Riding the magnificent waves is often described as something that gives you an unmatched, victorious type-of-feeling. Get ready to experience this feeling and read this comprehensive guide that explains you how to start surf SUP. It includes every important step and is written by an experienced surf supper: Martin Francis. The pictures give a clear understanding of the steps and don't forget to watch the little movie at the bottom of this page.
My name is Martin and I have always had a passion for watersports. In particular surfing was my thing. The relentless pursuit for waves actually drove me towards SUP. When the charts and tides just didn’t coincide with my prayers for surf and there were no waves, having a stand-up-paddleboard meant I could still get out on the water and make the most of the conditions presented.
If the sea is flat I would have a nice leisurely paddle around the coast or sprint training on the lake. But if there are some waves in the water (no matter how small) means you could catch waves further out and therefore ride them for longer towards shore. In short: SUP is more versatile and gives more more options.
Having paddleboarded for over 6 years now I haven’t touched a traditional surfboard for over 5 year. Whether it is riding the 12.6 Neva inflatable on small waves in good conditions or the 9.4 Vizela Bamboo in serious surf, I have found that JOBE really do have something for every eventuality. My current weapon of choice is the aforementioned 9.4 Vizela. At 32” wide, 4.5” thick and packing 150 litres of volume it’s a board that once dialled in really does seem to be unbeatable in the surf. Being so stable in choppy water it always surprises me how responsive the board is when not only catching waves but also carrying out turns and manoeuvres.
How to SUP surf and catch your first wave
Step 1: check the environment
First and foremost I think the most important thing is to spend some time on the beach and really take in your surroundings. What direction is the wind blowing, standing on a paddleboard will have you acting as a ‘sail’ and the last thing you will want is to be blown out too far from the shore leaving you with a battle to get back to safety. Also look to see if there are any submerged rocks or shallow sections that need to be avoided. Last but not least check for swimmers and other beach goers, heading towards them at speed on a large board is just asking for trouble. Whilst carrying out the above checks I will start stretching and get warmed up.
Step 2: attach your leash and enter the water
Once ready to enter the water it is time to attach your leash, I am a Goofy footer which means I ride a board with my right foot forward and therefore attach the leash to my left ankle (makes me in the minority of wave riders but it is all down to your personal preference and what feels comfortable for you). At this point you are ready to enter the water and hopefully start catching some waves.
Step 3: getting through whitewater and the moment to get up
I tend to walk my board out until waist deep to ensure that once I’m on my board, the fins are not going to bottom out. Only then do I hop on.
If you don’t feel comfortable getting on your feet straight away then you can always paddle out through any whitewater (breaking waves) on your knees or even lying prone on your board, ensuring the paddle is safely under your chest.
I find that the biggest stumbling block when paddling out through the surf is confidence. If you think you are going to fall off, you probably will. Keep momentum going and if on your feet try moving slightly into a surf stance with some weight over the tail of the board to assist in lifting the nose clear of breaking waves.
Step 4: hunting your wave
Once out past any breaking waves, the hunt is on and being on a paddleboard gives you the massive advantage of being able to have a good clear vision of any sets coming through and therefore selecting the best waves.
Step 5: have the wave pick you up
Once you have spotted your wave of choice the key is to calmly turn your board towards the shore and start paddling. If you struggle to paddle in a straight line then one technique you can use is to leave turning toward the shore a bit later so that you are almost still turning as the wave picks you up. Again this will take time and practice, what works for one person might not necessarily work for you.
Step 6: surf stance
As soon as you feel the wave picks you up you will need to quickly get into your surf stance to ensure you are not just thrown off the back of the board. Some people find it easier adjust their feet prior to the arrival of a wave but I find this can effect stability when tuning and getting into position for initial take-off. Keeping your knees bent is of upmost importance and the lower you get your torso the more stable you will be (basically lowering your centre of gravity).
Once you have mastered catching a wave and feel confident in your ability to surf you will want to start carrying out turns and picking up speed on your board. This is all achieved through positioning on the SUP and utilising the paddle to gain stability and perform tighter turns. Stepping back on your board will raise the nose and allow you to shift your weight to carry out turns, remember that your paddle is there at this point to aid you and assist with balance.
Ideally when riding a wave towards the shoreline you will want to turn and paddle back out before you either hit the beach or the wave to catch your fins, both of which will catapult you off the front of the board! Turning out of the wave is again about the art of shifting your weight and using the paddle to turn you around. Practice makes perfect!
In this movie you can see how the wave picks me up and how I immediately change my stance to a surf stance. The wave carried me all a long way!
• Don’t go out alone until you are confident and competent and even then let someone know your whereabouts.
• Always wear a leash.
• Don’t overestimate your ability and always seek advice about what board to start on.
• Be aware of other around you and always follow surf etiquette
• Enjoy yourself and have fun!
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