How to Surf Your SUP

We know Stand Up Paddle Boarding on a lake is a great way to get some leisure exercise and an enjoyable view, but once you get bored and want to give SUP Surfing a go we're here to support that dream! 

Here are the basics to get you started.

So, you’ve mastered your stand up paddle board on flat water and now you are heading on a family vacation to the beach and want to try your hand at surfing some waves. What do you need to know?

SUP Surfing


Proper Gear

Since surf breaks close to the shore if you are just catching waves the Coast Guard does not require you to wear or carry a personal flotation device.

You will want a leash though. The leash should be a straight leash as opposed to a curly one, so the board does not snap back at you too quickly once the wave has passed.

Depending on the water temperature, you may want to wear a wetsuit. Although, keep in mind that you will be standing as you are waiting for wave sets rather than being prone on a small surfboard with half your body in the water while you wait.



Pick a day where the swells are in the 2–3 foot range to start out. Smaller waves like this are difficult to catch on a surf board but a piece of cake with a SUP due to the buoyancy of the board and the fact that you are already in the standing position.

It is also recommended that you don’t go out on a windy day since your body will end up acting as a sail and fighting the wind is just no fun. The chop that wind creates also adds to the challenge.

You also will want to pick a spot where you have some room to yourself so that you don’t have to worry about running fellow beach goers over.


How to stand up paddle board surf


Getting Out

This can be the more challenging part for most first time SUP surfers. Because of the size and buoyancy of SUPs, it’s very difficult to “duck dive” under a wave with your board like you will see most surfers doing.

You will want to carry your sup in one hand and your paddle in the other as you work your way past the wave breaks.

Once the water gets too deep to continue walking, you will want to lie prone on your board with the paddle blade flat against the board under your chest and the paddle handle about a foot over the nose of the board. Using your handles paddle straight into the oncoming waves.

If you don’t think that you are going to be able to make it over the wave before it breaks, grab your paddle, roll off the board and dive under the wave and let the leash keep your board from taking a ride to shore.

Once you have perfected prone paddling, try paddling on your knees while you choke up on your paddle. Once you have mastered getting out on your knees, you will be ready to try paddling out while standing.

It’s a challenge for your balance for sure!


Waiting for a Set

The best positioning of your board is either parallel to the wave or with your board at about a 110-degree angle away from the shore.

The idea here is that you need to be able to watch the oncoming waves but to not have to turn your board 180 degrees back to shore as you will lose valuable time paddling if you are spending that time turning.

Make sure that you are not too far out whereby you aren’t able to catch a wave or too close to shore where the wave ends up crashing on top of you.


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Catching a Wave

Assuming that you’ve positioned yourself to catch the “pocket” of the wave. You will want to take several strong hard strokes to make sure that it doesn’t pass over you. Keep the strokes on one side of the boards so that you don’t have to switch paddle sides mid-wave.

Your feet will be in your standard SUP position as you start down the wave but one you feel confident that you have caught the wave you will want to shift them into a typical skate or snow board position.

The easiest way to do this is to jump/shift in one quick motion.


SUP Surfing for dummies


Riding the Wave

You will want to put more of your weight on your back foot to keep the nose from diving into the wave. This also helps you steer the board. Rather than pointing the nose straight down the wave angle it towards the green part of the wave – i.e. the part that whitewater hasn’t formed on yet to lengthen your ride.

If you find that you are slowing down and that the wave is going to pass you by, put more weight on your front foot and take a paddle stroke or two. If you shoot too far ahead of the wave, you can use your paddle as a brake.

Just dig your paddle in behind your back foot until the wave catches up to you and carry on.


Sup Surfing 101


Bailing Out

Once the wave starts to peter out, the easiest way to end your ride is to put most of your weight on the tail of the board and try and kick the nose of the board back out towards the incoming waves.

If you find someone in your path, it’s usually quicker to dive off the board and pull the board back to you with the leash.


Once you get the hang of SUP surfing, you are sure to become addicted. If you live inland, do not fret, as you can adapt your newly acquired SUP surf skills to river waves or boat wakes for perpetual surfing fun.


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