Advice for Stand Up Paddleboard Surfing Beginners

SUP surfing

Are you looking to start surfing on your stand-up paddleboard? Well, you’re like many people that start writing a stand-up paddleboard in an area that is good for learning like a lake or a protected bay, that has a minimal amount of waves and wake in the water.

Once you become skilled at writing a stand-up paddle board the next progression is to go out into the surf to learn how to ride waves on your paddleboard.

This is interesting because the sport of stand-up paddleboard originally started in Hawaii with people surfing on paddleboards. But now it is easier to go from flat water, build up your skillset, and then go out into the surf and learn how to ride waves.

Before you go out into the surf you will want to be comfortable paddling on your SUP in flat water on days where the water is whipped up due to wind and there is chop either from boats or weather.

This way you are already comfortable in more challenging conditions. If this is you then you have the skills to take it to the next level and surf waves on your SUP.

What size stand up paddleboard is best for surfing?

As you have probably seen stand up paddleboards are significantly larger than traditional surfboards. The main thing you’ll want to consider is a larger SUP makes it easier in terms of float ability, a smaller board makes it easier in two turns of maneuverability.

A good general rule of thumb when picking the size for a SUP designed for surfing is to find one that is one to two feet shorter in length than a SUP that you would use for flat water touring. If you would normally use a 10 to 12 ft long SUP for touring you’re going to want to choose a SUP that is about 9 ft long for surfing.

This is a general rule. There are plenty of exceptions. But you always want to go to want to keep in mind the difference between floatability and maneuverability.

Another issue to consider is the width of the board. For a stand up paddle board surf, you generally don’t want to go any larger than 31 inches in width period and even 29 and 30 in wide is ideal. The reason is that the wider you go the harder it is to maneuver the board on the waves.

What shape of the board should you get?

Well, you’re going to want a SUP that is shaped more like a surfboard than it is a touring stand-up paddleboard. You want a SUP that looks like a large surfboard, with a pointed nose and a tapered tail.

Finally, you’re going to want to consider the weight of the SUP. If it is too heavy it will be hard to turn and maneuver. Try to find materials that make the board lighter so it is easier to surf and turn on waves.

When you are starting out learning how to surf SUP, you’re going to want to pick boards that are on the larger side for a surfboard but yet still smaller than a traditional paddleboard.

As you develop skills and expertise, you will most likely end up on highly specialized SUP surf’s that are much smaller possibly even in the 7 ft long area. Which is incredibly small for a traditional stand-up paddle board size.

The advantage of these smaller boards is that you can ride more technical and bigger surf. But this article is geared more to beginners to the sport of SUP surfing.

Which SUP paddle should you use for surfing?

With traditional paddleboarding on flat water and just touring around, it doesn’t matter which type of paddle you have. You can just grab whatever you can find and it doesn’t matter. Wait generally is not an issue.

With surfing, however, this is not the case. The weight does matter a great deal. You are expending far more energy while surfing and making far more movements and adjustments, so the weight of the paddle is very important.

You want a light paddle so that your arms do not get tired while you’re surfing. you’re going to want to buy the lightest paddle that you can which is a full carbon paddle. Full carbon suck paddles are not cheap, but they are worth the investment if you are going to surf.

How long should your paddle be for surfing? Well for traditional paddleboarding like touring on flat water, the paddle will be a little bit taller than you are. But for surfing, you want a slightly smaller paddle size. You want your paddle to be about the same height as you are tall, so slightly smaller than traditional paddles.

What kind of leash should you use?

The first rule is that you want to make sure that you are not using a coiled leash for surfing. A coiled leash is dangerous for a couple of reasons, one is that it can recoil and bring the board back to you and two it can get hooked up on a reef, and three it can let the board get too far away from you which endangers other surfers.

Your best bet is to get a leash that is designed for stand-up paddling. You want one that is thicker than a traditional surfboard leash and is a straight leash, or non-coiled. The ideal length for a paddleboard leash is the size of the board. If you have a 10 ft paddleboard, you would want a 10 ft leash.

Now that you’ve got the right equipment, you need to find a good spot to go learn how to SUP surf.

Just like learning anything you want to start small. You will want to find a beach that has small waves no bigger than the height of your shin.

If you can find a channel (here is a good definition of a channel: that allows for ease of paddling out to get into the ideal set. Since you are starting in an area with relatively small waves you can generally power through them if you can’t find a channel to paddle out on.

In a perfect world, you will find a beach that doesn’t have any rocks and has a nice sandy bottom. This perfect world will also have smooth water surface conditions. Meaning no wind is blowing into the waves which create a bunch of chop.

It is much easier to learn how to surf on waves that are smooth than on waves that are choppy regardless of the height of the wave is small or not.

And finally, you’re going to want to find a spot where there aren’t too many other people on the waves. I know that this can be difficult but this is especially important when you’re learning to SUP surf. The reason is you’re going to make a bunch of mistakes and you won’t have much control over your board as a beginner.

So if you can find an area that has little to no people that is ideal.

Your journey into SUP surfing starts with getting out to the break. You’ll start by entering the water where the waves are breaking onto the beach.

Grab your paddle and one hand in your board in the other and place your board perpendicular to the beach and push it through the first few waves.

As the water gets too deep for walking you’ll want to hop on your paddleboard. You’ll want to get on your board on your knees in the prone position to power out through the first few sets of waves.

It’s best to place your paddle between your legs in the prone position as you are going through the first sets of waves.

Once on your board your goal is to now paddle with your hands to get out of the zone where the waves are breaking. Usually, this just takes a lot of hard work and sweat.

How to stand up on your board on a wave:

There are two methods for standing up on your paddleboard on a wave.

One is to go from the prune position onto your knees. the problem with this is that you’re on your knees and you’re not yet standing and the waves can be choppy and unstable.

The other method is to skip past the kneeling phase and to go from the prone position and jump straight on to your feet in the athletic position. Eventually, this second method is what most experience SUP surfers choose to do.

And that’s it.

That will get you started on your journey to surfing waves on a SUP.