Fit for the wave?

No matter where you catch your first wave, you will have the unique feeling of weightlessness and speed for the first time. After that first taste, you want to get more and more – so get out there!

Words & pics: Dirk Herpel

You want to go with your SUP to the place, where our sport is born? Listen up: Paulina Herpel, acting German Champion on the wave, is going to take you with her on the sea.

No matter where you catch your first wave, you will have the unique feeling of weightlessness and speed for the first time. After that first taste, you want to get more and more – so get out there!

However, as always, it looks a lot easier than it is. Sure, you already standing on the board when you’re paddling towards the wave. There is no difficult take off like surfers have to do but you have to learn everything else, like reading and noticing the swell, getting in the right position and paddling at the right moment.

A stiff all-rounder SUP board on flat water quickly gets shaky on the sea. So, if possible, do not take a board that’s too short, for the first ride on a wave. It’s hard enough to read the waves in the line up – the zone where the waves break.

Longboard or shortboard?
Everything over nine-foot (around 2.4m) and a wide nose is classified as a longboard. Most of the allround-SUPs are pretty big longboards. A few companies still build ‘real’ logs designed only for surfing. These are thinner in the edges, have more curves in the underwater hull and its possible for advanced or light surfers to do turns in big waves as well. These shapes clearly react with more sensitivity with foot control than the more comfortable allround boards. However, all these boards have in common is that you can paddle quite early in the waves. Early means when the waves have not formed that steeply.

Basically the rule of thumb counts:
The shorter the board and less the volume, the closer you have to get to the breaking part to get the wave. The benefit of a small board is the manoeuvrability and the ability to ride the wave close to the breaking part. Professionals use shortboards usually with tiny excess volume (weight to volume) of five litres.

So-called wide body boards, shorter boards, mostly over 32-inch wide, helps untrained rides. Excess volume here is around 40 litres. The short, wide boards are more manoeuvrable than longboards, but still quite stable. When you are serious SUPing waves you definitely should take a hardboard. There is not an iSUP on the market as yet where you can really compare them to a hardboard. The reasons mostly are the thick edges of an iSUP because the leadership on the slope of the wave is not enough.

Length of the paddle
Usually the height of your head is enough but the smaller the board the shorter the paddle. The best is when you always bend your knees to keep your balance. You also can use a variable paddle, but sand and salty water are not good for these paddle systems. If you do use one always flush out after the session.

The leash is a life policy for you and fellow surfers. Always make sure to take the proper leash for your board. This means a bit longer than your board length, and the bigger the wave or heavier the board, the thicker the calibre of the leash has to be. Always check on any damage. A cracked leash can be a dangerous accident waiting to happen.

Getting washed
Try not to have the board between you and the wave. Save yourself by putting up your hands over your head under water. The bigger the board the harder the leash pulls you. Therefore, you use a leash placed under the knee with bulkier boards. Don’t forget to hold your paddle. Once it is gone it could take some time till you find it. Never use a drysuit because you won’t be able to dive under the wave.

Right of way in the line up
Shortboarder, longboarder, boogie boarder – on good days there are many surfers in the line up. So as a stand up paddler you should use your biggest benefit and take a lonelier wave. Usually more on the right or left of the bunch waves break too. And with the SUP board you are quite quick.

As a beginner you should keep out of the bunch as you will endanger yourself and others if you can’t control your big board in the line up. Who is going out with surfers in the line up? It should be made clear if stand up paddlers aren’t welcome guests. One reason for sure is that mostly the SUP boarder catches the wave earlier than a longboarder. Not a good idea, it is important in the line up to recruit from the back. And when it’s your turn and you stand your wave you get a few more points. Just sitting and waiting for waves can also raise the mood.

So here the most important rules in the line up:
At the beginning you may have great ambitions, however, if in doubt better stay on the beach. Usually the waves are a little bigger than they seem to be from the coast. When you do not feel comfortable, it’s not your day, there will be another.

Surfing etiquette

  • A surfer who is closer to the breaking part of the wave has the right of way.
  • One wave, one surfer.
  • The riding surfer has the right of way in front of the surfer who is paddling out, which means sometimes you have to take the long way around the waves in order that no surfer gets disturbed.
  • Line ups do not mean standing in a queue. After you have surfed your wave you wait until it’s your turn again. Sometimes locals see this rule a little differently but it’s the best you keep cool. There is going to be a next wave.
  • Practice respect. Even when you have the right of way. If you take a wave of another by mistake instantly apologise.
  • If you get flushed try to hold your board and paddle.

So that’s enough theory. The waves are calling! Have fun.

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