By Matt Barker-Smith, www.standuppaddleboarding.co.uk
First published in the Paddler ezine
So hopefully, although… I know it’s been cold but it has warmed up now, you’ve already been out on your SUP for the first time this year. This article is now going to teach you how in a few steps you can start to turn your SUP, no matter how long it is. Firstly I’ll recap on wave catching – remember progression on your SUP is all about catching the best wave possible, which will give you the best opportunity to try out these manoeuvres.
So make sure you’re in the correct position, which is where the waves are first starting to rear up. Pick a wave, which looks steep enough to catch but still on the verge of breaking – this is the most important part of catching a wave on a SUP. Try and time your paddle power delivery so that you’re not out in front of the wave but matching the waves speed as it rolls towards shore. At this point you should remember that if you can paddle for a wave in the offset stance (surfing stance) – one foot slightly ahead of the other this will help you control the board once you start to catch the wave. Another way to look at it is to lower your bum to the deck, keeping your feet under your shoulders and your back straight.
Try and get in focus
Surfing is a bit like meditating so by all means let your mind wander on the things you need to do but it’s the ocean and the waves marching towards you, which you’ll want to return your focus to. Standing tall on your board, try and pick the wave you want to catch far out to sea, watch it as its moves towards the shoreline and monitor its changes in shape and size. If it looks too steep and is breaking outside of you, you’ll have no chance of catching it unless you want a bouncy white water ride.
Paddle hard to catch the wave
Let the wave build up behind you and deliver the power consistently with your paddle, you should always try and finish the last paddle stroke on your stronger side no matter which way you end up going (left or right) Next – the tail will lift subtly and you will start to glide down the face this is when you can try and widen your offset stance. Try to get your back foot closer to the tail and bend your knees – this will do two things.
- Make you more stable on the board, by lowering your centre of gravity.
- Give you more control of your direction.
Look where you want to go
If you stare at the beach in front of you, you’ll surf straight back into shallow water more commonly known as a straight hander. However, if you have caught the wave early and you’ve paid attention to the wave’s shape as you caught it, you can rotate your shoulders clockwise or anticlockwise and this will open your body up and increase weight over your back foot. You should still have your paddle in your hands, use it to stabilize yourself or as a brace to stop you falling off. This is the first stage of turning a board, shoulder rotation is very important as this sets your stance in a stable position so you can change where you lean your weight without losing balance by using your paddle.
Shifting your weight and starting the turn
Applying more weight to your back foot will slow the board down but also engage the fins more, so if you want to turn or stop, more weight centred over your back foot will do this. If you want to speed the board up, you’ll do the opposite and apply weight over your front foot. Shifting your front foot over towards the boards rail will allow you to bury the rail into the wave face and therefore start to make the board turn, again use your paddle and the radius of your turn will be sharper.
In order to get more radical and turn the board more aggressively and faster you will need to pay a lot of attention to the boards speed, without generating speed on the board you will find it hard to attempt any turn without losing balance. There are a couple of ways to generate speed, but it’s a bit like trying to twiddle spaghetti on a fork with one hand and write your name with the other hand without it looking like a four year olds scribble! Sometimes the wave will give you speed, at other times you’ll have to work for it. There are lots of factors that will effect your board speed – wave size, wind, board size or fins, which I will talk about in a later feature. Bend your knees and compress your upper body weight into your shoulders especially when you are about to reach the bottom of the wave face. Try and lower your chest to your knees and push hard with your feet – this in turn will force more weight over the fins and rail of the board, it’s a bit like when you turn a sharp corner in a car and you are thrown to one side, use your momentum to your advantage and lean into it.
Use your paddle
The paddle will help you leverage more power out of each turn, so you can lean more weight over the rail and use the paddle to stabilize yourself. If you find you are losing speed try driving your paddle into the wave face and trying to pull your body past the paddle, you can generate more speed this way if you hit a slow flat spot on the wave. The paddle is key if you really want to get some more performance turns from your surfing.
I have one last nugget, which may appeal to some of you and not to others. It’s a training tip, which I used with my wife for her training. Skateboarding has to be one of the closest things to surfing other than getting the board wet. One particular style of skateboard, which is growing across the globe, is the carving skateboard. These style of street surf boards are designed to be ridden as you would a surfboard; using the technique as described above to generate forward momentum without putting your foot down on the ground. Weight, speed and compression all working in unison to keep an endless ride, use a paddle pole to increase the similarity to paddle surfing.
Cross body forehand cutback