SUP surfing can be tricky when you’re looking to improve. Having enjoyed those first few slides on micro waves the next step is to get involved with more challenging swell. But the right location, with the right wave, needs to be given careful consideration. Taking on too much is a recipe for disaster. And not all waves break the same. Making life as easy as you can is the best approach.
Here are a few SUP surfing locations that’ll help paddlers improve their wave riding skills. There are plenty more but these should set you off on the right foot.
Saunton Sands, North Devon.
Saunton Sands is a mecca for longboard surfing. The rolling nature of the swell, wide open space of both the beach and water, plus the easy going atmosphere make Saunton a magnet for stylists and performers alike.
At the northern end, next to the rocks, is where you’ll find the main peak. It’s also the corner that’s sheltered from N-NW winds. We’d suggest avoiding here though as it’s where Saunton gets most busy. And with plenty of peaks further along the beach, you’ll most likely find a quiet patch to yourself. (Which is much better for improving).
During high season Saunton’s mellower style waves are great fun. And there are plenty of rides to be snagged. Do be aware that if the surf pulses, however, it can be a tricky paddle out with lots of white water to negotiate. And big waves are still big waves, regardless. With consequences of getting it wrong the same wherever you go.
Compton Bay, Isle of Wight.
We couldn’t pen a guide like this and not mention Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s own backyard. Compton Bay sits on the southern side of the island and picks up a decent amount of swell, relative to its English Channel location. Compton’s waves are mostly mellow, slower breakers but just as with every spot it has its day – especially during winter.
During bigger swell sessions the paddle out can be tricky and you’ll take as much of a beating here as anywhere. Also, there’s usually a frothing pack of other riders – surfers and SUP surfers – that you’ll need to be aware and keep clear of.
Some rocks that appear during certain stages of tide should also be noted. You can move either left or right a little if Compton’s main peak in front of the steps gets too busy.
Marazion, Mounts Bay, Cornwall.
Marazion – or Maza as it’s commonly referred to – is a beach that’s overlooked by the iconic St. Michael’s Mount. Being in close proximity to St. Ives and Penzance, Marazion’s a southern facing beach that doesn’t get quite the same swell as surrounding beaches. As such, it can be quieter and more suited to improver SUP surfing. Unfortunately, Maza’s inconsistency shows itself more starkly in summer when you’ll be hard pushed to find a wave here unless it’s windy.
Maza’s off season SUP surfing opportunities are more abundant. You’ll need to watch out for a few rocks dotted about, depending where you launch. And high tide can see quite a thumping shore dump is there are waves. When Maza lights up though it can be a fun SUP surfing spot with some fairly decent rides to be had. And if all else fails, other spots are close by, if you choose wisely.
Hayling Island, Hampshire.
Tucked in the lea of the Isle of Wight Hayling Island isn’t perhaps the first location you think of when talking waves. Yet Hayling – particularly in winter – does pretty well on the swell front. It’s also a fab place for SUP in general, not just SUP surfing.
Should you get lucky with waves the beauty of Hayling is its room. There’s plenty of space to practice and get it wrong. Without too much chance of causing problems to others. Hayling’s waves break on an offshore sandbank that’s just out to sea around a mile or so. Depending of the swell is dictates where along the bank you get waves. Solid pulses see waves break along the sand bar’s entire length. Small waves, meanwhile, will probably be right out back.
Tide is a big factor here so it’s wise to know what’s going on. And watch out for the high water shore dump which can get pretty hefty at times. If it’s thumping then better to sit on the bench until waters recede.
Tiree, Hebrides, Scotland.
The Hebridean island of Tiree is a stunning location that, on any given sunshine day, could be mistaken for further flung, more tropical locations. White sand beaches and azure coloured waters make it a very attractive spot for some SUP surfing action.
Tiree has multiple beaches to choose from, depending on conditions. The Maze is where experienced riders will head, although if smaller then it might also be doable for improver SUP surfers. Gott Bay and Crossapol are the more mellow put ins for improving wave riders though due to their more sheltered nature.
Tiree is a watersports paradise so even if waves aren’t playing ball there’re other activities to choose from. Windsurfing, for instance, is big on the island. It’s home to the Tiree Wave Challenge windsurf comp which happens every year. If you want coaching then there’s a watersports school on the island to help you on your way.
Llangennith, The Gower, Wales.
Llangennith’s huge beach, merging with Rhossili at low tide, gives ample space for improving your SUP wave riding techniques. It’s easy access and on smaller swell is very doable. It can get busy – especially during summer. But spreading away from the pack is simple.
‘Gennith’s exposed nature means it does pick up all swell that swings into the area. It’s actually the indicator spot for surrounding beaches. And can get quite hefty if there’s a big pulse. At size Llangennith can be a brutal paddle out will seemingly endless walls of white water to overcome. At this point, it’d probably be worth taking a breather or checking elsewhere.
On a summer day with 2ft of swell, this corner of Wales can be blissful though.
These locations aren’t a comprehensive list of improver SUP surfing locations as many others also exist. As a starting point though, these put ins will get you on your way to wave riding nirvana.
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