We’ll be honest, the title of this article sounds a little contentious and doesn’t really promote the right image. After all there’s nothing ‘versus’ (or shouldn’t be anyway!) about either of these sports. As far as Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co. is concerned any type of wave riding activity is good. Whether it’s SUP surfing, prone surfing, body boarding or Kayaking; it just so happens we’re into stand up paddle boards….
As much as we love a flat-water paddle, there’s nothing like dropping down a wave and having as much fun as you can handle. With paddle in hand and 10ft SUP under your feet, you’re primed to catch waves otherwise unrideable on your usual mal or shortboard.
There are still those in the World that may knock SUP surfing, so firstly let’s clarify what we’re talking about when we say ‘stand up paddle surfing’. It doesn’t have to be Jaws or a Mentawai reef break. Any time you catch a wave, of any size, and regardless of whether or not you’re ripping, that’s what we’re talking about. Sure, if you can shred, tear and blow the backs out of waves then all power to you, but most SUP paddlers aren’t that way inclined.
For us at Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co it all comes down to time spent in the water. After a Summer of riding waves that really wouldn’t have been possible or worth it on a surfboard (and at times even we called them barrel-scraping days), we were still out there – in an almost empty lineup – having fun!
SUP Surfing opens up a whole range of wave-riding options. Ankle-biting ripples are all good – the waves you wouldn’t think about paddling for on a good wave day, become the Holy Grail between the lulls. And why not? You can still catch them, and still have fun!
Paddling a SUP also offers the chance of riding offshore waves, breaking far from the madding crowd. No need to hitch a lift from a passing boat when you can paddle your SUP. And no burning out your shoulder muscles before you even start surfing.
Then there are the junkier days. If you’ve got the skills days like these are perfect for SUP surfing. The momentum you generate as a paddle surfer means riders are primed for outrunning crumbly sections, rounding sloppy lips and turning an otherwise lacklustre session into something far more enjoyable.
Flip this towards traditional forms of surfing and we just don’t think the majority will have as much fun as on a SUP. There are definitely those who can light up when perched atop a surfboard, even when the waves haven’t turned on for weeks, or even months – the Isle of Wight certainly has its fair share.
But many who surf do so in a recreational sense only – hitting up wave beaches every now and again to get their fix, life often getting in the way. The reality is that the waves aren’t always there when you have the time, and vice versa. Whichever way you cut it, for most people this isn’t enough time on the water to reap the same kind of rewards as SUP surfing will.
On a SUP, riders will be having much more fun, quicker. There’s no faffing about with popping up, paddling out is easier (in smaller and light wind conditions) and SUPs pick up swells earlier. Waves that were out of bounds for surfboards (either because the surf is predominantly too small or too far offshore) are now prime for your SUP surf. And then of course there’s the option of using your stand up paddleboard on the flat – a great workout, and more time in and on the water. SUP’s versatility is another key reason it’s super popular.
We reiterate once again: this isn’t a surf bashing article. In fact it’s quite the opposite. We love surfing. It’s just that we also love paddle surfing and think it’s one of the easiest ways to access waves and get that surfing stoke.
A couple of things to point out, although many who’ve gone before us have done the same; get your SUP skills honed in the flat before venturing into the lineup – the surf zone isn’t a place to try out your shiny new SUP for the first time. With more SUPs entering the water, it’s important to respect surfing etiquette – just because you can see and catch a wave earlier on a SUP, doesn’t mean you have to; you don’t need the best waves to have fun, so let some sets pass you by, or find a peak away from the main lineup. You won’t make any friends or influence people by being a wave hog. Ride with Aloha, respect and you’ll get the same in return.