Standup Paddle Surfing (SUS) 101

paddle surfing

Surfing on a paddleboard is one of the most fun and exciting things you can do.  The feeling of riding on a wave is pure ecstasy and most anyone can do it if you start off small.  Paddle surfing is most rewarding but there are a few things you need know before heading into the surf for the first time on your paddleboard.
  • Make sure you have your leash.  If your board is not attached to you it can easily be lost, damaged or worse, it can hit someone else in the water causing possible injury.
  • When starting out do not get into the middle of a line-up of lay-down surfers.  You need to develop really good turning skills to stay clear of other surfers and you need to understand when it is ok to go after a wave.
  • Start out on waves smaller than three feet high.  Waves higher than that can make it very difficult for a beginner to get outside of where you need to be through the break to catch the wave.
A wave is basically a ball of energy travelling through the water.  In order to ride it you first have to get outside of the break and wait for the swell set to arrive.  Getting outside the break means you will need to either go around the point at which the waves are breaking (this can take a long time) or time your approach so that you go up and over the waves before they break.  At that point you need to keep paddling hard to make sure the next wave doesn’t break in front of you.  If the waves are small then paddling through the break will not be so bad.  If they are not so small then it will be very challenging.  The frequency of the swell will also dictate how easy or difficult the surfing will be.  If waves are coming in at 6 second intervals then you will encounter many more on your way out than if they are coming in at 12 second intervals.
paddle surfing
Once you are on the outside of the break wait for a set of swells to come in.  You can spot them about a 100 or more yards off.  Here are a few tips on catching the wave.
  • Keep your board parallel to the break.  That is, if you were to stay put the wave should hit the side of your board first and not the nose.
  • When you see the wave coming begin to paddle on the side of the board that will turn you in the same direction that the wave is travelling.  By paddling hard on one side of the board you will make one smooth arc onto the wave. You will not be forced to switch sides to paddle straight which will cause you lose a lot and time to miss the wave.
  • As the wave begins to pick you up keep paddling with short, quick strokes. Then quickly put one leg back on the board.   Sometimes a quick hop works well in getting into your sideways surf stance.
  • You could also try a pivot turn in which case you would start by pointing your board directly at the incoming wave.  When the wave gets close pivot turn and begin paddling with quick short strokes to get on the wave.

Make sure that your weight is centered when you move into your surf stance.  If you’re weight is not centered, the board it will tip and dump you over the side.  Your knees need to be bent and the lower you are the more stable you will be.   When you first start out you are going to want to straight line your wave to get the feel for what it’s like travelling with it over the water.  Once you get your balance dialed in then you can practice turning.
Turning a paddleboard is not as easy as it may look.  Paddleboards are big and they take time to come around.  Luckily, paddleboarders have paddles that can greatly assist in getting them to turn.  Here some tips.

  • When you get to the bottom of the face of your wave you will want to turn (called a bottom turn) in the direction the wave is closing.  That is, the direction that the crest of the wave is traveling, either right or left.  The first thing to do is to flip the blade of your paddle over so that it is angled downwards like this ­­
  • Next, plant your paddle where the center of your turning circumference would be.  It’s normally arms length out and behind a little.  Imagine being swung around in a circle while holding a rope.   The paddle will help your board turn and give stability as you lean on it.
  • When it is time to make your next turn back down the wave (cut back turn) keep the blade angled and drag it in the water behind you on the opposite side of the board.  Again, the more you lean onto the paddle, the tighter your turn will be.
paddle surfing
So that’s a basic outline of what to do when trying standup paddlesurfing for the first time.  If you give it a shot and start off small it will be impossible not to have a blast.  So get out there and give it a go- it just may end up being your favorite thing to do!
Also before you go paddle surfing be sure to check out Magic Seaweed .  Magic Seaweed reports on wave height, wind,  wave frequency and a whole lot of other essential information that you will need to make the right choices on location and conditions.   Good luck and have fun!!

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