So you have mastered the basics of paddle stroke and are comfortable and nimble on your stand up paddle board. Now you're thinking of trying your luck in the waves. One of the funnest ways to enjoy paddle boarding is through paddle surfing. You've probably seen experienced paddle boarders out off the beach riding wave after wave and having a blast doing it, now it's your turn. We have put together a couple tips for those new to paddle surfing.
Even if you have "regular" surfed there are a couple things to keep in mind while enjoying waves on your SUP. While those who surf will normally be able to pick up paddle surfing without a hitch, the two different forms of wave riding do require a little bit different technique. First you want to take a look at what board you're planning on using to paddle surf. Obviously the smaller the SUP board the lighter it will be and also more maneuverable in the surf. That's not to say that you can't go out and catch 2 footers on an 11' Surf Style paddle board and not have fun, but there are a couple things to keep in mind when using larger heavier paddle boards in the waves. First and foremost be mindful of where you are!! Stand up paddleboards are normally (For regular 9'-12' boards) larger and heavier than your average surfboard, and thus can cause more damage or injury if the surfer using it doesn't know what he or she is doing.
Hey the ocean is free for everyone to enjoy but lets not forget about etiquette. It's always a good idea for inexperienced paddle surfers to stay well away from any populated surf break where active surfing amongst a group of surfers is occurring. That is the beauty of SUP, you get to paddle away to your own uncrowded corner of the sea! No reason to be piled up at a local surf break trying to navigate amongst several surfers, and trust me you won't be popular on your stand up paddle board attempting to do so, especially if you're new to the sport. It's best to learn away from anyone so that you can focus on your wave catching technique. Also learn on VERY small waves to start and then gradually go up from there, don't kill yourself trying to charge 6 footers day one! Even a lot of experienced paddle surfers and just surfers in general rarely enjoy surfing at crowded peaks as they log more time on the water. There is something to be said that the best waves ridden are the ones where it's just you and the wave and a big smile on your face!
Normally people get into paddle surfing using larger SUP boards, say around 10' X 31" for example. Our N2 10' Cardiff or 10' Sessions are examples of a great boards to learn with. So you want to be able to be somewhat nimble on your SUP board for starters, this might mean several hours of flat water paddling getting comfortable on your board, so when you make the transition from your normal parallel legged stance to surf stance it is seamless and not clunky. Learning the "Quick Turn" or pivot turn is a good idea. This maneuver is basically when you drop your (either left for goofy foot surfer, or right for regular foot) foot backwards about a foot or more, which causes the board to pivot quickly in the water to what ever direction you want the nose of the board to face. Practicing and mastering the quick turn will allow you to quickly turn your board when you see a wave approaching and position yourself correctly to paddle into the wave.
Learning where to position yourself for breaking waves is also important. You want to be able to paddle into a wave just before it crests and starts to break. Also like traditional surfing you want to anlge the nose of the board so that it is going the same direction as the wave energy, get into the habit of doing this when you're just starting out. As your paddle surfing progresses you will get more adept at knowing how to position yourself to be in the best location to catch the most waves. But remember no matter who you're surfing with and where, share the waves don't be a wave hog! Paddle early and often into the wave until you feel the wave pushing you and bend your knees!
Especially when you're a new to paddle surfing, ALWAYS wear a surf leash. It's also a good idea to be mindful of the current swell and wind patterns. Rule of thumb is offshore or West wind (East Coast USA) always makes for smoother and cleaner ocean conditions, which means better surfing conditions especially for novice surfers. Onshore of East winds makes the water and surf break choppy and disorganized, which in some cases can also be very dangerous. So always take a look at local beach cams and surf reports before heading down to the beach when paddle surfing.
Shorter paddles, which allow you to make quicker paddle strokes and switch the paddle from side to side quicker normally is the preference for experienced paddle surfers. But if you only have one paddle and it is fixed for more flat water paddling, that's ok it will work just fine as you're learning to paddle surf. Fin set up is another story that I won't get into just now, but this also come into play for those looking to increase their surfing performance. Remember to have fun! If you're not having fun whats the point right, but also be safe and keep the people around you safe too. Here is a video that pulls it all together. Thanks guys, see you in the water!