Originally Published in the August 2009 Issue of The Kiteboarder Magazine
Since this is a magazine about kiteboarding, you may be asking yourself, “WHAT IS A STAND UP PADLEBOARDING INSTRUCTIONAL GUIDE DOING HERE?”
Ask a few of your kiteboarding friends if they have tried stand up paddleboarding and you will have your answer as to why we chose to do this. Over the past year, it has become very obvious to us that a great majority of our readers either already have their own stand up paddling equipment, have given it a try, or are interested in getting into this rapidly growing sport.
The sad truth about kiteboarding is that our sport is condition dependant, meaning that we need a certain set of weather conditions in order to get out on the water. When conditions are to our liking, we are in heaven, but when the wind doesn’t show up for long periods of time, kiteboarders are known to become grumpy, irritable, and just downright mean.
Stand up paddleboarding offers a cure to the no-wind blues, as it offers an alternative for kiteboarders to still get on the water when we would otherwise be at home checking and rechecking wind sensors and forecasts to see if there is any hope of the wind blowing, even when we know deep down that there is absolutely no chance of it happening.
Stand up paddlleboarding (SUP) gives us the chance to get our water fix and some exercise instead of pouting on the beach because of the lack of wind. We are not at all suggesting that SUP is a replacement for kiteboarding or that we should all sell our kites and buy stand up boards. We see SUP as a great compliment sport to kiteboarding, as when conditions are not to a kiteboarder’s liking, they are typically perfect for SUP.
Conversely, when the wind comes up and conditions are no fun for SUP, it’s time to put up the kites and do what we do best. If you go to the beach with kite and SUP gear, you are guaranteed to not get skunked. Since we know many of you have either started standup paddling or want to start soon, we decided to bring a little standup into this issue and consulted with the top SUP companies to help you choose your first setup or improve your skills. We hope you enjoy, and, as always, let us know what you think.
HOW TO CHOOSE A BOARD
- Jim Brewer, Paddle Surf Hawaii (US Distributor)
The three most important things to consider when purchasing your first SUP board are main usage (more for flat water or waves), your weight, and, if you are planning on using the board in the surf, your level of surf experience. Bigger, longer boards have better glide and the wider your board, the more stable it will be. For surf, smaller/narrower boards work great for maneuvers, but trade off on stability.
- Blane Chambers, Paddle Surf Hawaii
Just like surfing, it is easier to learn on a bigger board than a short one. As a general rule, your first priority is choosing a board with stability which means for most, a board with at least a 30” width. Chances are you will grow out of it within a few months, or it may become your flat water cruising board or spare for family and friends. The best advice I can give to anybody wanting to get into SUP is to demo as many boards as you can, do your research on the internet and develop a relationship with a retailer who takes the time to ask you tons of questions to get you your first setup. www.standupzone.com is a great online resource for info.
- Ken Russell, Jimmy Lewis (US distributor)
Choosing a standup paddleboard is like finding the perfect girlfriend: We all think we want the centerfold pinup that we saw in the magazine, but the reality is that we’d probably be happier with something a little friendlier and easier to manage. Fortunately, there are plenty of shapes and sizes to choose from, and you should definitely do some sampling before you make the big commitment. If you don’t have the time or ability to get out there and ride a bunch of demos (we’re talking about boards now), then use this simple guide to help you make your decision:
There are three basic types of boards: Wave Specific SUP, Flat Water Glide SUP, and a hybrid of the two. The first two are catering to a specific niche of paddlers who are dedicated to their corners of the sport. These boards are very good at what they do, but do not cross over well to other aspects of the sport. The wave specific boards have more rocker and a pulled-in nose and tail. They are meant to maximize performance on the wave, which sacrifices a little bit of the flat water stability and glide.
The flat-water distance and race boards are meant for those looking to win races and exercise with the greatest efficiency and speed. These are hydrodynamic missiles with little ability to carve. If you are a surf junkie or a marathon paddler, then you already know your answer. For the other 80% of the paddling population, the all-around hybrid design is the way to go. These boards come in several flavors that either lean more towards flat water or waves, but are usually pretty good at both. The best way to find the right board is to get out there and do some paddling. You’ll find the right one soon enough.
HOW TO PICK A PADDLE
- Todd Bradley, C4
The paddle is sometimes overlooked, but is just as important of a tool as the board. Also important is the length of your paddle, not only to your technique, but also for your body’s wellness. Too long a paddle will place more pressure on your shoulder and arm joints as well as limit your power. Too short and you risk lower back issues with bad posture and again not having efficient power. However, the twist on this is once you find the correct paddle height for your size, the type of board and style of paddling you do can play a roll in your paddle height.
For surfing, you are usually on a thinner board and you are in a more crouched position, therefore a shorter length is better. I recommend 3-6” longer than your height. For touring and racing style paddling, the boards are traditionally thicker. I recommend a paddle length of 8-10” longer than your height.
