handful of tips that stand out which are worth sharing so you too can have fun catching waves.
- Don’t rush. You’ve got your new board under your arm and you are eager to paddle out. Wait! Before charging towards the impact zone, take some time to observe the conditions. How large are the waves? Where are the waves breaking? What is the approximate interval between sets? Where are the other surfers clustered? Where is there a rip current or channel flowing out? Developing your surfing IQ is one of the intangible factors which separates good surfers from great ones. Don’t be too proud to ask another SUP surfer about the conditions. This is especially true if you are unfamiliar with the break.
- Choose a suitable surf break. Some breaks are more popular than others for a reason. If you are a new SUP surfer, your best bet is to go to a break popular with longboarders. Longboard surfers typically seek out long rides which provide the opportunity to noseride. Generally speaking, this is not going to be a beach break, but rather an area where waves are generated by either a point or an underwater obstacle such as a reef or sandbar. At point and reef breaks, the surfable waves form farther from shore. Farther out equals a longer ride. Examples of good spots for SUP surfers here in Southern California include: San Onofre State Beach (San Clemente adjacent), Doheny State Beach (Dana Point), Bluff Cove (Palos Verdes), Surfrider Beach (Malibu), C St (Ventura) and Mondos (Ventura).
- Time your paddle out. This tip could just as easily be titled “don’t rush” as well. You can’t duckdive or turtle roll a SUP – two maneuvers commonly used by surfers to make their way through whitewash and breaking waves. Stay inside and don’t rush into the impact zone. If you’re fortunate enough to be surfing a point or tropical reef break, chances are you can easily paddle around the breaking waves. If that is not the case, watch and wait. When the time comes to paddle out past the impact zone you need to fully commit. It is always a mission and even experienced SUP surfers will take one on the head now and then. But with a little patience and practice at reading the conditions, your paddle out will become less and less of a dreaded ordeal.
- Observe the lineup. Watching other surfers (SUP and crawlers) is important. First off, by observing the lineup you’ll get a quick sense for where the waves are breaking. If you are sharing a break with crawlers, you’ll want to position yourself among or just outside of them. As a SUP surfer, you have a) the advantage of being able to see the coming waves a lot easier and b) a larger board, which can catch the waves earlier. Secondly, by observing the lineup you’ll get a sense of the vibe and a who’s who. Are there any standouts? A beginner needing extra space? Anyone there you know?
- Share the waves. No one likes a wave hog. Unless you are at a location with multiple peaks or you’re the only surfer on the water, you are going to have to share the waves. As long as the break isn’t overly crowded, the opportunity to SUP surf with others is a part of the fun. Use the opportunity to learn from others in the lineup, make some new friends and enjoy the experience of being together on the water.