SUP lessons, of the life and industry variety – with Chris Houghton.

SUP lessons, of the life and industry variety – with Chris Houghton.

SUP ‘lessons’ aren’t just limited to what you learn on the water. SUP can teach us a lot about ourselves and life in general. Without getting too cliché, metaphorical and quote laden there’s a whole raft of things to glean from being outdoors, paddling and soaking up life. If you happen to work in the stand up paddle boarding industry – perhaps own a SUP brand – then these SUP life lessons are even greater. Mainly because you get a view from both sides. Of course, added to this is actually understanding and learning about what makes a stand up paddle boarding brand successful.

Some of you may be aware that Chris Houghton got involved with Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co in late 2020. His enthusiasm for restarting the mothballed business saw the iconic logo back in full view. But how’s it actually been on the ground, so to speak? Read on for more about Chris, Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co and those life lessons learned through SUP and being part of the stand up paddle boarding industry.

For the benefit of those that don’t know, give us a brief background of your previous endeavors.

Having spent much of my time at university studying witchcraft, the natural progression for me was accountancy. I spent 7 years in the City before moving into industry and specialising in utilities and making our energy system more sustainable. This culminated with 4 years at OVO Energy where I started as the numbers guy before taking on the CEO role.

However, at the end of 2018, I felt that the time was right to do something different. And so, for the last few years, I’ve focused on the dual track approach of both helping fast growing businesses to scale and also spending time with my own businesses in the premium sporting market.

Most notable on the advisory side is Teemill (, a fantastic Isle of Wight technology platform business that helps establish and grow circular clothing brands that combat ‘fast fashion’ and focus on operating sustainably and reducing waste.    

And, paddle boards aside, I also co-own Spoon Group (, the high end custom bike businesses of Spoon Customs and WyndyMilla and the paint studio, Gun Control Custom Paint. Unlike many high end cycling brands designing identikit bikes for World Tour riders, we make ‘your’ bike – fitted, fabricated and finished exactly as you want it for a fast, exhilarating ride every time.

How and when did you first come across Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co?

I used to come to the Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight for holidays as a child – as many generations of my family have done before me. About 8 years ago I ‘rediscovered’ the island and always feel so relaxed and at peace when I am here.

Reason to fall in love with Freshwater Bay and the Isle of Wight.

I would often see these amazing hard board SUPs on the water at the Bay and desperately wanted to get my hands on one. However, for various reasons, production had been discontinued and the Freshwater Bay brand had been mothballed. I liked them so much that I bought the assets of the business and, with the help and support of the original founder, Charlie Cripwell, restarted the business in October 2020.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co longboard SUP
Charlie Cripwell – the original founder of Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.

What did (do) you like about the brand?

Without a doubt, it’s the hard boards that really stand out – our longboard style Classic surf SUPs. I love everything about them. The shape, the build quality and the vibrant colours deliver the performance and aesthetics, while its Island roots and the iconic Freshwater Bay logo – designed by very talented local artist Zoe Sadler – give it soul!

The Classic SUPs are the ‘hero’ product, the high performance sports car of the range, and what I think sets us apart from so many other brands in the space. It’s very difficult to create a great hard board that performs well in the surf and flat water, but the Classic really delivers.

And, that same mentality and methodology that delivers for our Classic SUPs, has been distilled and infused into our range of inflatable SUPs too – high quality materials and finishes that perform well and are built to last.

When and why did you decide to get involved?

To me, the brand and the Bay are so special that in summer 2020 I decided to help champion both. I was certain that there was a market for high quality products from a small UK brand if I could just get our name out there and in front of the right people.

By your own admission you weren’t a hardcore stand up paddler. So why take on a SUP business?

I like a challenge and I like being outside – whether that’s cycling, paddling or walking – getting out in the fresh air is good for your physical and mental health. I am also a great supporter of living a less disposable lifestyle; owning fewer, nicer things that are built to last and are a reflection of the life you want to live and the businesses you want to support. I also hoped that there would be some transferable skills and learnings from my years with high end bicycles.

