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Stand Up Paddle Surf.  

Concept: Basic enough – Stand up & paddle to surf a wave.

Execution: eeeeh, not so fast.

So, what really is SUP (i.e. Stand Up Paddle Surf), and where did it come from?! SUP originated when surfers began stand-up paddling at surf spots all over the globe – Malibu to Oahu — and here’s why: Standing up drastically enhances your ability  to spot distant sets of waves, and the broad paddles used aid in catching long rollers.  That aside, the physical workout and toning benefits are enough to convince many enthusiasts – and that enthusiasm has caused SUP to spread like crazy.  The sport is now featured in all kinds of waters – lakes, harbors, rivers – so if there’s no beach in your backyard, worry not.  If you’re itching to see what SUP for yourself, paddle board lessons/instructors are plenty, and the benefits are endless.

If you’re a brave soul riding solo (sans instructor), read the basics below to help you get up and going like you know what you’re doing: 

STEP 1: FIND WATER (the calmer the better…this is a vital ingredient for success in the sport).  Go ahead and play in the water with your new toys (board and paddle), get familiar with the weight of the tools and the ways you can leverage them to further yourself in the water.  The paddle itself can seem like a foreign object, and the act of stand-up paddling can feel unnatural at first, so try to use the paddle as an extension of your body, much like you’d swing a tennis racquet or lacrosse stick. When you’re comfortable wielding the paddle, attach your leash for security, then stand in the middle of your board.  Your stance: facing forward, with feet about shoulder-width apart.  Now you’re ready to try padding on both sides.  Got that?  Try walking the board (hey, you can always pretend it’s a plank!) and making quick turns by digging the paddle in behind you. 

Your first attempts to paddle through actual waves should be in an open space, without crowds, with small, easy rollers (not breaking).  Paddle directly into oncoming waves (not as intimidating as it sounds), then slide one of your feet about 12 inches back to lift the board’s nose up a bit, shifting your weight forward as you rise over the wave. If this is too big of a jump for you to make at first, try paddling on your knees for the first couple of waves you met.  Similar to jumping a hurdle, the nose of the board should kick up and over the roller, as you dig your paddle into the water and pull yourself over the “hurdle.”

Pay attention to the feel of the waves, feel for the wave breaks and for how the board behaves when the swells roll under you from side to side — this can be a more difficult balancing act than nosing right into them. Because you’re faster with a paddle than with just your arms, you can sit farther out and pick your swell. When you see a promising set, pull a quick 180 with a pivot turn, so the wave is behind you. Make sure no one else is paddling for it (you’re a rookie, so allow three board lengths so you don’t hit anyone else, and defer to the most experienced surfers if you want to keep your pretty new board intact), then start paddling 20 to 30 yards before its arrival. A cinch, right?!

If a wave is breaking to your right, paddle hard on your right side first to gain momentum (making sure you’re still pointed toward shore), thenjust before the wave reaches you, switch the paddle to your left side to angle your board into the wave. Quickly change your stance from side-to-side to front-to-back so you can shift your weight to your back foot once the wave starts carrying you. Note: If you’re standing with feet parallel when you drop in, you’ll be knocked backward or face-plant. Read note again.

Once your board is moving with the waves, you’ll begin to accelerate (this is where the adrenaline kicks in). Drag your paddle in the water to act as a rudder and help you steer, navigate sharp turns with ease.  If you feel the need for speed even more, go ahead and dig in to paddle more and build more momentum.  After a few rides, try  crouching and planting the paddle behind you, putting varying amounts of weight on it. Reaching back will cause you to drag yourself high and tight to the face of the wave — or into the barrel.

Hurrah.  Let me know if you can find a more thrilling workout that leaves you with a more toned middle and a better sense of achievement.

Riding the waves just (somehow) got even better, 


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