Where we at?

SUP surfing as it stands… Part 2

Stand up paddle boarding’s an easy going (and quite mellow) watersport when practised on flat water by and large. For beginners and recreational paddlers this epitomises the experience. Those looking to progress, however, may find the surf environment is too much of a tantalising prospect. Piloting (what could be described as) an oversized surfboard, with the additional boost of paddle propulsion, opens up a whole lot more wave riding opportunities and locations than with just a surfboard in tow. As SUP continues to grow we look at the stand up paddle surfing arm of SUP (arguably the most performance orientated area that still remains in easy reach for the majority of riders) Read Part 1.
Words & pics: As stated

Joe Thwaites
LOCO SUP

Tell us about your surf riding background and when you discovered riding waves with a paddle.
I first started surfing when I was 12 years old, late by today’s standards. My gran used to take my brother and me over to Saltburn, which was the epicentre for north east surfing back then and still is today. We graduated from foamies to minimals quite quickly and eventually ended up with shortboards that were too small for us, so nothing new there. I stuck with prone surfing for about four years, then sold my board for a set of DJ decks. I decided I needed something to keep me out of the pub, so I started windsurfing on lakes not far from where I lived in Harrow.

A move north landed me in Leeds, and I continued my ‘lake surfing’ at Pugneys and Grimwith Reservoir before graduating to the coast when I moved back home to the north east when I lost my Dad. I mainly wave sailed at Redcar but still kept a hand in with the inland stuff. After a couple of years at home, I moved further north to just outside Tynemouth, but after about a year or so, the credit crunch hit and my recruitment business went from being very busy to be dead. I decided to take the brave step of setting up one of the first SUP schools in the country operating from Tynemouth beach. I remember driving down to Roger Tushingham’s house and picking up my first fleet of Starboard school boards. They seemed enormous, but it didn’t stop my brother and me from taking them straight out for a surf at Seaton Carew, catching waves from the offset; it was like surfing properly but so much easier!

Do you still partake in a surf dabble with a paddle? If so, how does this make up (to a greater or lesser extent) your overall paddling?
Paddle surfing is 95% of my paddling as I live 300m from the beach and enjoy a mission to a reef that we have in spades up here on the north east coast. Everyone who paddle surfs up here knows me, and I’d like to think I’m one of the best paddle surfers locally as I’ve put in the hours. I no longer teach SUP, but I’m always happy to give improvers a few pointers for a cold pint in the pub afterwards.

What’s your overall opinion of SUP surfing in the UK currently? Do you see much new blood at your local, for instance?
SUP surfing seems to be waking up again, mainly due to loads of people buying a blow-up and now looking to progress. We’re now getting blow up owners seeing more experienced paddlers slashing around in the surf, which gets them thinking I’d like a stab at that. I’ve always got a buzz out of passing on my skills, so I’m in the process of starting an informal SUP surfing club, the idea being that members get some insight without having to spend silly money on 1-2-1. I might get a fish supper and a few beers for my time, and hopefully, I’ll be able to switch people onto the benefits of hard boards and make a couple of sales or at least foster good word of mouth.

Why do you think stand up paddle boarding waves never exploded as some predicted?
Where to begin? Most brands are quite happy selling blow-ups to the masses as they cost less to ship, are easy to store in volume, and present fewer headaches with onward logistics. Most of the early adopters came from wind sports or surfing proper and demanded a hardboard as they just looked at the ‘glorified lilo’ options and thought, meh!

As SUP continues to navigate through its new growth spurt, with large volumes of paddlers coming into the fold, do you think we’ll see an influx of SUP surf riders?
Absolutely! The number of calls I get daily asking me which board I’d recommend as a first surf SUP can only be a positive sign of things to come for ocean sweeping. I don’t think many of these paddlers realise that coming off a massive blow-up can be like learning from scratch again. Still, hey, that’s what I’m here for, primarily to inform and ensure people get the right board. It’s amazing how many people have boards that are far too big for them, so it’s no wonder they’re struggling to do any decent turns. Get the right kit under your feet and get a bit of know-how, and literally, anyone can ride a wave on a SUP.

