SUP surfing a hard board vs an inflatable – the main differences.

SUP surfing a hard board vs an inflatable – the main differences.

SUP surfing your inflatable stand up paddle board and comparisons with a hard SUP experience.

SUP in the UK has seen unprecedented growth during the last 18 months or so. Driven by the COVID pandemic, which has forced people to stay at home and make use of their local geographic waterways, stand up paddle boarding has filled a natural gap.

Inflatable stand up paddle boards have topped the poles in terms of popularity. Billed as easy to store, transport and generally live with, the humble iSUP has been the ‘go-to’ option (even though this actually might not be the best option…). There’s abundant chat about air board performance online. If you search any of the social media groups you’ll come across discussion. In a nutshell, however, cheaper inflatable SUP materials and manufacturing techniques make for less quality boards. This directly knocks on to performance.

SUP surfing a hard board vs an inflatable - the main differences.
You couldn’t SUP surf like this on a cheap inflatable stand up paddle board.

Inflatable SUP performance.

But what do we mean by ‘performance’? On the face of it the term sounds elitist and many new paddlers (or even intermediate riders) may think this doesn’t apply. Yet stand up paddle board performance can be drilled down to a base level.

A stand up paddle board’s glide characteristics are key. Without beneficial glide (how much momentum your SUP carries after a few paddle strokes) a rider will have to put in additional effort. Fatigue sets in quicker and the whole thing just isn’t as much fun. 

SUP surfing a hard board vs an inflatable - the main differences.
Pump it up! Getting set for some quality paddling aboard Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s iSUP.

Tracking is another foundational SUP performance element. In tandem with glide tracking refers to how straight and true your board points. If it keeps veering from side to side (yaw) with correctional strokes required, again, it’s not as fulfilling an experience to pilot. Add inefficient glide to poor tracking and the whole process of stand up paddling becomes arduous.

All the above is based on the simple practice of driving your iSUP a short distance on flat, placid water. If you then try and advance your skills, taking your board into more ‘condition’ led SUP environments you can appreciate how inefficient (and possibly unsafe) this will be with a cheap inflatable stand up paddle board. And we say ‘cheap’ not ‘budget’.

It’s possible to purchase a good budget inflatable SUP that does an admirable job on the water. ‘Cheap’ inflatables just aren’t worth it though… Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s range of inflatables are made from premium materials and manufactured to top spec. Our kit certainly doesn’t fit the cheap mould, which you’ll appreciate as soon as you lay hands on one.

Hard shell SUP performance.

Stand up paddle boards manufactured from EPS foam and fiberglass can also suffer from poor quality issues. This will also knock on to performance issues as well. A big point here is how easy it can be to ‘ding’ a cheap hard stand up paddle board. And then there’s the EPS foam core itself, which if not quite up to the task will cause your board to endure high levels of stress.

In a wave environment, the board could flex to the point of snapping, cracking or creasing. Better produced SUPs can take a degree of flex. In some cases, this flex has actually been built in by the designer to deliver a specific feel. But cheaper hard boards just won’t be able to take the strains.

Waves and SUP.

When talking stand up paddle surfing the type of waves most will aspire to will be on the smaller, mellower side. There are, of course, some riders looking to battle overhead pulses of energy. The majority, however, will be happy piloting their kit to good use in ankle to shoulder high waves.

Stand up paddle boards – by their very nature – are longer and bigger than their surfboard equivalents. Oversized is good but does require a specific approach to using them. Of course, you can purchase short wave SUPs but these are quite technical and not to many tastes. Bigger SUPs therefore prefer a longboard style approach to riding them in waves. As well as offering a degree of flat water paddling performance. Versatility is a much better value option after all.

SUP surfing a hard board vs an inflatable - the main differences.
Bigger swells require more efficient and tuned SUP surfing boards.

Referring back to the glide and tracking points mentioned above this is super beneficial when talking SUP surfing – especially in smaller, slower, fatter waves. Enhanced glide is very forgiving if paired with a less refined paddling technique. It allows riders to roll into waves (even the tiniest of swells) from further out back. Efficient tracking keeps the board pointing correctly and delivers riders onto the green, unbroken part of the wave. 