Just one shining example of a WyndyMilla custom bike.

In a nutshell how’s it been during your first year of SUP proper?

Tougher than I’d hoped, but largely as I’d expected. After a few years out of the market, it’s taken some time to re-establish and differentiate ourselves in what is now quite a crowded market of volume players.

We’ve had great engagement from our demo partners – many of whom we worked with originally and were excited to see us back in the space – and amazing support from Aaran at Earth, Wind and Water on the Island – but direct sales have lagged behind where I’d hoped they’d be in the first year. That said, we sold out of our first order completely and have just received our second repeat order, so it’s difficult to be too dissatisfied with that.

What’s the most notable thing you’ve learned since being part of the stand up paddle boarding industry?

Very few people know what they’re buying or why they’re buying it. No two SUP models are the same. Firstly, we all know that there’s a broad spectrum of quality on offer out there, but it is often very difficult for the customer to appreciate the important differences just by eye-balling the products. And, secondly, if they are convinced by the merits of investing in quality, the ride quality will vary tremendously depending on the shape of the board – a 10’6 is not a 10’6.

The best advice is not new advice – try as many boards as you can before making a decision for you and the type of riding you do. Don’t be unduly swayed by fashion or big brand marketing – take some test rides. That’s why we’ve invested so much in our demo network, to ensure customers can try our boards before they buy them.

SUP lessons, of the life and industry variety - with Chris Houghton.
One of the many Freshwater Paddleboard Co demo centers.

Any achievements you’re proud of so far?

Achieving a clean sweep of highly positive reviews for all of our products last year. While our range remains largely unchanged from the brand’s original incarnation, we have made a number of tweaks to improve the rider’s experience. We believe in small iterations to timeless Classics that are built to last.

Talk us through the challenges of being a small, independent SUP brand.

The ongoing tactical challenges include the significant investment required to maintain appropriate stock levels; the current astronomical shipping costs and delays; the appropriate positioning of the products to achieve successful marketing cut-through; and the absence of reliable oversized couriers for hard board logistics.

details of a Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co inflatable SUP
Small independent brands can often be tricky beasts to ‘get out there’.

From a more strategic point of view, there is the ongoing challenge around the best course for brand and product development. It’s a crowded space, so we’re clear that differentiation is required to be long term successful.

What’s the best advice you’d give to anyone considering a similar path?

If they’re looking to provide cheap, undifferentiated products to the mass market, I’d say don’t. It’s a space that’s overcrowded now and the recent bubble fuelled by pandemic staycations may already have burst.

However, I think there’s always a place for brands that can form a real connection with their community and offer competitively priced, quality items. In particular, I do think that hard boards will fare well as an upgrade option for those that have really embraced the sport over the last few years – especially those looking to take up SUP surfing, where the difference in experience between an inflatable and hardboard is truly night and day.

SUP hard living The hard board question.
All lined up and ready to rock – hard and inflatable Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co SUP boards.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co are noted for their Classic hard SUP range. Are hard boards trickier to sell than inflatables?

Yes and no. The next level performance of a hard board sells itself – especially when it comes to the choppy stuff. So, if you’ve got somewhere to store one and a roof rack for your car, they’re often the obvious choice – not least because you save yourself the inflating and packing away each trip.

However, if you don’t have that flexibility and/or are hoping to travel further afield with your board, an iSUP can be the more practical and robust option.

Certainly from a logistics point of view, shipping iSUPs is significantly easier than hard boards.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co also have a SUP surfing pedigree. Is this something you’re keen on further promoting?

Yes, definitely. SUP surfing has always been the basis of the brand and its reason for being. Charlie established the brand because he couldn’t find a longboard style surf SUP that met his requirements, so he had his own manufactured for the job. The rest, as they say, is history.

