Everything You Wanted to Know About Paddle Surfing

Photo Credit: Isle Sup

With just over a decade of worldwide popularity, stand-up paddle boarding has grown at an incredible rate. There are already many different ways to ride a paddleboard, such as to tour, fish, race, do yoga, and surf.

Hawaiians are believed to be the first to paddle surf. They even have their own word for it, Hoe He’e Nalu. It was a great alternative to using a surfboard when there was little swell. Now, paddle surfing has become a sport in its own right. More and more people are not only eager to get on a paddleboard, but also to learn how to catch waves on one. Here we offer you some tips and advice on how to paddle surf.

Skills Needed to Surf on a SUP:

The idea is to have a basic level of stand-up paddle boarding skills before you try paddle surfing. Learn how to paddle on flat water and master these three important skills before paddling out to the line and catching a wave. The first skill to have down is pivot turning or 360 degree turns.

This skill is necessary for you to be able to turn the board fast enough when there is a wave coming your way and you want to catch it. Of course, you could paddle out far enough that you ride the wave in, but pivot turning is essential if you have not made it out that far and you need to turn in a hurry. You can refer to our SUP racing article here (insert link) for a refresher.

The second skill to have is being able to sprint on your paddleboard. This means knowing how and being able to paddle at full speed and with a lot of power. This technique is great to practice on flat water. For an added challenge, practice it in a little chop. When you are out on leisurely paddles, practice sprinting in intervals. Paddle as hard and fast as you can for one minute, and then rest for two. Repeat as many times as you can until you feel comfortable sprinting.

Lastly, make sure you are comfortable with different paddle strokes like sweep strokes, which help you turn, and draw strokes, which move your board laterally. These will help you steer your board and drop down into your first wave.

Safety First:

As always, the use of a leash is very important when paddle boarding and more so when surfing on one. When you fall off your board, whether it is by accident or after purposefully bailing, your board will take off if you are not attached to it. This can be dangerous to you and to those around you.

Avoid paddling in areas with offshore winds. This will be very difficult to paddle in and you run the risk of being blown offshore. Also steer clear of big waves and lots of chop, at least for your first few tries. Be careful with other paddlers, surfers and swimmers. In some beaches, paddle surfing is restricted to certain areas. Familiarize yourself with the beach and ask locals for their advice.

Paddling Out to The Waves:

Before jumping in and paddling out into the waves, take a few moments to look out at the waves that are coming in. Familiarize yourself with their frequency and length and time your paddle out to coincide with the last wave of a set. That way you will expend less energy getting out to the line-up.

There are several ways to make it out past the break. Depending on the size of the waves coming in, you can paddle out lying prone on your board. This is ideal for waves under knee height. Lie prone on the board, place the blade of the paddle underneath you and paddle as you would on a surfboard. Face the wave head on when white water is approaching you. Place one hand on the paddle and the other on the rail of the board. Prop yourself up as the wave approaches.

If the waves are higher than two feet, kneel on top of your board and choke up on the paddle. Position your board to face the waves and paddle hard towards them. Take one last strong stroke right as you approach the wave so that it does not push you back. Once you are comfortable on your knees, try standing on your board to paddle out.

Riding Waves:

One of the advantages of being on top of a paddleboard is the visibility you have of the waves. You can see sets coming in much sooner than if you were sitting on a surfboard. Position yourself towards the waves. When you see one approaching, turn your board to face the beach. As we mentioned earlier, the best way to do this is by pivot turning

Paddle with even and strong steady stokes as the wave is approaching to catch up to the speed of the wave. Once the wave reaches you, switch your stance to a surf stance by placing either your right or your left foot behind. This is essential to keep the nose of the board out of the water. Bend your knees and maintain the weight of your body on your back leg. Switch the paddle to the side of the board that you will be turning towards. Your paddle can be used for balance or to slap the water. Skim the paddle on the water for balance. Never let go of your paddle!

Once you catch your first few waves on paddleboard, you will be hooked! Enjoy the ride and exit the wave safely either by coming down to a kneeling position and riding the wave back to shore, or by turning the board and taking it back to the line-up. Always remember the key safety tips and have fun discovering this great hobby!