Final thoughts on SUP surfing?
It’s the closest thing you can do the surfing proper that involves minimal skill, doesn’t require cat-like balance and guarantees the same stupid grinning and sense of achievement you get from surfing. It burns calories like doing a HIIT workout in a sauna, especially if you wear a wetsuit in the height of summer! It gets you out on the water, which is excellent for your mental health. The floaty boards let you explore hidden breaks and interact with dolphins and other cool marine wildlife. Once people get into SUP, our experience is that they soon upgrade to a hardboard for racing or surfing, so I think the future for non-competitive SUP surfing looks very bright!

Regarding the competitive side, we’ll have to wait and see. Wave pools could undoubtedly solve the unreliable conditions argument for SUP surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics. Watch this space!

Paddy Martin
SUP fine artist

Tell us about your surf riding background and when you discovered riding waves with a paddle.
Early adopter, I guess. My late bestie Colin McCulloch, who was shaping kiteboards for the world champ, came back from Hawaii in 2005ish and made a couple of SUPs. Before that, I was an average logger rider 10′ + boards.

Do you still partake in a surf dabble with a paddle? If so, how does this make up your overall paddling?
I freaking love SUP surfing. I’m a total middle-aged grom. I do get some flat water paddles in, but it is always just a means to keep fit for SUP surfing. If there’s swell at the local, I tend to get it.

What’s your overall opinion of SUP surfing in the UK currently? Do you see much new blood at your local, for instance?
Things don’t seem to have progressed that much in the UK, from what I see. I’m talking amount of people SUP surfing and the quality of surfing. In Oz, there’s been a split-off of longboard and shortboard styles. I try to surf longboard style on a 10’5″ Mellowwave board with a full nose outline, trying to get up on the tip where I can. But it seems that there isn’t a concerted longboard or shortboard SUP thing happening over here, and in fact, I see more people going down the short pointy board route if anything.

Why do you think SUP boarding waves never exploded as some predicted?
I think the surf media perpetuated a ‘SUPs suck and aren’t cool vibe’. And as there were many people able to paddle into crowded lineups with not much surf experience, that didn’t help. There are a lot of surfers giving bad vibes to anyone on a SUP. I’ve been surfing the local for 25 years, so don’t get too much stick, but I get some occasionally. The SUPs aren’t cool thing puts off loads of new potential SUP surfers. That said, the likes of Pete Edkins down in the South West of Cornwall, charging monsters, does give some kudos back to SUP surfing.

As SUP continues to navigate through its new growth spurt, with large volumes of paddlers coming into the fold, do you think we’ll see an influx of SUP surf riders?
I guess it’s inevitable to an extent. I hope people are sensible if they come into SUP surfing, taking time to work up to things, not paddling inflatables into busy breaks. They must be learning proper surf etiquette. You know the sort of thing.

Final thoughts on SUP surfing?
I rarely surf prone surfboards these days, but I think of myself as a ‘surfer’. It does make me sad that there isn’t more Aloha spirit in the water, but I fully get that the waves are crowded, so if you sit deep on a SUP and hoover up all the set waves, people will get miffed. From my perspective, it’s Aloha all the way. It’s much harder for people to give you stick if you smile, call other people into waves, chat and spread love.

Andy Hill-Parker
Team rider for Hypr Hawaii boards

Tell us about your surf riding background and when you discovered riding waves with a paddle.
I first stood up on a surfboard when I was around ten years old. Before that, I messed around on bodyboards, so I’ve been surfing for most of my life. I discovered paddleboarding to get out on flat water as a landlocked father of four boys. Becoming a dad deleted solo trips to the beach, so I had to get a fix somehow!

Then one summer in Croyde, I had been out to sea on my paddleboard, and as I came back in, a few waves started to come rolling in, so I gave it a go. It took a few hours to get the hang of it, but as soon as I did, that was that.

Do you still partake in a surf dabble with a paddle? If so, how does this make up (to a greater or lesser extent) your overall paddling?
If there are waves, then yes. I enjoy flatwater paddling; there are some amazing places to visit along the south coast. However, my main priority is paddlesurfing. Getting up at the crack of dawn and driving for a few hours is worth it for the buzz you get after a decent session. I’d say paddle surfing takes up 80% of my time on the water.

