Why Every Surfer Needs a Standup Paddleboard in Their Quiver

SUP surfing is a perfect way to escape the crowds.
Courtesy of Aaron Black-Schmidt

Surfers are a unique breed. We’ll travel the world, spend thousands of dollars and dedicate countless hours – and even risk our lives – for the sacred act of riding waves.

Yet for all the sacrifices made in the pursuit of our beloved pastime, there’s one idea that’s taboo in many circles of the surf community: adding a standup paddleboard to the quiver.

Any day on the water is a good day.
Courtesy of Samuel Zeller

Reasonable or not, many surfers possess a natural aversion to standup paddling. Whether it was a bad encounter in the water, @kook_of_the_day Instagram clips featuring paddling at its worst, or simple stubbornness to embrace change, many still hold the belief that adding a paddle only bastardizes traditional surfing and therefore, is never to be attempted.

Though it begs the question: Is this stonewalling of SUP really necessary or even beneficial to achieving maximum enjoyment of the ocean? As the soft-top and alt-board revolution gains steam and the surfing’s decades-long thruster craze begins to wane, it may finally be time to bury the hatchet and embrace the opportunities SUP provides.

Here are a few reasons why even the most hardcore surfer should consider adding a SUP to their quiver.

Spend More Days Surfing

Face it, riding the same board every time you paddle out gets boring. Different waves require different boards and as legendary surfer Skip Frye so eloquently put it, “Surfing to me is like playing music. You play different melodies with different boards.”

While a performance shortboard is great in pumping surf, it’s a recipe for frustration when there’s nothing but ankle slappers on the horizon. It’s during those dry spells that having a big, bad SUP in your arsenal can transform a piddly day at the beach into a memorable session.

A SUP is a perfect way to make the most of small waves.
Courtesy of Chase Fleming

While most surfers detest standup paddlers for their ability to catch waves earlier, the advantage is magnified on those smaller days. Catching a little wave while it’s still forming allows paddlers to set their line and shoot across the face of the wave, something that’s much harder to do on a traditional surfboard.

So complain if you want, but some waves are best ridden on a SUP.

Unleash the Power of the Paddle

The main complaint against SUP surfing seems to come down to the paddle. For the minimalistic surfer, it’s a foreign and obtrusive object that either constitutes cheating, kookiness, or both. But this argument fails to acknowledge just how much power and leverage using a paddle unleashes.

SUP surfing provides a good new challenge.
Courtesy of Nicolas Cool

Beyond the obvious benefit of being able to get into waves easier, this added power also allows paddlers to maintain speed through slower parts of the wave and reach those fun inside sections. Not to mention, digging the blade into the face of the wave gives you extra leverage to crank a powerful top turn.

Be Courteous

Basic surfing etiquette is fairly universal–don’t cut people off or hog all the waves–and it’s expected that surfers adhere to these simple rules when they paddle out. Unfortunately, many early paddleboarders seemed to miss this memo and rubbed surfers the wrong way.

“That’s where we got that whole SUP kook thing,” said Dave Boehne, owner of Infinity SUP. “It’s all from people who didn’t surf before.”

While the kooky SUP stereotype probably isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s still possible to practice good etiquette while SUP surfing. First off, you’ll find that you can catch more waves and avoid ruffling feathers if you simply paddle down the beach and find a peak all to yourself. Not only do other surfers appreciate this, but discovering secret surf breaks is easily one of SUP’s greatest perks. It’s a win-win.

If you do SUP surf at an established break, make sure the lineup is SUP-friendly and be extra courteous. This means sharing waves, not catching the biggest wave of every set and not shoulder-hopping. Last but not least, kill ’em with kindness by smiling and saying hello to the other surfers.

You never know, they may just come to realize standup paddlers aren’t such monsters after all.

What’s Cooking: How 'Ultimate Waterman' Zane Schweitzer Stays Fueled

Read article

Guide to Two California Coastal SUP Hotspots: Pismo Beach and Mission Bay

Read article

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!