Don’t Be A Kook!
Surfers do not like you! Think about it, you have a large board and paddle that can catch more waves with less effort. Short boarders don’t like long boarders, long boarders don’t like short boarders, body boarders are universally loathed, and kayaks are out of the question. Bring stand up paddle boards into the lineup and you have someone that everyone can agree is terrible. This is not a characterization of ALL surfers but a generalization about surf culture. It is inherent that humans will fight over something that comes in a limited quantity.
With the growth of stand up paddling comes great responsibility. In order to maintain open access to all bodies of water we must behave in a way that is safe.
No longer reserved for Hawaiian royalty, surfing is more accessible than ever. Stand up paddlers that may not have a surfing background can now easily get into the waves. This is great, however, it can cause problems in the surf lineup. Whether you are an experienced SUP surfer, or heading out on your first wave mission, here are some important things you should know.
Make sure you are experienced and comfortable on your SUP before you even think about getting in the waves.
The ocean is powerful! If you are not comfortable on your SUP in flat water you most definitely will not be in rough water. Practice your balance and turning skills in flat water first. The pivot turn and cross bow turns are great skills to practice before you get in the waves. How to pivot/cross-bow turn article HERE.
Just because you see other surfers at a spot does not mean you should surf there!
Bobbing in waves with a 12’ ft. board and a large paddle is dangerous. Not only is this dangerous to yourself but it can be dangerous to others. Even if you are an experienced surfer, it can be very hard to navigate a pack of prone surfers in the waves. In your first few years of SUP surfing you should use your paddle and greater mobility to move down the beach and surf in an emptier area.
Learn how to behave in the ‘lineup’.
Once you have solidified your skills you may find yourself surfing with the prone pack. Again, if it is over-crowded find an emptier area. If you stick around you need to know the ‘rules’ and right-of-way procedures of surfing. Check out the graphic below for a great resource on some easy guidelines.
Just because you can catch every wave does not mean you should!
The extreme joy of riding a wave is simply irresistible. However, exercise your better judgment and let other people have a shot at this same enjoyment. Knowing the rules of surfing along with years of experience will help you get a feel for how to operate. We all learned when we were 3 years-old that sharing is good!
Don’t paddle for a wave from a mile away.
If you are in a small group of friends, or by yourself, do whatever you like! However, if you are surfing in a crowd you should take note that other wave riding vehicles do not have the ability to ‘get into’ waves as early as a stand up paddler. When they see you stroking hard from way out in the lineup you look like a WAVE HOG! If you need to do this in order to line yourself up with a wave then you are not experienced enough to be surfing in a crowd. Once again find an area that is less crowded and surf there.
Make sure you have the right equipment.
If you plan to enter the wave zone you must have a leash! Make sure you have a thick leash, as most conventional surfboard leashes cannot hold the weight of a large SUP. A general rule is to get a leash that is at least the same length or longer than your board. Leashes will ensure that you stay attached to your board for flotation and that it does not end up lodged in someone else’s head. I highly suggest not using a coil leash as these become tangled easily and can slingshot the board back toward the surfer.
Plan on wearing a wetsuit if the water or air is cold. If you are trying to catch waves you will probably be falling in. Hypothermia can set in fast, dress appropriately.
If you follow these general rules you will be well on your way to having your weekly schedule ruled by the local swell forecast. As always, feel free to contact me with questions and make sure you join the discussion on our Facebook page!