OAG has the lowdown on paddling’s newest craze.
What is it?
An emerging UK sport with a Polynesian heritage, stand up paddle surfing does exactly what it says on the tin. In the early 1960s the popularity of the modern sport of ‘SUP’ grew in Hawaii, where the beach boys of Waikiki would paddle out on long boards in order to take photos of tourists learning to surf. This is where the term ‘beach boy surfing’ originates, which is another name for the sport. The Hawaiian translation is ‘ku-hoe he’e nalu’, which literally means ‘to stand, to paddle, to surf a wave’.
Why do it?
More versatile than traditional surfing, stand up paddle surfing offers a good ‘core’ workout, with the benefit of giving surfers the ability to catch more waves in a set.
While modern surfing is wave dependant, and windsurfing is heavily reliant on wind, SUP’ing can be enjoyed on flat water or waves, gives the rider a birdseye view of marine life, and a better look at oncoming swell.
SUP’ing has grown in popularity in recent
years, with professional windsurfers and surfers sampling the sport.
Windsurfing legend Robby Naish now has his own SUP brand, and Kai Lenny, also a professional windsurfer, is ranked number 1 on the Stand
Up World Tour. Ex-professional athletes from Olympic rowers to triathletes are now getting into it in order to maintain fitness.
What to expect…
While easier than surfing, stand up paddle surfing still requires a steep learning curve. Learning to balance on the board whilst paddling can be trickier than it looks, and the first few lessons can be off-putting if you are constantly in the water. To make things as easy as possible in these first sessions, try to learn on flat water in steady wind (10mph or less) to minimise waves and chop. Once you are ready to step up to the next level, you can think about advanced lessons and surfing waves.
Getting all the appropriate water-related gear together when you’re starting out is straightforward, and it’s easy to hire a wetsuit without spending a fortune. If you start to take things more seriously you can invest in your own board or paddle, or continue to hire them. Happy paddling!
Whether summer or winter, a wetsuit is usually preferable in the UK. A summer wetsuit (short arms and legs) is thinner, and cheaper, however a full-length winter wetsuit will be better for all year round use. The longer you stay warm, the longer you can surf.
A good length paddle is 6-8 inches taller than you. If it’s too long it will be hard to keep the board straight; too short and you’ll be bent over, and this could lead to lower back pain. Price-wise, expect to pay around £50 upwards. There’s a paddle available to suit every need, from 3-piece travel paddles
to high-end full carbon racing paddles.
There are 4 main board types depending on the type of paddling you intend to do. Cruising boards have a larger volume for stability,
race boards tend to be narrower and built to cut through the water, and wave boards can be either long or short depending on the conditions. Inflatable boards have been developed in recent years for easy transportation. These are often used for cruising, and come in longer lengths.
If you’re not the strongest of swimmers it’s wise to invest in a leash. This will keep your board nearby, providing added safety and saving you from having to swim after it.
Where to go?
Lessons are offered at many water sports centres all over the UK. The BSUPA (British Stand Up Paddle Association) offers a 2-hour Level 1 ‘Ready to Ride’ course. This is aimed at people who have never stand up paddled before or people who have had a go but want to crack the basics. Visit www.bsupa.org.uk
X-Train, Wittering, West Sussex
Harlyn Bay Surf School, Padstow, Cornwall
Crantock Bay Surf School, Newquay, Cornwall
Torquay Wind and Surf Centre, Torquay, Devon