As a surfer you’re probably aware of stand up paddle boarding (or SUP) as the enemy. The scourge of every line up in the world, stand ups have no idea of surf etiquette, how to ride the wave and what the hell do you do with that ruddy great big stick? And yet, as you sit there, waiting patiently for your next crumbly set, you can’t fail to notice how much fun the SUPer seems to be having.
Fast forward a little and stand up paddle surfing is slowly becoming more tolerated. There are of course still those who refuse to ‘play nice’, but more and more paddle surfers are seen out in line ups, completely in harmony with their surrounds and fellow wave riders.
Over the past few years it’s become apparent surfers are increasingly frustrated and turning to paddle power when conditions are lame (Fatstick SUP owner Reuben May was and is a former surfer who switched to SUP – as seen in the accompanying pics). Take big wave surfing legends such as Tom Lowe. Judge him all you like (his words) but after riding 50ft behemoths, 2ft Cornish dribblers simply don’t cut it. Enter his trusty stand up paddle board and an average gutless session is suddenly transformed. And he’s not the only one. More and more surfers are entering the SUP fold.
But there are a few things to consider if you’re hitting stand up having previously only surfed in the traditional sense.
Many surfers can’t get their heads round that starting off big, in terms of board size, is the only way to develop necessary skills for progressing to a more performance and manoeuvre orientated surf SUP. Too many times we see surfers wanting to give stand up a shot and jumping straight in at the deep end – thinking sub 8ft 100L surf SUPs are a doddle. Not so, unfortunately.
Taking small steps and developing key skills on flat water with stable, floaty boards is the way forward. It may sound boring, when all you want to do is up wave quotas, but trust us on this – you may even discover the enjoyment of paddling on the flat and increase your general fitness accordingly.
Board skills and control is just one element of stand up paddle surfing. The key component, and overiding factor, is the paddle. Tighter turns, big moves and sick shredding is only achievable by learning to use the paddle well. Not only that but it’ll get you out of trouble, moving round the break quicker and generally improves agility.
(Dare we say it; some surfers are quite lazy, often paddling out back only to sit chatting with mates. When paddle surfing there’s no option for this (unless you choose to sit down). Instead movement is constant, as the paddler balances, strokes into waves and rides. At the end of each session a total all body workout will have been completed).
Getting out through froth and flotsam can be tricky, particularly on bigger days. This too is a skill that needs to be developed. At the risk of being ribbed by your surfing peers, taking regular dunkings is the only way you’ll improve balance, coordination and general stand up fundamentals. The problem, of course, is that most adults don’t have that thick a skin and embarrassment permeates when learning something new. If this is the case, head off where nobody knows you, leaving you care free to develop those important paddle surfing skills.
Once you’ve been bitten we at Fatstick SUP will bet our last dollar that hanging the paddle up in favour of your traditional shred stick will become harder and harder. The main issue with surfing in the UK is waves are notoriously fickle – conditions are super reliant on tides, swell angle, wind and whatever Mother Nature serves up. Unfortunately there are just too many average only days which makes surfing an underwhelming experience. SUP, however, can revitalise and reignite those stoke fires – if you let it…