Progression Tips: 8 Tips for When Surfing on Your SUP

Two stand up paddleboarders on the shoreline of sea and orange rock

So, you’ve started stand up paddleboarding, and you’ve reached the stage where you’re looking to progress from beginner level to becoming the ultimate wave catcher?

Here at Wetsuit Centre, we know a thing or two about stand up paddleboards! There is much more to SUP-ing than simply standing up and paddling, especially if you’re hoping to catch some rides!

Small tweaks to your style, position and stance can save you from falling in the water more often than not!

Discover our most useful tips to improve your SUP technique and feel more confident the next time you enter the water.

A woman sat on a SUP looking at camera

Check the Weather Conditions

One sure way to feel more confident is to know what to expect from the weather when you take your paddleboard out.

Of course, as much as we glue ourselves to weather reports, it is an unpredictable part of nature that can change at any time, especially by the coast.

However, in more cases than not, if there is a big storm due, you probably don’t want to waste your time packing your equipment to be disappointed, let alone be heading out to sea into a dangerous situation.

Two paddleboarders in sunset, one paddling prone

Remember to Paddle Prone When Necessary

If you ever are caught out in high winds, try ‘paddling prone’. This is when you lie flat on the board with your paddle beneath you so your body and the board sandwich it.

You can then paddle the board like a regular surfboard and remain out of harsh winds.

Choose Your Waves Wisely

On the note of familiarising yourself with the weather conditions, it is also worth trying to be honest about your limits.

If big swell is due that day and you’re not feeling genuinely confident, don’t push yourself by going out when you feel out of your depth.

Any watersport should be safe and fun, and if you don’t feel these two things, you won’t enjoy it or be in the correct frame of mind to advance your skills.

Ideally, if you want to surf waves on your SUP, choose days where they are slow-moving. You want the waves to be between knee and shoulder height at the start of your SUP journey.

Slow breaking waves are the most suitable ones for stand up paddleboarding and heavier or fast waves are more suitable for surfers with smaller boards.

A wave about to break

Getting Over White Water

Transitioning from flat water to paddling out back can be a pain when trying to get over white water waves.

The best way to combat breaking waves is to firstly wade chest-deep.

Next, hop on your paddleboard and paddle on your belly like you would a surfboard and when paddling prone.

Upon approaching a white water wave, hold the paddle down with one arm and lift your body, so there is a gap between you and the board for the wave to pass through.

Paddle From the Right Place

Plot twist, paddling should happen from your core. Yes, even though it feels like our arms do most of the heavy work when stand up paddleboarding, maintaining a strong and centred body is key to good paddling.

Keep your stance tall and direct your weight, so it is central to the instep of your feet.

Try to avoid leaning too far forward on your toes and too far back on your heels. It will help reduce the threat of cramping and enhance stability on the board.

A paddleboarder in sunset

Holding the Paddle

Something you may or may not have picked up on already, but always worth the reminder, is holding the paddle correctly when you get to the paddling stage.

Ideally, you want to keep your grip loose around the shaft.

Your hands should be positioned one above the other, pretty far apart.

The angled side of the paddle should face away from you so the paddle isn’t cupping the water as you pull the paddle towards you in the water. Keep the paddle in front of you and not behind, with the whole blade underwater.

This will help you to keep control of the paddle and direct alongside the board, which will guide you in a straight line.

Know How to Fall Off Correctly

Falling off your board is always going to happen! Even as you become more experienced, there may be the occasional time you happen to get flicked off your board; so knowing how to protect yourself when you fall will help you to feel more comfortable with the idea.

Try to fall away from the SUP and fall flat to avoid hitting anything underneath, especially in shallow water. Remember to hold on tight to your paddle too! Don’t worry about your board floating away as you fall, as you should be attached to it by the leash.

Practice makes perfect, and having some run-throughs also helps to build your confidence.

A stand up paddleboarder riding a wave

Catching a Wave

As you catch a wave, you want your positioning to remain the same as it is when you usually paddle; feet facing forward.

Paddle hard and, depending on what works for you, paddle either one side or alternate between the two as you head towards the beach. The aim is to match the speed of the wave.

Once you feel the wave pick you up, change the position of your feet from facing forward to sideways, as you would when regularly surfing.

One foot will be in front of the other, and this will depend on what comes naturally to you. Try not to overthink it and go with the flow!

Hopefully, our handy hints and tips will help you next time you’re in the sea!

Ready to wind down after your session? Discover our best after-surf stretches below!

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