Top tips for catching your first waves

Top tips for catching your first waves

While most Stand Up Paddleboard owners are happy enough to paddle on lakes and rivers, flat water coastal waters and beaches, catching waves on your SUP is a lot of fun!

While most Stand Up Paddleboard owners are happy enough to paddle on lakes and rivers, flat water coastal waters and beaches, catching waves on your SUP is a lot of fun!

But before you attempt to take your SUP in the waves, make sure you are well practiced and confident on flat water first.  The water is a LOT more dynamic in a wave environment, so you need to feel comfortable and stable with the additional movement your SUP will make, and know how to counteract or ‘go with the flow’ to stay on your board.

It’s also important to choose the right kind of board for SUP surfing.  While you can (in theory) ride a wave on most types of SUP, long and narrow touring or race boards, and inflatable boards, aren’t designed with wave riding in mind.  Yes, there are some iSUPs that are better at riding waves than others, but if you really want to surf then a hard SUP is the answer.  Surf SUPs can be any size from 11 foot down to 7 foot, but in reality, those short low volume surf SUPs are suitable for very few people.  If you want a board you can paddle comfortably on flat water, and enjoy carving a wave in a cruisy longboard style, we would recommend our Freshwater Bay Classic SUP board as that is exactly what they are designed for!

If you’re just starting out with your first forays into SUP surfing, then choose a quiet location away from crowds.  Not only does it let you practice without being a danger to other water users, it also takes the pressure off you so you can enjoy getting used to being on your board in that environment without having to contend with others.  It’s also important to make sure you are wearing a good strong leash so your board doesn’t get away from you if you fall off, or if you have to push your SUP over the top of a breaking wave. 

If you’re feeling confident you can paddle out from the beach standing up, but you can also paddle out on your knees, or lying in the prone position with your paddle tucked under your torso and paddling with your arms like a regular surfer.  We would recommend standing up as soon as you are able to as it helps you develop your balance faster, and you have a better vantage point to see the waves coming towards you. For the first few paddle outs, it’s best to be in waist deep water before you attempt to stand, so you don’t injure yourself if you do fall off.  

Rather than having your feet parallel, as you would for flat water paddleboarding, try staggering your feet slightly so the foot you would naturally place at the tail of the board when surfing is slightly further back.  This will help stabilise you as the board not only pitches back and forth, but also rolls side to side.  Ideally you want to get through the breaking wave zone as quickly and efficiently as possible, and you may well make it out to the line-up in one go with dry hair; however, there are a couple of techniques to help you get through the waves that you can’t just paddle over normally.

If the wave is about to break, or has just broken in front of you, then get yourself into the surf stance.  This is where your front foot is placed centrally in the middle of the board, and your back foot is on the tail.  As the wave is coming for you, take the weight off your front foot and apply weight to the back foot.  This will lift the nose of the board slightly to allow the white-water to pass underneath. At the same time, take a long powerful stroke with your paddle to help propel yourself over the breaking wave.  As the wave passes beneath you, lean forward slightly applying weight to your front foot, which will bring the nose of the SUP back down, and stop you falling off the back. At the same time bring your back foot forwards into the staggered stance. Again, use the paddle to take a powerful forward stroke, which will also act as a brace to steady yourself.   For the first attempts at this technique, you are VERY likely to fall in.  Don’t worry about it, this is why you have chosen a nice quiet location to practice.  As the saying goes; if you’re falling, you’re learning! 

If you do fall off, keep hold of your SUP paddle.  It should soon become second nature to never let go, although fibreglass and carbon paddles will float indefinitely, so if you do let go just swim over and retrieve it.  However, it’s much better to be in the habit of keeping hold of it. If you’re in the water and another wave is coming towards you, grab hold of the tail of your board or the rail-saver (flat webbing part) on your leash and pull down slightly as you duck under the wave.  This will help the wave pass over both you and your board. Climb back onboard your SUP and continue to paddle out.  

Once you have paddled out to the ‘lineup’ – the area where you want to be to catch the waves – either face out to sea to keep an eye on the incoming waves, or stay parallel to the waves. 

The advantage of staying parallel to the waves is that you don’t have to do a 180° step-back turn to paddle for the wave you want to catch, which loses speed and momentum.  If you stay parallel and paddle you can time when to put in a couple of extra strokes to turn the board as the wave approaches.  This means you keep your speed up and maintain stability for catching the wave.

For the last few strokes into the wave, change the cadence of your paddle stroke from the usual deep long powerful stroke, to a faster shorter motion – almost circular in technique. 

As you feel the wave picking up the tail of your board, and you start to drop down the face of the wave, step back from your staggered stance into the surf stance, turn your head and lean into the direction you want to travel.  As you reach the bottom of the wave, you can put the paddle in the water and use that to pivot the board round and back up the wave.  If all goes to plan, you are now up and away, surfing your way down the line!