We’re currently on the lookout for some further brand ambassadors in this space. So drop us a line if you like what we do and think we will too!

Longboard surfer extraordinaire Al Reed aboard a Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic 9’11 SUP.

Adventure SUP goes hand in hand with surf (as there aren’t always waves). What work do you plan on doing here with the brand?

We have a few ‘secret squirrel’ plans on this front that are very exciting but a little too early to share. For most people, our 11’5 Compact Tourer is exactly what they need to travel fast and far in pursuit of the next adventure. An accomplished and capable touring setup.

However, we’re also looking to push boundaries for the few that really like to challenge themselves. So it’s likely that this will be an area where we see the most R&D development in the short term as we work with genuine experts in this field to develop the ultimate expedition craft.

SUP longboard surfing with Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic.
Find adventure with your own Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co SUP board.

It’s often tricky to convey a small brand message so how do you go about getting it out there?

I would say that this is very much still a work in progress. We’re a premium item in a crowded market of items that look visually similar to most people. There is no substitute for word of mouth recommendations and for test riding the boards yourself. That is why we’ve invested heavily in our demo centers. Thankfully our product reviews from SUP Mag UK and SUP International have all been very positive, so we’re hopeful that marketing will get easier as brand awareness increases.

What are your and FWBPC’s goals for the new SUP season?

I think this season is a year of consolidation. Building on last year’s effort, keeping the range the same, amplifying the messaging and planning for the future. We’ll be in a better position to judge the opportunities in front of us once we see what a post-pandemic summer season looks like I think.

SUP board choices
A new season of SUP is just around the corner.

Where would you like to see Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co heading as a company? An all round watersports brand or keeping it a smaller, specific SUP business for instance?

I think there’s no rush to diversify. I’m keen to maintain a period of stability before making any decisions on this front. That said, I see the future trending more to our roots in hard board development and possibly not just SUPs.

Any predictions as far as the wider stand up paddle boarding industry and sport goes?

In the short term I think shipping costs will force a wave of price increases. And it’s likely that a cooling of the market for inflatables will see a thinning out of the players especially at the cheaper end of the spectrum.

SUP lessons, of the life and industry variety - with Chris Houghton.
SUP adventures are just waiting to be discovered.

I see increasing interest in SUP surfing, touring, white water, expeditions and racing as those new to the sport find their niche. Equally, and for the same reasons, I expect to see a very buoyant market for quality second hand boards which I am fully supportive of.

Personally, do you have specifics you want to tick off with SUP?

I’d like to have some more time to paddle. In 2014 I thought I’d ride my bike more if I had a bike company – this is not the case! I am, it would seem, a slow learner in this respect, but I do hope to continue to develop as a rider of both two wheels and waves when opportunity allows.

Anything you can tell us about your other interests outside of SUP?

I’m a keen snowboarder (actually, there’s a thought…), cyclist and socialiser. I’m happiest working and spending time around small groups of people, making things happen and having fun!

SUP lessons, of the life and industry variety - with Chris Houghton.
SUP socials can be the best!

Final thoughts on Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co and stand up paddling at large?

Only that it’s a great brand within a great sport – it deserves to be successful. Not for me, but for everyone that’s played their part in delivering something remarkable.

Anyone you’d like to thank and acknowledge?

So many – you know who you are.

But special mention to Charlie Cripwell, the founder and creator of the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard brand, without whom none of this would have existed. Zoe Sadler for our iconic logo that plants us firmly in the Bay. Adrift Visuals for producing such great brand content, Jason Swain for handling the tech and Aaron at Earth, Wind and Water and all our demo partners for representing and supporting the brand since day one.

Don’t forget to check out further articles from our bog here.

SUP paddle strokes and techniques to nail down.

SUP paddle strokes and techniques to nail down.

SUP paddle strokes and fundamental techniques that you should have in your arsenal.

