These are small tips for stand up paddle surfing, not huge tips. I’m not a pro, but I’ve been listening and living and showing up to races and breaks. If just one of you gets stoked on the sport without pissing off the entire surfing world, then happy, happy.
Here you go:
- If you’ve never surfed, learn the etiquette, the rules that apply to surfers. When you enter a lineup (the area where a group of surfers ride waves), there are rules that apply to everyone. They were established in different ways, in different places, to keep people safe and having fun. Nothing gives SUP a worse name than people who paddle out and break these rules. It’s like someone buying a car and ignoring traffic laws. People can get angry, hurt, or worse. Ask questions there and people will try to answer them. This is the first and most important step. Read this: http://www.surfinghandbook.com/knowledge/surfing-etiquette/
- Don’t go to step 2 until you’ve read and understood the importance of surf etiquette.
- Learn how to paddle on flatwater first Before you go out into the ocean, make sure you’re proficient at paddling, turning, and stopping. Make sure you’re comfortable with your paddle. Get used to boats riding by. If you can’t stay on your board when a boat passes, you need to practice more. Once you’re good at this and have gained some endurance, then you can introduce waves, chop, etc. If you have questions, post them to the forum and maybe some caring expert will wax paddle.
- Go out on a flat day Wait until there’s a relatively flat day to try it for the first time. You’ll get the motion of the ocean without getting clobbered by head-high waves.
- WEAR A LEASH If you have a 12 foot board and a 10-foot leash, you have a 22-foot kill zone.. SUPs are heavier and bigger than normal surf boards. If you don’t wear a leash and one of these coems through a lineup or into the inside where swimmers are, it could kill someone.
- Watch the videos at the bottom Find your own peak When you’re ready to paddle out, find an area of the beach where there are no other surfers or swimmers. Stay out of the way to make sure you don’t hurt anyone and don’t upset the people who are trying to enjoy themselves. This especially applies to crowded spots. In Southeast NC, that means Masonboro, C-Street, and Crystal Pier. Don’t sit on the peak and pick off all the good set waves. It makes us all look like Kooks and shows no respect for the surfing culture and ecosystems at these breaks.
- Have an experienced surfer take you out There are plenty of people on SUPs who surfed first and know the ropes. Go to your surf shop and ask if there’s anyone who can take you out. Talk to your friends who surf or already SUP. You may pay for a lesson. It could be a free demo. They’ll show you where to be when the waves come, how to paddle into them, how to get out through the waves, etc. Most importantly, they’ll introduce you to the surfing etiquette and help you become a productive, responsible member of the lineup.
- Be prepared for the conditions. Everyone falls. Wipeouts are part of surfing. Wear appropriate clothing to accommodate your water temperatures. If it’s cold, make sure you have a wetsuit that will keep you warm. There’s an unofficial 100 degree rule. If the temperature of the water plus the air temperature is over 100 degrees, there is less risk of hypothermia than if the sum is less than 100. If the water is 50 degrees and the air is 40 degrees, you need a wetsuit, something that will protect you if you fall. Cotton won’t work. Anything that holds onto water is a bad decision. Assume you are going to fall in and dress appropriately.
- Be friendly, but not obnoxious. Saying, “hello” and a smile go a long way. SUPs don’t have a great reputation with surfers, so expect a little stink-eye. Don’t let it get you down. If you were on a surfboard and didn’t know what you were doing, you’d get the same looks. Once you learn and respect the rules of the lineup, you’ll become more localized and more accepted.
- Acknowledge mistakes and apologize. Move on. If you break a rule or make a bad decision, an apology can help. It helps if you don’t break them in the first place, but everyone makes mistakes. Some of our most important lessons come from mistakes. Actually, often our only lessons come from our mistakes. Shit happens. Apologize and move on. Don’t do it again. Love continues.
- With joy comes responsibility Not everyone gets to do this. It is a privledge. It comes with a responsibility to protect the water. You can’t just take. You have to gie back. You have to give respect to the ocean, the lakes, the rivers, wherever you paddle. Leave them better than you found them. If you see a plastic bag when you’re paddling, toss it on your board and throw it away when you get back to your car. Keep the parking lot clean.
- You are an ambassador of the sport, do us proud Because the sport is still so new, your paddling experience may be the first time others see someone on a SUP. Act responsibly and with respect. Stay out of boating lanes. Stay out of the way. Be safe. Be humble and have fun.
- Never say, “What’s SUP?” It’s so old, I can’t even describe how I cringe every time someone sees SUP for the first time and thinks it’s funny. It’s like a joke that’s been repeated 10,000 times. Fingernails on a chalkboard. Just say no. If someone asks you, “What’s Sup?” and flashes some hokey gang signs, smack them. They might not understand right away, but some day, they’ll thank you.
That’s not a perfect list, but it’s 12 more tips than you had before you read it. I hope it helps you have fun and be an ambassador of this sport. Go paddle.
Respect your local ecosystem