SUP Surfing Tips From FCS Co-Founder Tyler Callaway

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From traditional surfing to SUP surfing, Tyler Callaway has spent a lot of time riding it all. Photo: Blair Austin
By Tyler Callaway

Standup paddling has been very good to me over the years. I enjoy the hell out it, especially when it comes to surfing. It’s been a fantastic journey and it just keeps getting better.

For the majority of my life, surfing has been my life. As a co-founder of one of the first and biggest manufacturers of removable surfboard fins, over the years I’ve had a chance to work with many of the greatest surfboard builders and watermen in the world. People who were literally my heroes.

Over the years these folks taught me a lot about the act of riding waves and the equipment we use to do it. I’ve used that knowledge to start making my own boards so I can get the most out of all kinds of waves. The process has been a blast and I’ve learned a ton along the way. Now I’m sharing some of what I’ve learned in this series in hopes that it will help some of you.

A Surfer’s Perspective

The journey from surfing solely traditional style to surfing a standup paddleboard is all about reinvention. It starts as a means for riding waves differently and still having fun when the surf is really small. But over time it becomes what you love to do, and it changes your perspective on your relationship with the ocean and the land alike. Suddenly even ripples and river waves look fun and you’re not as afraid to leave the coast anymore. No, this isn’t going to be one of those pieces about getting in touch with your inner child or chi or whatever. This is more about the technical act, the equipment, the culture and the effect that it has on you as you embrace life as a standup guy or gal.

The benefits are obvious…maybe. Better fitness, more time and fun in the ocean, better use of your time in the ocean when conditions are marginal. What means the most, however, is mastering a new discipline and a new vehicle to ride waves, one that complements what you already do with a surfboard to expand your horizons beyond that.

Callaway practicing what he preaches at Blacks Beach on his self-shaped All-Water SUP. Photo: Blair Austin

The Lay of the Line-up

The days of fear and loathing in the lineup are fading. More and more surfers are realizing that a standup board is just an extension of their quiver that allows them fun and fitness when conditions are less than optimal. A new way to get away from crowds and maximize your water time. Drive less, surf more, smile wider…it’s science.

Today surfers are generally more accepting of SUPs in the lineup as well. Especially if you are cool about it and practice a “sharing is caring” philosophy.

One great benefit of paddle surfing is that a standup board can be used on waves that don’t attract the traditional surfing crowds. It’s not hard find stoke-worthy SUP waves without another surfer out. Generally, those are the best spots to aim for with your sessions.

If you find yourself sharing a lineup with regular surfers, give them space and give away waves, use the advantage of your elevated vantage to call out incoming sets that the sitting guys can’t see, maybe sit down and have a chat during the lull. Friendliness works wonders!

Remember, your larger board and paddle power are tools to escape, not to dominate. Most importantly: don’t endanger anybody with a board you can’t control. Give ‘em extra space!

If you’re still getting your bearings with SUP surfing in crowds, just remember to have fun, be courteous keep your distance and take it easy. Get out there and cruise, share set waves, ride ripples, laugh with your buddies as you learn the nuances of maximizing trim and using the paddle to help power turns. Tune into the details while practicing awareness and respect for those around you. Before long the stigmas will disappear and you’ll find yourself simply surfing and enjoying even the smallest waves. Believe me, it is addicting!!

More perspective: 

Explore Tyler’s custom-designed SUPs at

Letter from the Editor – Believe in Evolution


The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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