SUP and paddle strokes are like cars and engines. Neither works without the other. Yet pair the two up and suddenly you have an efficient mode of transport.

It’s easy to think (and act blindly) that hopping aboard your stand up paddle board, and just paddling, is all that’s needed. Yet refinement of the forward stroke is often needed as well as adding other types of paddle strokes to your ‘tool box’.

Forward SUP paddle stroke refinement.

One of the biggest tips any progressing paddler can take away is ‘bury the paddle blade’. Often times riders just ‘tickle’ the water with no dynamism.

Submerging the whole blade will ensure that maximum power is delivered. Complete submersion also encourages the paddler to ‘reach’. And reaching combining with paddle blade’ submersion goes a long way to developing an efficient forward paddle stroke. 

SUP paddle strokes and techniques to nail down.
Whatever type of SUP you practice a solid forward stroke is definitely needed – here shown in SUP foil mode.

There are a few other elements to also work on but if you only concentrate on the above two points you’ll be winning. And stand up paddle boarding better. Whether recreational SUPing or aiming to become more technically proficient you’ll be well on your way.

The SUP J-stroke.

Paddling in a straight line, whilst continually changing sides, isn’t as efficient as it could be. There are also situations that require the same side paddling for long periods of time – such as with crosswinds. Using the J-stroke will help keep your SUP straight and true whilst removing the need to constantly swap from one rail to the other. You lose less efficiency and can pilot narrower, more unstable boards. Especially if you stand with offset foot placement (think surf stance) which tends to favour either left or right side paddling.

Reaching forwards as normal, riders should bury the blade in standard fashion but slightly wide of the nose. Draw the stroke in towards your SUP and continue through the power phase as normal. The ‘drawing’ of the stroke gives forward propulsion as well as keeping your board tracking straight. Taking time to practice the J-stroke yields desired results.

A demonstration of the J-stroke for SUP.

The SUP sweep stroke.

A paddle stroke for all occasions the sweep can be used in so many SUP scenarios. Stand up paddle surfers put the sweep stroke to good use when paddling for and riding waves. 

Spotting their chosen swell (having positioned his/herself accurately in the line up) a sweep can be used in tandem with a tail sink pivot turn. Having spun on the spot the rider doesn’t lose ground nor stray either side of the wave’s peak. As such a few hammer down forward paddle strokes will see a smooth roll in and the wave caught.

The sweep stroke asks the paddler to perform a wide arcing motion with their paddle. Depending on the wants/needs of the rider the sweep stroke can pull out wide from the board’s nose to tail or be a shallower, snappy maneuver. 

The reverse sweep stroke. 

Where the standard sweep stroke means pulling wide, nose to tail. The reverse sweep starts on one side of your SUP, with the blade facing in towards the rail. And passes over the board’s nose to end on the opposite side. So the rider will stretch (and stand) quite a way forward. 

Some paddlers prefer the reverse sweep stroke to standard sweeps. As with all skills it has many uses and should therefore be practiced. Mixing and matching paddle strokes intuitively ensures your standing as a skilled stand up paddler.

SUP paddle strokes and techniques to nail down. #4
Reverse sweep strokes are great in scenarios like white water river running where you need a whole bag of techniques at your disposal.

Brace strokes.

Bracing is used mostly for balance and to stop the rider from falling. It’s often that a SUPer can overegg their balance and tip the board too far into its rail. Using a brace stroke will stop dunkings and bring the stand up paddle board and rider back upright.

A classic use of the brace stroke is during bottom turns on waves when SUP surfing. As the paddler carves off the bottom the paddle is extended to the inside, onto the wave’s face, and allows proficient surfers to carve harder and not fall into the wave.

SUP paddle strokes and techniques to nail down. #6
A high brace stroke used to support the rider whilst bottom turning along a wave.

