SUP surfing and surfing commonalities and differences.
SUP surfing has many benefits. But so does surfing. And just as the two have their plus points there are also instances where they don’t work quite as well. Here we look at reasons why you’d choose one over the other.
Often referred to as prone surfing, because of having to lie down and paddle, surfing is a long established wave riding activity. The origins of surfing reach far back in time. In Hawaii it was a social class pastime as much as fun hobby. Hawaiian royalty would get to ride the best waves on the best wooden boards. Underlings, meanwhile, would have to make do with less quality waves and ‘tools’ for the job.
Being a performer in the ocean, across many disciplines, was given lots of kudos back then. And even nowadays if you excel at something like surfing then respect is certainly given.
Why and when to prone surf.
By surfing we’re pretty much talking about the type that the every man/woman does. Pro level rip shred and tear rising is one thing. But that’s actually miles away from real world surfing.
First off the size of the wave is up to around head high. Usually performed at beach breaks he/she will paddle out on their mid to longboard length sled (7′ – 9′ ish). This size of board fits most people’s abilities and aspirations. Enough volume and float to be comfortable yet enough performance to aid progression.
One benefit of a surfboard is piloting out through the foam is arguably easier than a big SUP. Being able to duck dive and pass underneath oncoming white water and waves makes getting back out more efficient. As long as the skill of duck diving is performed correctly.
The wind element.
If there’s wind in the mix then being lower down to the water’s surface can be easier. Standing on a SUP when it’s breezy and choppy can often be hard work. Positioning, and maintaining it, in the line up is easier on a surfboard. Having legs dangling acts a little like an anchor so halts drift to a degree. But we’ll not deny that even surfing when it’s breezy can be tricky.
Once on a wave, a surfboard is much more maneuverable and reactive. Even smaller dimension SUP surfboards aren’t as nimble as a prone surfboard. And surfboards can be faster as long as there’s enough power in the wave. Often though, this isn’t the case as the UK is notorious for its lackluster waves. (On most average days).
Surfboards are a lot lighter than stand up paddle boards. And can be easier to lug about, transport and store. Often brittle, and more prone to dings, meaning owners have to be careful. A SUP can be more robust and durable. Though not always!
Surprisingly (maybe) some surfboards can be as costly as a SUP. The brand, construction and type will dictate how much cash you have to part with.
As with surfing stand up paddling has roots in Hawaii. At least the modern incarnation of the sport. Paddling various craft is hailed as an ocean skill and huge importance is placed on this by Hawaiian and other Polynesian nations. Back in the 50s, the Waikiki Beach Boys could be found piloting oversized surfboards around with paddles. This was long before Laird and co reintroduced it to the masses.
Piloting craft with paddles in waves has long been an activity across the globe. Outrigger canoe is one such pastime that has much synergy with SUP. But there are plenty of other examples if you have a Google.
Why and when to SUP surf.
Pretty soon after Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama and the other early adopters realised SUP on flat water was doable, the discipline was taken to waves. Being able to pick up swell earlier, drop in sooner and ride bigger waves easier (because of a stand up paddle boards increased length and additional paddle power) were big attractions.
In smaller surf – the surf real world riders tackle – a SUP is also a good choice. Often waves are small. Too small to eek much enjoyment out of riding a surfboard. With surf rolling in at barely knew high a SUP has the glide and momentum to make good use of it. This for many increased the number of hit days significantly. And it also opens up spots that surfers would give a second thought to.
Offshore wave locations.
For anyone with wave spots lying further offshore a stand up paddle is also a great choice. Having the ability and efficiency of being able to paddle offshore, to an outer lying break, also opens up more possibilities.
A massive plus point with SUP is the rider already being on their feet. This cuts out the popping up technique surfers need to learn. And then there’s the paddle…
We’ve talked about a stand up paddler’s paddle being their defining piece of equipment before. It gives extra speed, power, and balance and is a way to negotiate tricky sections and navigate longer wave rides. In essence surfing waves with a paddle in hand is a quicker discipline to unlock green wave riding fun than prone surfing.
Definition of fun.
For many surfers the struggle is real. Battling for years as a proner we know firsthand of riders switching to SUP surfing who’ve leapt on leaps and bounds in terms of their riding and fun. Suddenly nowhere near as much slogging and way more green waves ridden.
A lot of paddle boarders choosing to wave ride, who’ve previously prone surfed, can’t believe the accessibility of SUP surfing. This isn’t to say there aren’t days when your trusty surfboard doesn’t come into its own. There will be. Having a SUP in your ‘toy box’ is a way to maximize any surf sessions that come your way. In most cases, this accessibility means SUP becomes the go to method of shred. Therefore, this defines what fun is for real world wave riders. But the surfboard’s always there, ready and waiting for that optimum session.
Our advice is always to have options. Being able to pilot multiple craft increases time on the water. It also means you’re poised to maximize the potential of whatever Mother Nature throws your way. And even though SUP surfing and prone surfing are their own disciplines they both have transferable skills that allow you to improve with both. Ride everything and ride it well…
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