The quick rule for all uses that you can’t go wrong with is one “Shaka” over your height. Paddles are a personal preference and it is recommended you try more than one brand, as many have different shafts and blade configurations, flex, and blade design. Remember, a SUP board is a planning hull and is not the same as canoeing which is a displacement hull. Choosing the correct tool will help increase your learning curve as well as your fitness.
- Ken Russell, JL
The paddle you choose is just as important as your board. The factors involved with your decision are efficiency, comfort, power, and price. The least expensive paddles are plastic or wood. Wood has a nice aesthetic and feel while more tech-conscious paddlers swear by carbon fiber. This strong, light material is incredibly stiff and gives you a direct-drive feeling, but it’s also the most expensive. Fiberglass paddles (my personal preference) are a little less expensive, and offer a flexibility that is easy on the joints and gives a spring-like propulsion on the release from the water.
For the paddler who has to share his paddle with others, adjustable paddles allow you to change the length of the shaft.
- Jim Brewer, Paddle Surf Hawaii
For flat water, go with 9” overhead and a 9” blade. For surf, you want a smaller blade (under 7.5”) and a length of about 6” overhead. Don’t skimp on your paddle — you get what you pay for! Poor paddles don’t track right and tweak your back and neck.
- Blane Chambers, Paddlesurf Hawaii
Paddles are a personal preference thing. The typical paddle length most people are using is within 6 to 10” above your height. Smaller blade paddles under 8-1/4” provide an easier pull and are becoming the choice for many entry level paddlers. Paddles with larger blades pull more water. This means an entry level paddler still trying to get their balance may have a harder time.
HOW TO STAND UP
- Anne-Marie Reichman, Starboard
The easiest way to stand up is to first practice on the beach by kneeling on your board. Since the beach is not moving underneath you, you can practice putting your paddle in front of you and standing up while taking your paddle with you. Once on the ocean, you do the same. After making a little speed by paddling on your knees (speed creates stability), you can put the paddle in front and stand up. Place your feet next to each other and focus on your breathing, as you would with yoga. Keep your knees bent and focus on your core stability.
- Todd Bradley, C4
I like to say SUP’ing is like spinning a ball on your finger. Once it is spinning, you just need to keep the body still and use the paddle in short quick strokes to keep it up. Technique is also important for your body’s wellness and maximizing the overall benefits of SUP. Stand with your feet parallel and body positioned at the center balance point of board in the water. Keep your knees slightly bent, back straight, and chin up while looking ahead.
Your bottom hand is always on the same side of the board as your blade. Your abs will be supporting your posture and this is the key to building the best exercise and core fitness. The stroke should be done with the least amount of body bending and more upper torso twisting. The stroke begins near the chin and is a drive and extension of the top arm like a punch utilizing the bottom hand as a fulcrum point. The stroke should be short and crisp with the catch of the stroke being the key to the power application. After the top arm is fully extended, the twisted shoulder pulls the blade until the release out to the side near the feet. The bottom arm continues to be the fulcrum point and stays fairly straight.
If you are pulling with the arms too much you are transferring the stroke power to arm paddling and away from the large muscles of the core. Remember not to bend at the waist.
- Ken Russell, JL
If it’s your first time, get ready to look like a baby deer on the ice. It’s easy to fall and hit your head, so start on your knees in the center of the board. Paddle around a little and feel the limits as you lean from one side to another. Set your paddle down, either across the pad in front of you or lengthwise between your legs or along your side. Place your hands on the board in front of you and come up to all fours. Keeping your knees bent and your torso straight grab your paddle and come up to your feet like a weight lifter.
You will learn very quickly that your movement is limited like a tight-rope walker. As long as your balance is centered, you can move around quite freely. While in flat water paddling mode, you will always be standing 50/50 with your shoulders and hips squared forward. Much like in a canoe, you will be taking a few strokes on either side before switching hands and paddling on the opposite side.
If you want to increase your endurance and glide, work on very efficient strokes that propel you forward. With each stroke, your top hand should come across your body so that both hands are pulling along one side of the board. Don’t rely on your arms alone. This is a full core exercise, so make sure you are keeping your abs and lats active throughout the stroke. If you end your session with Popeye arms but no burn anywhere else, then you’re not using all the muscles you should.
Tips on Stability
Chuck Badar, Solo Paddlesurf
- Keep looking at the horizon, not at your feet. This makes balancing on the board much easier.
- When you encounter balance issues always remember to keep your knees bent, especially when there is wind chop or a passing wake. A lower center of gravity equals better balance. Standing upright will come naturally as you spend more time on the board.
Tips on How to Fall Off Your Board
Peter Trow, Paddlesurf HI
When falling, you may have the tendency to want to grab your board on your way down in a last effort to save yourself. This is incorrect and is an easy way to get injured. When you begin to lose your balance and fall, never try to stay on or near the board. Always fall off to the side of the board while pushing the board away from you. Hold your paddle up over your head or off to your side so you don’t fall on it.
