Beginner’s Guide to SUP Surfing Technique

Table of Contents

1.Getting Out Into the Water
2.Paddling Through the Surf
3.Catching Waves
4.Riding Waves

Contrary to popular belief, SUP surfing is not easy. If you’ve never tried any kind of surfing, try surfing on a regular board, boogie board or just playing in the waves first. With practice, learning to SUP surf can be an awesome way to level up your SUP game.

Imagine actually catching some waves and cruising by your friends as they get knocked off their boards by that same wave you were surfing on! With that said, a few pointers can go a long way. So before you paddle out, check out these helpful beginner tips for learning to SUP surf.

Getting Out Into the Water

One of the first challenges of learning to SUP surf is to get out in the water. The technique simply involves floating your SUP board on top of the water, grabbing it firmly by its handle, and dynamically pushing it toward and over each incoming whitewater or small wave. Keep your SUP perpendicular to the wave so it doesn’t get dragged backward toward the shore.

After you walk out in the water for a while grabbing your floating SUP and paddle, you’ll start getting too deep to walk. At that point, get onto your surf SUP board in prone position. Tuck your paddle blade under your torso, with the handle sticking out far in front of you, like an arrow or a ship bow. Then, start paddling with your hands like on a surfboard.

If the spot you’ll be learning to SUP surf at is a point break, the prone paddling technique will also be very valuable. Typically, getting out at a point break involves jumping off the rocks and immediately lying down prone on your surf SUP with your paddle tucked under you, paddling out with your hands.

Beginner’s Guide to SUP Surfing Technique

Paddling Through the Surf

While you may already know how to stand up and paddle on flatwater, paddling in the surf is a different story. Chop and waves typically make it hard to get up and stay on your feet. Also, your surf SUP will typically be smaller and less stable than your cruising SUP.

Beginner surf SUPers often start by kneeling on their board before standing. Kneeling can definitely help you build up your balance on your new surf SUP in waves. You can get familiar with your board’s size and proportion, and where to place your knees and feet.

Before your takeoff—the crucial moment where you are pushed by the wave, paddle on one side to direct yourself towards where the wave hasn’t broken yet.

Accompany its movement, then when you're “in” the wave, place your feet in a surfing position: right foot in front if you're goofy, left foot if you are regular. Then steer your board by turning your head and shoulders to the direction you want to go and the board will follow. 

The key is to paddle hard into the whitewash putting weight on your back foot to pop the board over the foam, and then use your momentum to punch through. You’ll find leaning back substantially actually helps you mount and then overcome the whitewater.

Paddling Through the Surf

Catching Waves

The most common difficulty new-to-surfing paddleboarders run into is not catching the wave. Usually, this is because new surfers are too far back on their boards.

The best approach to paddling into the wave is to take a series of fast, short, hard strokes – vs longer normal strokes when merely moving around. Try to use your hips for stronger paddling power.

Stand up paddling gives you a big advantage because you’ll have a better view of the sets coming in. When choosing a wave, leave yourself enough time to get your board turned around without rushing.

Once beginners start trying to hurry, they usually end up falling before the wave even gets to them. The switch from a parallel stance to a surf stance must be very quick immediately before dropping into the wave.

As soon as you feel your SUP dropping into the wave, you should pull back your front foot, or in a hollower wave, even shift your whole stance backward to avoid nosediving.

Riding Waves

Now that you’ve caught the wave, you’ll find riding it is actually easiest of all. The size of your surf SUP (typically significantly larger than a surfboard) will often give you the momentum you need to maintain speed as the wave peels. 

In fact, having a paddle allows you to not only stay in mushy waves and get to that nice inside section, but digging your blade in the water can help you make tighter turns and better keep your balance.

Adjusting your stance is an important aspect of SUP surfing a wave, particularly on bigger surf SUPs. When you’re losing momentum, you can shift your weight forward while paddling at the same time.

When gaining speed, or when the wave gets hollower, shifting your weight back can prevent nosediving. Once you get comfortable riding a wave, you can start practicing sharp turns on your surf SUP using your paddle as an additional fin.

So as you make a turn at the bottom or at the top of the wave, start sticking your paddle blade into the water on the side of the turn to make it sharper. Settle into the face of the wave and enjoy the ride!


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