You can employ a high brace – which in SUP surfing mode sees the paddle rest higher up the wave face. If it’s smaller swell then the paddle can brace on top. Or adopt a low brace where the paddler’s blade feathers the wave’s surface, tapping or pushing harder into the water as needed. 


Sculling paddle strokes are mostly a positioning tool. With the paddle pulled in close to the board’s rail, he/she moves the blade back and forth, just below the water’s surface, with a slight angle. This angle of attack gives paddle pressure as it engages with the water and serves to keep rider and board stationary. Or as stationary as possible.

SUP paddle strokes and techniques to nail down. #7
Sculling has a variety of uses that require sideways movement in confined spaces.

A typical sculling scenario could be when coming into land in deep water next to a jetty or pontoon. Having slowed to a crawl the rider can skull on the side closest to the landing platform. This slowly draws the paddler closer to the get out. And all without slamming into a hard surface and dinging the SUP. If you’re using a hard shell board then this is important. Inflatables can brush off knocks like this easier.

Back paddle strokes.

Used for stopping abruptly or reversing – especially in tight spaces where a pivot turn or sweep stroke won’t work, back strokes are simple but effective.

Unlike all the other SUP paddle strokes mentioned already a back stroke uses the reverse side of the paddle blade to push water as opposed to pull. Hand grip will be exactly the same with no need to change. SUPers then need to avoid angling the paddler’s blade otherwise it won’t work.

SUP paddle strokes and techniques to nail down. #8
Back strokes help when you need to stop and/or reverse.

Practice, practice, practice.

As with everything the more knowledge you have the more you can progress and develop your SUP skills. And have a bag of paddle strokes to call upon will see you enjoy your SUPing more and be able to cope with a broader set of paddling conditions.

If you want more effective and efficient stand up paddling then learning to put to good use all these paddle strokes is best practice.

SUP paddle strokes and techniques to nail down. #9
The more you practise the better you’ll get a SUP.

For truly rapid progression and understanding, getting some SUP coaching is worth its weight in gold. A qualified, experienced instructor will guide and help you develop paddle stroke skills much quicker than going it alone. So instruction is definitely worth considering.

Paddle Monster have some great resources and tips for SUP paddle strokes you can find here.

If you’re after more stand up paddle boarding articles like this then check out the following. And don’t forget to give us a shout if you have any questions.

SUP board choices for beginner/improver SUP paddlers.

SUP board choices for beginner/improver SUP paddlers.

What to consider when buying your first SUP.

There are so many stand up paddle boards available today that making a choice is a hard task. For many newbies, it can seem overwhelming. Do you go hard board or inflatable? And what about SUP length, volume and width? Style of board can also play a part. So where to begin?

SUP skill (and being honest with yourself).

When in the market you need to consider multiple aspects. First up is your personal skill level. Whilst it’s good to have aspirations and goals good practice is to be honest with yourself. You may yearn for that uber narrow race machine, or low volume performance surf sled. But these will be hard craft to pilot if you’re barely out of the beginner stages of stand up paddling.

SUP surfing: waves are where you find them.
Are you an aspiring wave head or flat water SUP paddler?

Something that’s accessible, but with traits to grow into, will be the best course of action. This will deliver maximum fun as you progress on your SUP journey. And it’s the fun element that’ll keep you coming back for more. Owning a board that’s too tricky to use won’t do much for your continued enjoyment of the sport. If you find yourself groaning at the prospect of paddling your own SUP then you might not have chosen the best fit.

Usual stand up paddle board stomping grounds.

Your local stomping ground should dictate what type of stand up paddle board should be purchased. By this, we mean what type of conditions you get and are most likely to be riding in.

For instance, if your local is generally mirror flat water, with some interesting nooks and crannies, then it’d be foolish to buy an all out surf SUP. Something touring orientated would make more sense.

Or if you want a dabble in waves on the same board a SUP like Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s Classic would be a good option. Perhaps the bigger 10’6 if it’s going to be a more flat water bias to your paddling (or you’re a heavier rider). But the 9’11 works as well.