Choices, choices – iSUP Vs Solid SUP

Choices, choices – iSUP Vs Solid SUP

So, iSUP Vs Solid SUP: apart from the obvious differences – one type of stand up paddle board being filled with air, the other being a hard shell SUP – what exactly are the differences in terms of performance between and inflatable and hard SUP? Here Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co. looks at the pros and cons of both designs.
Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic 10'6 SUP and 12'6 iSUP at Priory Bay Isle of Wight

Inflatable SUP

Air filled boards are the most popular type of SUP in the UK and Europe, and this doesn’t look like changing. If you stop and think about it the advantages are tangible.

SUPs are by their very nature big and cumbersome. Anything that can alleviate the strain of storage and transport is going to be welcome. iSUPs are particularly popular for families, city dwellers and/or those with limited options in terms of transport. Overseas travel also plays a big part, although with stand up paddling still a fledgling sport there aren’t huge numbers of riders flying abroad with kit – yet.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co 10'6 inflatable iSUP UK
Freshwater Bay Paddleboard inflatable iSUP bag

IAs long as your inflatable SUP is manufactured from top line material (most commonly double layer Dropstitch or Fusion technology like Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s inflatable’s are) then you should have a hard wearing rigid vehicle. This will transfer directly to better tracking (going in a straight line), glide (momentum from each stroke) and in some cases stability, although other factors do come into play here. Thickness should also be considered. In cases of long or particular wide iSUPs increasing the board’s thickness can help with rigidity.

A stable, non-bendy inflatable SUP will be much more fun to use.  If you’re a tentative surfer then you’ll have a better experience (yes, you can surf inflatables in small waves), while your general all round paddling will also improve. Paddle strokes with a stiff iSUP will be much more efficient than using something akin to a banana. Beware of cheap iSUPs on the market as these don’t have the rigidity required for an enjoyable, and even safe, ride.

There are a few compromises with iSUPs though. PVC material, which most are made from, does ‘stick’ to the water slightly so speed isn’t quite as fast. Inflatables are also at the mercy of breezy conditions and the ‘bounce’ factor is more than a hard board. That said they can be a good option for many.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard 11'5 touring iSUP

Solid SUPs

While hard stand up paddle boards are always going to be more cumbersome to transport, store and move about, they’re still the best choice for paddlers looking to get the most efficiency from their paddling. Even when starting to SUP, a hard shell board will be much more reactive. It will deliver a truer sense of what’s going on under your feet and complete moves – whether flat water pivot turns or carves on wave faces – much more efficiently.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co 10'6 Classic SUP Isle of Wight
Although Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co. doesn’t offer a touring/race SUP (yet) this area is still the realm of hard boards for those who want to cover the most ground as quickly as possible. Inflatable technology is no doubt getting better but the fastest kit (as long as the paddler is also fast) remains the domain of hard SUPs, just…

Waves, in particular, highlight the benefits of being on a hard SUP. When a rider engages a rail/fin an epoxy SUP reacts almost instantly and delivers the redirect paddlers have in mind. It’s then down to he/she to draw lines as they intend, the only limiting factor being personal paddling/surfing skill.

When SUP racing, even on all water round nose boards, the benefits of hard stand up boards remain glaringly obvious. Hammer down with a high stroke cadence, plus efficient and refined paddle stroke, will see SUPers flying on a hard shell board. That said, if you’re out for simple fun on the water then all this talk of performance will have no real bearing – you’ll be having as much fun with either iSUP or hard shell machine. And that’s the way it should be…

For more info on any of Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s range of boards please don’t hesitate to give us a shout. Check out the rest of our range here – https://freshwaterbaypaddleboards.co.uk

Seasons of SUP

Learning to SUP during Autumn and Winter

Learning to stand up paddle board when the sun’s rays are strong, and with water temperatures on the rise, make for a much more enticing picture when considering a new watersport. By its very nature – i.e. you’re likely to get wet – learning the basics of SUP will most likely result in riders taking a dunking (at least once or twice). We appreciate this can be off putting when autumn and winter swing in, but it doesn’t need to be. There are ways to combat the effects of Mother Nature during the off season. By picking your day, area and attire there’s no reason not to keep on paddling – as a beginner or intermediate – through colder months. In fact, if you’ve seen SUP and fancy a bash for the first time, then don’t think you have to wait until spring to give it a go.

Weather

Forget trying to learn how to paddle when it’s blowing a gale, the temperature is sub-zero, or it’s chucking it down with rain. As much as enthusiasm is great, these types of weather won’t add anything to your overall enjoyment levels. Winter SUP UK Stand up paddle Fortunately the UK has a relatively mild climate and even during autumn and winter warmer, calmer days can be found.  Learn to interpret forecasts and make choices accordingly. Also don’t be afraid to cancel your SUP session if it’s not looking good – there’s no point going out if you’re not going to enjoy it, so just wait for a better weather window to enjoy your paddle board experience.