With a stand up paddle board you bypass much of the hassle of traditional surfing and get to the point of surfing clean swells much quicker. This can be a double edge sword though, as you really earn your stripes whilst learning to prone surf and pick up key skills that’ll stand you in good stead. It’s therefore good practice to learn as much as you can – try paddling prone on your stand up paddle board for example. This’ll give a different perspective and, if you break your SUP paddle, you’ll be able to get back in safely.

SUP surfing a hard board vs an inflatable - the main differences.
Ready for the task at hand – SUP surfing the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Classic is bang up to the job!

Riding waves – hard SUP Vs iSUP.

In terms of your physical actions, the actual act of riding waves on both hard and inflatable stand up paddle boards is no different. Make sure you’re in position, spot your wave, paddle hammer down and let the wave pick you up and drive you forwards. Add a few extra paddle strokes to make sure you’re actually into the swell, look down the line and head off on your ride. In terms of how each board feels though, this is where the differences lie. 

iSUPs, made from Dropstitch and PVC material, are much stickier to water surfaces. It can feel a little like riding in glue when SUP surfing, as the wave wants to boot you along but the board says no. You’ll still have a fairly good rate of knots and you’ll end up on the wave’s face regardless. It just feels like fifth gear isn’t happening.

SUP surfing on hard boards unlocks speed and easy to access performance.

A hard shell stand up paddle board, in contrast, accelerates quickly and releases water from its underside and rails efficiently. If the wave’s steep then riders will be blasted into the trough before a quick bottom turn slingshots them back up to the lip or down the line. This is how good riders are able to perform moves. Speed is a good thing. It also aids stability.

There’s no deflection with a hard SUP. Air filled boards all bend to some degree around the middle. You feel this as you take off in a wave. The iSUP’s tail sticks into the face while the nose tries to curve down. Hanging off your inflatable board’s tail is therefore imperative to avoid pearling (nose diving).

Turns and maneuvers are also very different between the two types of stand up paddle board. A hard SUP can have its rail engaged by the rider. This cuts through water and can be switched from one side to the other via board trim and rider weight transfer. An iSUP doesn’t allow this option with its thick round rails not having any bite. To turn and carve therefore needs deft footwork and paddle skill from the surfer. Even then it’s no comparison.

Charlie rides a classic Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co longboard SUP
Charlie rides the Classic Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co longboard style SUP.

SUP surfing safety.

Safety in the surf needs to be paramount. An air filled iSUP is a lot softer on flesh and skin should it decide to whack you. Also, if you do accidentally come into contact with others then it won’t hurt them as much and won’t damage their kit.

Hard SUPs do need to be kept well clear of others while you’re learning. A marauding hard shell SUP through a surf zone can be lethal! And don’t forget about surfing etiquette wherever you ride. This article sums up surfing etquette perfectly.

Summing up.

You can no doubt take your inflatable stand up paddle board into wave environments and enjoy huge amounts of fun. Continuing this route is perfectly fine. If, however, you want to step up your wave riding and access those carving turns, lip smacks and gouging slashes you’ll need a hard version.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co longboard SUP
Locked into the Freshwatwer Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic surf SUP performance.

With a hard SUP under your feet everything you do in waves becomes much more true to that surfing feeling you’re after. There’s a choice you have to make in terms of what board will do the job you’re asking. But if you get the choice right (a Freshwater Bay Classic is one for instance) you’ll enjoy hours of wave shredding fun. 

Take a look at Freshwater Bay Paddle Co’s online shop for a selection of longboard style surf SUPs that’ll deliver on the above promise. If you have any questions then let us know.

Other Freshwater Bay Paddle Co articles that may prick interest can be found below –

SUP surfing: transitioning from flat water paddling to waves.

SUP surfing: transitioning from flat water paddling to waves.

Core skills for effectively crossing over to stand up paddle board surfing.