The inflatable SUP option.

Your first stand up paddle board doesn’t have to be the hard variety. Inflatables are good to go as well. In fact, based on what the masses generally buy, iSUPs are it. Usually around the 10’6 mark. But you don’t need to follow trends. Following your own path is often the course of direction.

The issue with inflatables – as has been discussed at length across various forums – is the manufacturing and material quality with some of these boards. Cheap iSUPs are just that: cheap. Not budget. Budget, wallet friendly is something else entirely. You can get quality inflatable SUPs that are budget orientated.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co offer two styles of iSUP. Our 10’6 is designed to give enhanced glide and tracking (via its slightly elongated nose). Whereas the longer 11’5 compact touring SUP is fit for any adventure you can to throw it at. Both these designs are examples of time and effort spent getting the shape right and making them fit for purpose for many different styles of paddler.

Don’t forget your SUP paddle!

We talked about upgrading your SUP paddle in this article. To reiterate: your SUP paddle is everything. Arguably more important than your board, the paddle defines what stand up is and should therefore be given due thought and consideration.

Far too often we see riders happy to make do with any old paddle. This is never going to enhance the fun factor of stand up paddling. So the best advice is leave a few coffers in the kitty for an upgrade if your included package paddle isn’t up to the job. (Unlike Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s package paddle which has a good deal of thought and design behind it).

SUP board choices
Inflatable SUP boards are sometimes the best choice.

Stand up paddle board progression.

Whatever type of stand up paddle board you plump for it ideally should have some progression elements inbuilt. SUPs can be high price ticket items for many so having to upgrade mere weeks down the line isn’t that cost effective.

Fortunately most well respected brands, offering quality stand up paddle boarding gear, have plenty of applicable kit that can be used to advance your skills with. For instance: Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s 10’6 Classic is a great longboard style surf SUP. It’ll quite happily cover some ground (or water) on the flat. But, for those who fancy some wave carving fun or toes over the nose riding, it does the job perfectly.

The 9’11 Classic is just as progressive and versatile. Albeit with slightly more leaning to waves for bigger riders. Mid to featherweights will have plenty of flat water paddling fun aboard it though. And still be able to slide small to medium sized waves.

Whatever you stump up for should deliver on the smiles front. Do some research, ask questions of reputable sources and speak to the brand you’re looking at. Knowledgeable retailers should also be able to guide you accurately. The more happy paddlers we have the more longevity SUP has. So it’s in the best interests of all parties to get riders partnered up with their ideal stand up paddle boarding craft.

If you have any questions about Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s range of hard or inflatable SUP boards get in touch. And for more articles like this hit up the following links from our blog.

SUP foiling vs SUP surfing.

SUP foiling vs SUP surfing.

SUP foiling gets pitted against SUP surfing in this Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co guest article.

SUP foiling – in fact, foiling of all types – sparks lots of interest currently. If you partake in watersports of any kind you can’t fail to have been reeled in by the almost voodoo exploits of flying above water. Whilst wing foiling is enjoying the lion’s share of attention SUP foiling also gets a look in. But how does flying on a wave compare finning on a wave?

With Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co. not being a foiling brand we hit up one of our friends from Foilshop UK. Tez Plavenieks (also editor of SUP Mag UK and Windsurfing UK) has been playing with hydrofoils for a while. Having a vested interest in foiling, and being in a position to test oodles of foil gear, we thought he could shed some light on the art of flying. Oh, and he just so happens to have also tested over 2000 stand up paddle board products! Over to Tez…

Dropping into a nice SUP foiling section.

SUP foils.

I’ve been foiling for a while having first tried my hand at windsurf foiling. Pretty soon after – as in a few days – I hopped aboard a SUP foil set up and took my first flights in waves. Even though hydrofoils were accessible they were still a world away four years back to the kit you get now. There wasn’t as much available for a start! But the kit today is much easier to use and more forgiving.

