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Stick Surfing – Wave Riding for Stand Ups

Inflatable SUP surfing. Photo: Tez Plavenieks

Stand up paddle surfing. You know, that thing people who can’t surf do. Catching waves with a stick in their hand – looks lame …

The amount of times I’ve heard similar comments is more than I’ve woken from a rum induced coma.

Sweeping (as it’s affectionately nicknamed) surf breaks of the world has become increasingly popular during the last few years. I’ll not lie, there’s a reason why.

SUP Surfing
Inflatable SUP surfing. Photo: Tez Plavenieks

Having mastered the basics of stand up paddling – i.e. actually using the paddle for propulsion and not falling as much – surf spots are then fair game. Catching waves is easier, having an ‘engine’ to outrun sections and get onto unbroken faces is easier – what’s not to love? Chances are if you’re a prone surfer who struggled with simply popping up, and then heard SUP’s call, you’ll have a far cheesier stoked paddle surfing grin (and higher success rate) than all those years spent slogging it out in the impact zone.

I jest of course. Stand up paddle surfing is now a bona fide wave sliding discipline in its own right. Don’t believe me? Check out what the kids are doing. Hit up Google and check out footage from this year’s Sunset Pro – held at Oahu’s (Hawaii) infamous break. And if that doesn’t convince then scope the likes of Airton Cozzolino, Kai Bates, Keahi DeAboitiz, Mo Freitas, Kai Lenny, Zane Schweitzer, Caio Vaz (the Sunset Pro 2016 winner) or any other elite riders in the world – they’re all killing it and have helped turned stand up paddle surfing on its head.

Some may still say: “Yeah it’s wave riding with a pole.” But that’s missing the point. The pole, or paddle to give it the proper name, has added an increased level of dynamism.

And yet stand up paddle surfing doesn’t need to be all broisms, fist bumps and hacking/slashing. Gliding along a two-foot buttery wall is often just enough. As much as the high octane stuff of the world tour is aspirational, it’s miles away from the everyman session.

SUP surfing
Wall! Photo: Caz Rigby

Stand up paddle surfing is great for a number of reasons. As already mentioned gripping a paddle shaft is key to maneuvering. Yet the paddle also increases accessibility to certain breaks – think offshore bombie, outer reef or secluded beach break. All these spots are far from the madding crowd and can be ‘swept’. Plus, by being off grid, as it were, there’s no hassle factor – which can be all too common at headline surf spots these days (whatever craft you’re piloting).

And if you have access to a yacht, well by ‘eck you’ve cracked it lad. Saddle up and get hunting.

Sailing vessels can take you anywhere, as you can see from evidence in this very publication and, moored in close proximity to a sweet curling reef pass, it’s over the side and into the blue you go. Don’t like how it’s going? Simply head over to the next pass, or stroke a flatty across the tranquillity of an inside tropical lagoon – such is the versatility of SUP.

SUP surfing
Into the blue. Photo: Tez Plavenieks
SUP surfing
Inflatable backside bump. Photo: Fi Plavenieks

Should you want to get into stand up contortionism and throw down some gravity defying moves then the paddle will help you. Well, wave power, skill and commitment also … My point being: stand up paddle surfing performance is barely scratching the surface right now. There’s still so much more to accomplish.

SUP surfing
Ripple riding. Photo: Caz Rigby

But back to real world SUP wave riding for a second. Even if the above isn’t ever going to be your bag there’s plenty of fun to be had by the whole family with paddle surfing. Waves don’t need to be big – in fact you can be up, riding and wooping/hollering with just ankle slappers to drive you along. Your paddle surfing shizzle need never be anything more than this.

And inflatables? Yep, they’re all good. What was once described as a glorified lilo can cope with a few mellow walls and help develop those all-important paddle surfing fundamentals. So what’s stopping you? Next time you see a bump rolling, go for it. Just be sure you’ve brushed up on surf etiquette first if others are having a sesh!

 

Tez Plavenieks is an experienced freelance writer specializing in action sports and travel. He currently edits, writes and produces content for a variety of different outlets both online and in print.

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