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SUP Safety

Surf etiquette and the unwritten rules of SUP Riding

Now for the most part, once you get the hang of riding a stand up paddle board, it will only be a matter of a few sessions before you realize how easy it really is and how mobile it is to get from one peak to the next. Endless waves and non stop action. With this all said, let’s hit the pause button for a second and take a look at the other ocean users around us.

The body boarder catching steep waves and moving around quite fast, the paddle ski surfer, a little faster and sometimes more competitive having been powered by a paddle for the past few decades and then there’s the surfer and long boarder that has been dominating the local peak for 30 years- that is until the SUP came along and caught every second wave. Hit the pause button and the challenge begins- to share or not to share?

The great thing about riding SUP is that it opens a whole new frontier in riding waves. From outer reefs to peaks that have been unreachable with normal arm paddle power. So you’ve paid $1200, got your free Men’s Health magazine and feel that you deserve the next wave. Well before we burst any bubbles or destroy the SUP name forever let’s take a look at what the rules are and how best to live at peace with other riders.

  • When learning stay completely clear of other ocean users. The beginner board is usually 12 ft with a 10 foot leash, that’s a total of 25ft once you wipe out and the leash stretches, so keep in mind that anyone in the path of your oncoming ship could potentially lose their head if you fall.
  • Where possible, stay away from surfers and ocean users. Use your new craft to explore areas that have been unridden and push new boundaries.
  • If you end up at your local spot with surfers out, give them right of way.
  • Surfer on the wave closest to the breaking part of the wave has the right of way. Safest rule of thumb is to always give surfers the right of way and if you end up on the same wave, simply kick off and allow them to continue.
  • Stay to the side of surfers.
  • When paddling out, if possible paddle around the break and not straight through to avoid getting in the way of others.
  • Here’s a big one, and if you can tattoo this on your arm you’ll do just fine in the line up- “don’t be a wave hog”. Just because a SUP can catch every wave that moves doesn’t mean that you need to hog all the waves. Sharing and not going for every wave will be the golden rule to remember especially as you improve.

The second key area we want to look at is my favorite move – The Wipeout!

“What do I do with my paddle”, “will my leg get ripped off when I fall” are just some of the questions people ask us all the time. So let’s take a look at a few tips that will help you survive.

The wipeout on a SUP will come in many ways, but without a doubt one of the most common areas to be on the look out for when learning, is during the take off. Nose diving is a part of your SUP experience. Big board, small wave and standing on a wide board, ingredients for the wipeout – to help prevent the nosedive try take off at a slight angle along the wave face and ensure that your paddle is on the side of the wave to which you are traveling. Ensure that you step back towards the tail to keep the nose of your board out the water.

Ok so you’ve caught a rail and you’re going under, what next? Get ready to hold onto your paddle. Most carbon SUP paddles will float, so use it as a tool to help bring you to the surface. By tilting the blade at an angle under the water you can also use the paddle to redirect you to the surface as the wave pulls you under water. Keep your body outstretched and point your toes towards the direction you are being pulled. Try not to fight the pull as this could result in your leash snapping.

Be careful of the board flying into the air. If you don’t feel a pull on your leg, generally that means that the board could be in the air, so cover your head especially when surfacing from under the water.

Once you have regained your board, paddle to safety and try all over again.

So as you head into the blue summer waters, we hope these tips don’t put you off but rather give you an awareness of what to be on the look out for as you experience one of the most amazing sports on the planet. See you on the water. Aloha.