Foils themselves come in (generally) two types. Low aspect shovel style foils and thinner, narrower (chord – nose to tail) and wider span foils referred to as high aspects. In short, high aspect foils require more rider input (and/or better conditions) but are more efficient when foiling. They’re faster than low aspect foil wings and can glide much further. Both types, depending on brand and model, can have low take off speed (sometimes referred to as stall speed). It’s this element that can make or break a beginner’s foiling at the start.

Thinner, narrower high aspect front and tail wings.

Having not fully developed foiling skills, riders need a little help. With a low take off speed it doesn’t take much oomph to lift. And to learn foiling you actually need to be flying. It’s mostly best practice when starting your SUP foil journey to go bigger with the foil. But when researching, note any blurb about low take off speeds. That way you’ll have any easier time of it. Remember: the foil is the most important piece of equipment next to your SUP paddle.

SUP foil boards.

SUP foil boards are generally multi-discipline these days. If foil specific then chances are you can SUP foil, wing foil and possibly windsurf foil on the same one. Some foil boards also offer fin performance as well. But in my experience, there’s too much compromise between flying and stuck to water riding. If you want to foil go foil specific.

A SUP foil specific board ready and waiting…

A compact design, with much less width than your standard SUP board, pretty much typifies a foil board. That said, depending on what you go for, you can find plenty of stability – even with SUP foil boards around 100L. Once you get used to the shorter nature of your chosen foil board (and the side to side yaw of it) you’ll find no issue with balance. Paddling any distance will be hard work, but you shouldn’t have to as smaller waves, often breaking closer to shore, are greenlit for foiling!

SUP foil paddle.

As with stand up paddle surfing (and SUP in general) your paddle is everything. Yes, you need a foil to fly but without a paddle you’re just standing. So keep this in mind. In a lot of cases, your regular SUP paddle will work fine for foiling. If it’s a fixed shaft type then you might not have quite enough length to paddle whilst on foil. In which case, something a few inches longer will help. Or, alternatively, a good quality adjustable SUP paddle will solve the problem.

Due to SUP foil boards being so short you need a lot of oomph to get into a wave. Something with power is therefore key. A stiffer shaft will help as that direct drive makes for efficient paddling off the bat. I don’t normally like uber stiff SUP paddles for general paddling as these ruin my shoulders. But for SUP foiling, where I’m not paddling as far, it’s key. Your paddle should also be bulletproof. There’s a chance you may clip your foil under the water – particularly if the front foil wing’s wider than your board. If your paddle isn’t up to the job then you may break it. And that goes for your foil if you clunk it with the paddle.

Waves, waves, waves.

One of the big draws to SUP surfing is you don’t need quality waves to ride. It’s been widely reported, but surf conditions not great for prone riding are usually good feeding ground for SUP surfing. Due to the oversized nature of the board, you enjoy added glide, momentum and the ability to outgun crumbly sections and so on. Using your paddle efficiently is also a big benefit. This gives additional power and leverage for turning.

SUP surfing the inside section
Shallower inside sections still call for a board with fins.

With SUP foiling the main differences are speed (once up on foil) and glide. The same soft breaking waves you may be riding on a finned board are ripe for foiling. Once up and flying the frictionless nature of the foil over eggs everything you get riding stuck to water. The foil is reactive – extremely so! You’re lightning fast compared to a board on the water. And the glide is phenomenal. As such, whilst SUP surfing delivers longer rides in smaller waves, SUP foiling does this plus 10! Foiling also gives the option, once you dial in the technique, of pumping back out to the next wave, turning and doing it all again. All without actually touching the water. In theory, you can do this for as long as your legs hold out. But it is tiring. Many SUP foilers tend to opt for length of ride off one wave and then take a breather.

SUP foiling vs SUP surfing.