Location

If you’re a complete beginner then heading for exposed, deep tidal waters on your own isn’t advisable. We’re fortunate to have an abundance of shallow, sheltered locations that are much more applicable to learning the fundamentals of SUP – even during the off season. inflatable SUP boards UK Also worth considering that some locations, if chosen correctly, can help with point one. Some launch areas, for instance, can offer respite from adverse weather and provide a way to get afloat regardless – try and find those sheltered spots.  It’s also worth finding a paddle buddy for those first paddles, in case you run into any problems.
SUP Attire
Modern wetsuits are phenomenal these days. With a quality neoprene suit, and associated accessories – gloves, hood and booties – you’ll have all the protection you need for winter SUPing. We’ll admit that shelling out initially may seem daunting – especially if you’re not 100% about committing to SUP. But if you’re buying a board and want to use it through Winter, then at some point you’ll need to purchase a suit. If you’re not sure to start with, then it’s worth hiring or hitting up your local SUP school. SUP isle of wight newtown creek For colder stand up paddling you’d also be wise to have a set of warm clothes to hand for post-SUP. You may think your body temperature hasn’t dropped during the on water part of your day but you’d be surprised – especially in a cold wind. Once adrenaline wears off you may quickly become a shivering soggy mess without warm gear.
Safety
Consider the safety aspect of your paddling – especially important if you’re not as experienced as you’d like to be. As already mentioned you’d be wise to SUP with others during initial forays into SUP. Most importantly, wear a leash! We can’t reiterate this enough. Without scaremongering there have been a raft of incidents of paddlers losing their board – your main means of floatation! Having a good quality leash is a way to prohibit this.  It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, at some point we all fall off. And when we do, it’s paramount to be able to get back to your board quickly. Leashes can save lives! Stand up paddle safety
Get a lesson
Having the enthusiasm for learning to SUP in autumn/winter/spring is something we salute – there’s absolutely no reason not to, with a bit of prior planning and prep. That said, the learning process will be accelerated greatly if you choose to have a few lessons with an experienced, qualified instructor. Many forget that SUP is a technique led sport. Lessons will show you the correct stance, paddle technique and some basic self-rescue. With someone showing you the quickest route possible to success your confidence and overall happiness factor will greatly increase. Plus, they’ll have all the above safety points covered so you don’t have to think about them – you can just head out and have fun. So if you want to learn to SUP, don’t let the colder weather put you off.  By picking the right spot and appropriate conditions you can even find it a more tranquil experience, without the hoardes that descend on the beaches and waterways during the warmer months.  There’s nothing more exhilarating than being in the Great Outdoors when others are warming by the fire, the satisfying sense of achievement in donning your wetsuit and heading out there! What are you waiting for…?

Winter paddling – what clothing should I be wearing for cold weather SUP?

SUP Clothing

The off season can be Baltic, yet you still want to get out for a SUP. And why not? Downward spiralling thermometer readings shouldn’t be a reason to halt your paddling fun. As the old saying goes: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong SUP clothing.

Here we look at a few different ways of dressing for winter SUP conditions. There are no hard and fast rules so feel free to let us know what your preferred winter stand up paddling attire is.

The most common item to wear for wintery SUP is the humble wetsuit. We say humble as rubber suits are used so extensively these days, they’re sometimes an afterthought. But as with all of your stand up paddle gear they should be given due thought and chosen carefully.

Wetsuits generally come in two types – single and double lined. Double lined wetties are designed to be immersed and don’t really cope well with surface activities (i.e. paddling on the flat). In surf, for instance, double lined suits work great but their evaporative cooling effects increase the longer you’re in the air. As such a double lined suit can make you colder. Or, if it warms slightly, make you all sweaty and bothered.

Single layer suits (smooth skin) are better for SUP – although will still make you too hot in some cases. Again, good for surfing (although perhaps slightly less robust) but not necessarily the best choice for flatter water SUPing.

Drysuits are widely utilised by the SUP fraternity for cold water paddling. There are a number of companies manufacturing surface immersion suits for the very purpose of SUP. The beauty of this get up is being able to step inside with regular clothing on, popping the drysuit over the top and all being well its watertight seal will do the trick of preventing any moisture seepage.

In practice some drysuits are better than others so if you’re thinking of purchasing one then make sure it’s from a reputable brand and therefore good quality. Also, make sure you’ve fully zipped the suit before heading out for a paddle, otherwise it’ll all end in tears!

For the confident among us, and paddlers not expecting to take a dunking, thinner layers could be the choice for winter paddling – on the flat at least. Many racers choose to head out in just boardshorts, rashvests, compression suits or thinner layers during winter events. This is because SUPers can build up quite a sweat when giving it beans – this self-generated heat keeping the paddler warm. Obviously taking this to the extreme can be misguided. Some days the air temperature is just too cold to not be (safely) covered with warm garments.

During days where applicable to be wearing less a high paddle cadence will keep heat levels intact. End up in the drink, however, and it’ll be a shock to the system for sure! If you’re shedding layers for paddling purposes then be 100% sure of your ability and realise hypothermia can set in when you least expect.

There are plenty of other solutions for stand up paddling attire during colder months. The above are three of the most common and not necessarily applicable to your own situation. Most importantly use your noddle – better to be warmer than not!