What’s your overall opinion of SUP surfing in the UK currently? Do you see much new blood at your local, for instance?
I think it depends where you go as to how well the sport is going. The waves aren’t suited for classic style surfing and more to surfing with a paddle at my local spot. When it gets good surf wise, it can get crowded! As far as new blood is getting into the sport, I think many more people are showing an interest in it. It’ll be interesting to see if the recent boom in paddleboard sales will make it into the lineup.

Why do you think stand up paddle boarding waves never exploded as some predicted?
Like any new sport in surfing, paddleboarding was initially frowned upon, and there was a certain stigma attached to it. So that might have held some people back from getting into it.

As SUP continues to navigate through its new growth spurt, with large volumes of paddlers coming into the fold, do you think we’ll see an influx of SUP surf riders?
Yes, I do think we’ll see an influx of SUP surf riders. During the craziness that was last year, the sales of paddleboards went through the roof; surely, some people will get into the surfing side of things.

Final thoughts on SUP surfing?
SUP surfing is my main focus when there are waves. I love it; it gives you a completely different perspective on catching and riding waves. Classic style surfing has taken a back seat in recent years as I’m trying to push my paddle surfing as far as it can go.

Charlie Cripwell
SUP surfer

Tell us about your surf riding background and when you discovered riding waves with a paddle.
Although I spent more time in my youth (over 30 years ago), windsurfing (Eastbourne has more wind I started longboard surfing in the late ’90s during a year abroad and then lived in a house full of surfers at Uni, so we were always in the water. I got into SUP while working offshore, as I’d be away for weeks or months at a time sitting at a bank of screens, and my fitness suffered. SUP was a great way to get straight back in the water and build my fitness level up again while still catching waves. When I couldn’t get boards to perform as I wanted, I started designing my own and manufacturing under the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard brand.

Do you still partake in a surf dabble with a paddle? If so, how does this make up (to a greater or lesser extent) your overall paddling?
SUP surfing still makes up the majority of my time on a SUP, especially in winter when the waves are pumping, and there has to be a good reason to put on a wetsuit and venture out in the cold. I’ll still go for a paddle if it’s a particularly glassy flat day, but my preference is for waves. In the summer, I’ll mostly be flatwater paddling and exploring along the cliffs and creeks – trying to escape the crowds.

What’s your overall opinion of SUP surfing in the UK currently? Do you see much new blood at your local, for instance?
I am on the Isle of Wight, and we have the same faces SUP surfing that have been doing it for years and new people getting in on the action every so often. On bigger days (head high plus), it tends to be the experienced few of us, but as the waves get smaller and the weather gets warmer, more SUPers venture into the lineup. Of all the surf riders at any one time, a maximum of 10% of those will be on a SUP.

Why do you think stand up paddle boarding waves never exploded as some predicted?
SUP surfing was never going to take over from prone surfing, but it’s undoubtedly encouraged people into waves that wouldn’t otherwise surf. While it may not have exploded, the number of people doing it has increased. But as SUP itself has exploded, the percentage of SUPers that surf has reduced. I also think the craze of short surf SUPs was a misleading direction for the sport, and one I could never see the point of; they’re no use on flat water, and if you want to surf a shortboard, then surf a regular shortboard. The point of SUP, for me at least, is they’re multifunctional – you can take them out on flat days and ride waves.

As SUP continues to navigate through its new growth spurt, with large volumes of paddlers coming into the fold, do you think we’ll see an influx of SUP surf riders?
I think the number of SUP surfers will increase, but the percentage of SUPers that surf won’t. SUP is a massively accessibly watersport transitioned from a side-gig for experienced surfers/windsurfers to mass market participation. Most newcomers won’t think beyond flatwater paddling, but a few of them will venture into the waves.

Final thoughts on SUP surfing?
SUP surfing is a hugely enjoyable side of the sport, but one that hasn’t kept up with the massive growth of flatwater paddling. Boards will have to be multifunctional, so they can be used on flat water and in waves – although not just bog-standard ‘all-rounders’ with loads of volume and boxy rails. Boards like our Freshwater Bay 9’11 and 10’6 Classics – great on the flat but come to life in the surf. On the shorter surf SUP side, where riders tend to be at the more ‘extreme’ end of the spectrum, they will likely have foil attachments and be multifunctional in that respect.

About thepaddlerezine (456 Articles)
Editor of The Paddler magazine and Publisher of Stand Up Paddle Mag UK and Windsurfing UK magazines

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