To be honest, you can’t really compare SUP foiling to SUP surfing as they’re different beasts. I still ride a finned board when conditions require. If the waves are solid and bigger then I jump on my SUP surfing board. For slacker swells, I’ll foil. My motto is ‘tools for the job’ and I don’t close my mind to the options available. Some riders get fixated on one thing and let it become all consuming. I prefer variety and utilising the options I have to deliver the most amount of fun.

Riding on a finned board is still as fulfilling as it ever was.

For instance, there are some days at my local that it’s just too shallow where the waves are breaking for a foil. Even with a shorter foil mast. Other times it’s chunky but breezy. So in this instance, I’ll favour a foil and ride the smaller inside waves where there’s more shelter.

Mood also plays its part. There’s nothing quite like a gouging turn, feeling the board’s rail bite before slinging the nose into a pitching lip. You can’t quite achieve the same on a SUP foil board. I used the word ‘feel’ just now and the different feels of being on fin or foil are what I’m all about. I know others who’re the same. But as with ‘tools for the job’ I like to change my mood and therefore feel. Sometimes I’ll ride a SUP surfing board and SUP foil board in the same session.

The expense question.

I appreciate to throw a large dollop of cash at something you don’t have any experience of is a big ask. It’s also tricky choosing foiling gear that’ll suit you and the conditions you generally ride in. It’s tricky enough with stand up paddle boards and paddles let alone the hydrodynamic beast of a foil. And there’re no two ways about it: foils and associated gear are relatively pricey. Yet anyone who makes the leap, puts those initial learning hours in, and perseveres will discover another immensely fun activity. And fun can’t be quantified in terms of monetary expense.

SUP foiling gear can be expensive but the fun factor’s high.

Once you’ve made your SUP foiling purchase there’s no reason to quickly swap it. There’s a lot of hype in the foiling industry. And most brands launch new products seemingly every week. There’s nothing to suggest this kit will deliver any more fun than you’re already enjoying.

Of course, at some point real breakthroughs do occur as far as foiling accessibility goes. But this is over a period of time. Whatever you choose now, SUP foiling gear wise, will last you at least a few seasons. I still have foils from three ago that work fine.

Surfing and ‘surfing’.

For me, the ability to ride all conditions I find on the day is gold. This includes breezy weather. It’s no secret I’m also a keen windsurfer, windsurf foiler and winger. I also use electric hydrofoil boards for no wave/no breeze sessions. And, of course, still paddle flat water aboard SUPs as much as any other recreational paddler.

Pumping between swells – but it’s all just surfing…

With waves, I see everything I do as just surfing. A hybrid extension of the sport, maybe, but it’s the same stoke I get after a fulfilling session. If you already stand up paddle surf and are thinking about SUP foiling, then get involved. You’ll already have the base skills from finned riding to take flight. It’s just a case of putting the time and effort in.

Likewise, if foiling’s not your bag then so be it. Nobody’s forcing you to take part. But don’t be scared about trying. A good many think foiling’s dangerous. And whilst you do have to be mindful of the foil it’s not as scary as you’d expect. There are safety precautions you can take during the learning process that’ll induce confidence. And to be honest you can belt yourself with a finned stand up paddle board which can also do injury! Bottom line is though: whatever floats your boat and gets you wet’s all good.

For more articles like this check out Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s other blog posts below.

SUP surfing Vs surfing.

SUP surfing Vs surfing.

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.

Surfing backgrounds.

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.

SUP surfing Vs surfing.
The term waterman (and woman) is often used to describe someone who is versed in multiple watery discplines.

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.

Surfing is still considered to be the pinnacle wave discipline.

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).

Surf Isle of Wight
Classic surfing shot from Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s backyard.

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.

SUP backgrounds.

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.

SUP surfing vs surfing
Checking the conditions – better for SUP surfing or surfing?

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. 

SUP surfing vs surfing
SUP surfing can often be the more fun option for riding waves.

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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