With autumn rolling through, and surf more likely in all corners of the UK, thoughts of riding your stand up paddle board in waves (SUP surfing) may have entered your mind. Transitioning from flat water paddling to waves, however, requires more than just throwing yourself headlong into the fray. Not least because that would be unsafe! Fundamental skills need to be in place beforehand as well as base knowledge. You’ll then need to consider your options. 

What follows are the main points to think about/work on BEFORE heading into the surf. It may be that a lesson or two, with guidance from a qualified and experienced professional will also be of benefit.

SUP experience.

It should go without saying that when contemplating your first stand up paddle surfing session, the amount of time you’re going to spend up on your board is far outweighed by time spent in the water. Constantly falling, before clambering back onto your platform gets exhausting. Fatigue sets in with all the physical demands of the process. And a cold sea, cooler air temperatures, thick (more restrictive) wetsuits and the constant battering of waves won’t help either. 

Moving from flat water to SUP surfing
Making that transition from flat water stand up paddling to SUP surfing.

The surf environment – even on the mellowest of days – has current, tidal movement and the surf itself aims to unseat you. Without being prepared, swimming will be mostly what you do. A short session ending abruptly. We all have to start somewhere but having some key building blocks in place will stand you in good stead.

Ideally, you’ll have some time under your belt stand up paddling in rougher coastal water. We’re not suggesting you head out into ‘orrible conditions but understanding how things like side chop, breeze and current affect you and your board are key. Then, being able to cope with this and navigate your SUP should be ticked off. Paddling in adverse conditions is as much a safety thing as it is SUP surfing skill!

A solid stand up paddle boarding stroke.

Your paddling and piloting of said stand up paddle board is extremely important. And not just for SUP surfing either. Paddling is your source of momentum and the way you move from A to B. It’s how you maneuver and avoid situations that may otherwise go awry.

Being able to fully bury the paddle’s blade and transfer all your energy into a forward stroke will see maximum efficiency in terms of propulsion and glide. Knowing when to hammer down and when to back off is also important. Changing cadence, and altering the subtleties of each stroke are skills born of time spent on the water. This transfers directly to SUP surfing as it allows riders to hone their take offs. Improved board trim, once on the wave, is a byproduct.

Transition to SUP surfing from flat water
Ready to jump in? The SUP surfing transition explained.

Having other types of SUP paddle stroke in your arsenal is another good idea. Whilst waiting for your wave you’ll need to be moving and positioning yourself according to where the waves are peaking. Waves don’t break in the same place – unless you’re surfing a reef break (which isn’t the best idea when starting out). Sweep strokes, reverse paddling, sculling, J-strokes, C-strokes and more are all worth researching and practicing. 

The SUP pivot turn.

One key skill in SUP surfing is being able to step back onto the tail of your stand up paddle board, sink it, perform a wide sweeping paddle stroke and spin your SUP 180 degrees. This is the most effective (and quickest) way of getting your stand up paddle board in position for taking off on your chosen wave. And it’s super easy to practice on flat water. In fact, the SUP pivot turn is an essential skill across all areas of stand up paddle boarding.

Catching waves on your inflatable stand up paddle board is perfectly applicable.

On a safety note being able to pivot turn means you can avoid sticky situations in the surf. If you need to ‘get out of Dodge’ quick smart then spinning 180 and zooming off in a different direction may help you avoid being wiped out by an incoming wave or other riders.

General SUP surfing knowledge.

‘Knowledge is power’ so the old saying goes. And it’s especially true when talking about surf environments. You mightn’t realise it but there’s a lot going on where breaking waves are concerned – even if you can’t immediately spot those tiny tell-tale signs.

From flat water to SUP surfing
Knowledge is power – especially in a SUP surfing wave environment!

Nothing equates to actual hands on experience. But this should always be backed up by theory. (We can hear the groans already!). The more knowledge you have about waves, how they break, types of surf, tides and how this affects the surf, wind and its effects on swell, how to interpret weather forecasts and apply them to your local break (or most frequented) and so on means the better your SUP surfing sessions will be. On top of this, you’ll be safer. Heading into a surf zone with a blissful state of ignorance can be a recipe for disaster. And it only takes a small amount of genning up to accumulate understanding.

