The Top 5 Myths, Mistakes, and Misconceptions
by Dave Parmenter of C4
seems the new hybrid sport of stand-up paddling and surfing is getting
more popular everyday. That?s great, but things are moving so fast that
it is getting hard to keep up with all the advances. It seems like each
day another SUP-oriented business sprouts up, and each seems to have
its own ideas about equipment and techniques. Frankly, this infant
sport is in an awkward phase its explosive growth has outpaced the
formation of a core elite. Simply put, at present there are very few
seasoned authorities on SUP surfing out there, yet an increasing number
of insta-experts are inflicting all sorts of baloney on the gullible
With that in mind, we thought we ought to tackle a handful of the most common SUP errors we encounter in our travels?.
#1. Stand-up surfboards are just oversized long boards.
Don?t listen when you hear a little voice telling you this - that?s
just all the misfit SUBs in the used board rack whispering in your ear.
ample flotation and girth, just about any sort of watercraft will let
you get out there and start stand-up padding. But for the
discriminating surfer and paddler, there?s a lot more to progressive
SUB design than merely widening a tanker.
When blown up to
jumbo proportions, the drawbacks inherent in typical longboard designs
- rolled bottoms, soft & round rails, old-fashioned rockers -
-become magnified. Drag is increased, response grows more sluggish, and
once the board gets on a sizzling wave face the surfer finds he must
wrestle an unwieldy sloth that has all the handling characteristics of
a Greyhound bus with the power steering out.
designed SUBs are not oversize long boards, nor are they blown-up short
boards. They are stand-up surfboards - a wholly new, rapidly-evolving
class of surf craft, one that borrows design components from all the
existing types of surfriding craft and combines them in a finely-tuned
matrix that allows the progressive SUP surfer to lean on the paddle and
push the board into places and angles no big board has ever been.
#2. A Stand-up Paddle Surfboard Must Be Wide To Be Stable.
is one of stand-up paddle surfing?s biggest and most widespread
misconceptions. Simply put, excessive width is the poor man?s solution
There are other ways to grant considerable
stability to an SUB. When the outline, rail volume, bottom contour,
rocker, and rail shape are put together in the proper configuration, an
SUB can be amazingly stable even at 27? or 28? wide. And get this: All
those boards you see in the racks with overly soft, round rails? Well,
they can subtract 1 or 2 inches from a board?s stability quotient - one
more reason why SUB widths are relative.
A narrower plan
shape with a perfectly balanced set of design components will paddle
straighter and easier and, of course, perform much more like a
conventional high-performance surfboard.
Much like an
airplane in flight, a stand-up surfboard is stable (or unstable) on
three axes: Pitch, Yaw, and Roll. Roll instability (side-to-side) is
usually the first thing the novice notices, but as SUBs become shorter
or curvier you must also contend with pitch instability (the angle the
nose dips up or down) and yaw (the tendency of the nose to swing
side-to-side with each stroke).
Additionally, when a
stand-up board is over-wide the paddler is forced to extend his paddle
slant-wise off the rail, thus losing the optimum mechanical angle of
the paddle stroke. The more vertical the paddle shaft as it is pulled
along the rail, the more power you get with each stroke. It?s also a
matter of ergonomics: The slant-wise stroke forced upon you by a
too-wide board can create needless torque on your arms and shoulders,
and saps your paddle power like a engine sputtering on three cylinders.
Furthermore, the wider the board, the more likely the nose and tail
will be drawn in sharply to conform to aesthetic and control elements.
Excessive outline curve, especially from the center-point to the nose,
brings a considerable problem with yaw. It?s no fun to struggle with
a nose that whips from side to side as you are perched on the ledge
cranking to make a late drop?
#3. The Best SUB On Which To Learn Is A Long Single-fin.
?...or a wide quad-fin or a short tri-fin, etc?
No, the best board on which to learn is a borrowed board. By all means,
learn on the biggest board you can find, but before committing to a
purchase go out and demo everything you can get your hands on.
If you can master the basics before you buy your own board, you will be
more likely to end up with an SUB size and shape that won?t hold you
back when you begin to progress.
Purchase an SUB with an eye
on where your skill level will be two or three months from now - not
for the first few days when you are wobbling over the waters of your
local inlet or lake.
After all, there?s nothing worse than
finally learning to crank a snapback while leaning on your blade, only
to realize to do so on your 12?-plus leviathan will require a truss and
#4. The Towering Infernal: The Too-Tall Paddle
we go in the world, the most common sight we see is people using
paddles that are way too tall for them. From San-O to Sydney, all too
many SUB paddlers are reaching over their heads like children straining
to reach the cookie jar atop the ?fridge.
squandering the mechanical advantage of the proper and efficient paddle
stroke, using too tall a paddle sets you up for some sort of repetitive
stress harm to your shoulders.
While a general guideline
states that the paddle should extend 5 or 6 inches over your head, some
variability exists due to the thickness of your board, slight
differences in paddling styles, and even the shape and angle of the
Try standing on a bench with your paddle and
take a few pantomime strokes; this way you can simulate the blade depth
of your stroke and lets you see how high the top of the paddle goes
overhead. Your top hand should be at the height of your forehead and
nose when you push into your stroke. Any higher or lower and you will
be suffering a power loss.
Additionally, adjustable paddles,
on which you can readily change the length of the paddle shaft, are
great tools you can employ to zero in on the optimum paddle size for
your board and style.
#5. Light Out For the Territories
It?s no secret that planet?s surf breaks are over-crowded and teeming
with short boarders, long boarders, body boarders, tow-surfers,
kayakers, and bodysurfing marine mammals. Why add an enormous surfboard
and a six-foot paddle to the biomass?
Unless your name is Laird or
Keaulana, there is no good reason why you should paddle out on your
stand-up surfboard at a crowded name break - or any spot, for that
matter, which is an established conventional surfing break.
Along every coastline in the world, no matter how jam-packed, there are
countless overlooked breaks where there is little or no history of use
as a traditional surf break.
The whole point of SUP surfing is to
get away from overcrowded breaks and head off into fresh pastures. The
fattest offshore reef, the tiniest beach break, the mushiest point -
each becomes a J-Bay or Sunset or Superbank on a properly designed SUB.
So find a wave that no one else wants and paddle out with a few
friends, and not only will you rediscover the original stoke of
surfing, but you?ll be doing your part to ensure that stand-up paddle
surfers and conventional board surfers enjoy a peaceful coexistence.
Don't wreak havoc in the lineup with your SUP!