We appreciate this may befuddle at first. But have it in mind and slowly all will be revealed. A classic example is riptides and how they play a part. Rips can be your worst enemy or best friend. Learning about them beforehand and then heading to the beach to see if you can spot rips is good practice.

Flat water paddling to SUP surfing transitions
Surf breaks – friend or foe? With time, practic and perseverance definitely your friend.

One big piece of understanding to wrap your grey matter round is surfing etiquette and how to behave in waves next to others. Best practice dictates you should be well away from surfers and water users whilst learning to SUP surf. But having a grasp of surfing etiquette is super important and will play its part as you move in closer proximity to wave shredding bethren. Surfing etiquette commands its own article so in the meantime hit this link to learn more about it.

https://surfing-waves.com/surfing-etiquette.htm

Patience: waiting, watching, absorbing.

One of the biggest skills you can own as a SUP surfer is patience. You’ll certainly need this in the UK as weather forecasts, swells and all manner of other factors conspire against you to scupper plans of wave shredding.

We often get flat days through the year (even in winter!). This can be a good opportunity to head down the beach and check out your chosen venue without too much froth and flotsam in the way. It’ll give you chance to assess where potential hazards are you mightn’t have seen before. If you’re keen then head out for a dip and put the diving mask on. Observing the break’s bathymetry will tell how the waves form and spill. You’ll get a better idea of where to sit for optimum take offs and score the longest, most fulfilling rides.

You often see surfers sitting, watching and looking at the forming and pitching waves for long periods of time. On particularly solid days the experienced crew may sit and scope what’s going on for considerable minutes, before getting suited and booted. Learn from this and understand why. Fools rush in and all that…

SUP surfing equipment and suitable conditions.

Coming off the back of an idyllic summer flat water SUPing with your trusty 10’6 inflatable and heading to SUP surfing spots may be your situation. Alternatively, you could have stumped up for an 11’ plus pointy nosed touring board and now contemplating swell rides. In the back of your mind, thinking could be your current stand up paddle board isn’t the ideal for those first forays into SUP surfing – which may be true. If you have aspirations of ripping waves, rail to rail shredding and busting sick airs then the aforementioned equipment isn’t ideal.

For most, however, SUP surfing is about a longboard surf style – after all, stand up paddle boards are big and oversize so they suit this niche arguably much better than shortboards. Not to take anything away from those who pilot short surf SUPs well but in terms of mass appeal, it’s the longboard ethic that rules. And with the original point in mind: any type of stand up paddle board can be taken into waves. And by waves, we’re talking dribblers and up. Waves come in all sizes after all.

charlie SUP surfing a Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co longboard style SUP
The aim of the game – Charlie Cripwell SUP surfing in Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s backyard.

You don’t need to be aiming for overhead pounders to begin with. In fact, many paddlers enjoy stand up paddle surfing in much tamer conditions. Ankle slappers are perfectly fine (and encouraged) for your first forays into waves. That trusty 10’6 inflatable SUP will catch and glide along happily, giving you much needed muscle memory and experience. Same with touring boards. Some touring/race SUPs actually do a sterling job of surfing waves, albeit smaller ones. They glide for ages and can deliver super long rides. The point is: consider your location and the conditions on offer. If in doubt don’t go out. If others don’t reckon it’s a good idea give it a miss. But do paddle out on the right day with your already owned SUP gear. You can always upgrade to specialist kit later.

As an example, Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic range of longboard SUPs is at home both on flat water and in waves. With a SUP like this versatility’s a given. If you’re pricing equipment up it’s worth keeping this in mind as you’ll be getting more bang for Buck. See what’s in the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co shop via the link below –

https://freshwaterbaypaddleboards.co.uk/shop/

Summing up.

This isn’t a conclusive guide to stand up paddle surfing – far from it. But hopefully, it’ll give anyone transitioning from flat water to waves a starting point. Have fun in the surf but above all stay safe!

If you have any questions about Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s gear or SUP in general then get in touch. We’re only too happy to help.

For more articles like this check out the following –

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!