This will help avoid any injuries and get you back on your board in one piece. As more SUP’ers are taking to the surf, paddle and fin injuries are becoming more common. I recommend that you wrap the edge of your paddle with two applications of electrical tape to help protect your board and body.
Tips on Feet Position and Stroke Angle
Michi Schweiger, Naish
Feet too close: If your feet are positioned close together you’ll have less stability than if they’re spread wide apart. I tend to like my feet shoulder-width apart and I’ll point my toes outward slightly. Doing this gives me an even wider footprint that offers enhanced stability.
Backward Paddle Position: A paddle’s optimum position for creating forward movement is when it’s 90° to the water. When the paddle is positioned backwards, the stroke is effective until the paddle reaches your toes. From there, the paddle’s angle is pushing water upward, which doesn’t propel you forward. When a paddle is positioned correctly, the paddle is effectively propelling you forward until the stroke reaches your hip. That difference,
between the toes and the hip, is about 20% of your paddle stroke. Take a close look at your paddle blade, and the angle it’s been set to. The Polynesians put that angle into the paddle to maximize its efficiency.
HOW TO TURN:
- Anne-Marie Reichman, Starboard
I like to let people feel the turning motion by paddling on their knees first. This way, you can discover the effects when paddling forward and backwards. Then you can copy those motions very easily when standing up.
- Blane Chambers, Paddlesurf HI
To make a turn, dig your paddle into the water in the direction you wish to turn. Once you start your turn, paddle on the opposite side until your turn is completed. Once you get the hang of it, you can move one foot back which weights the tail. Paddle on the opposite side till the turn is completed and continue on. This is a more advanced, but much quicker turn.
- Peter Trow, Paddlesurf HI
To make a quicker turn, take a stroke further off the rail of the board; this will push you around in a tighter radius. For a very tight radius turn try back paddling. Take a stroke from the tail of your board towards the nose. If you back paddle on the left side of the board you will quickly turn to the left; back paddle on the right and you will turn to the right.
- Michi Shweiger: Naish:
The 180° Turn is an advanced turn I use get the board around in as little space as possible and is the turn used most often to catch waves.
1. Assume a surfing stance, and put weight over your back foot back to bring the nose of the board up.
2. As your bodyweight is lifting the nose of the board, stroke sideways to initiate the turn.
3. The power of the stroke combined with your weight-back body position makes the board turn quickly.
4. Focus your eyes on where you want to turn to and continue to stroke wide to keep the board turning.
5. Start to bring your weight forward as the board nears the three-quarter point of the turn.
6. Continue shifting weight to front foot as you prepare to make another stroke.
7. When you’re almost all the way around, continue to stroke and looking in the direction you want turn.
8. Your weight will naturally shift on both feet as you’re finishing the board’s turn with a final stroke to the side.
9. Go back to a parallel stance to paddle in a new direction.
HOW TO SURF YOUR SUP:
- Anne-Marie Reichman, Starboard
When you enter the ocean for the first time, ask for some advice from a local. What is the tide doing, how is the current, where can you be surprised by reef/rocks? Is the swell picking up, or is it dying down? These are all important elements to know while you are out there. Also, check where the surfers are and never sit/stand in the middle of a pack of surfers. Use your advantage since you are standing on your board. You can also see the swell lines and that way you can choose which wave you want to take. Try to take the last few waves of a set, so it is easier to paddle back out again.
- Ken Russell, JL
How to Handle Surf
The two big challenges are getting beyond the break and, of course, catching the wave. Without the ability to duck-dive these big boards, you need to pick your path and timing wisely. With as much speed and mobility as you have, you should go around the break if you can. If not, then tackle the waves head-on for best balance. Power through the wave with an aggressive stroke while leaning forward. If you see the wave starting to break before reaches you, you may consider jumping off the board and diving into the wave. Do not get caught between your board and the shore as the wave can bring it right on top of you. Once you’ve pulled through the wave, grab your leash and get back to the board.
If you’re not wearing your leash, get ready for the long swim to shore and the explanations to all the parents of children who were decapitated by your runaway board. OK, now you’re out past the break, and spotting your wave. Line yourself up and paddle up to speed. Use short fast strokes between the nose of the board and the front of your feet. Long full strokes are not as good for quick acceleration. As soon as you are on the wave, step back so that you don’t sink the nose and to create your first gentle turn.
Assume the surfing stance, but don’t be afraid to move around to get the board to react. Use your paddle for balance, acceleration, and as a rudder. Do not ride the shore break into the beach. It’s a good way to break your board and yourself. Now go back out and get your freak on again. You’ll be amazed at how small a wave you can catch, and how big a wave you can handle.
- Michi Schweiger, Naish
Getting over the white water
There are two basic ways to make your way out over the white water into the lineup. Generally it is best to choose a spot that has a channel so that you can paddle around the main break, but off course not every place offers this luxury, which makes it necessary to know how to get over waves and whitewater.
1. Using a Parallel Stance: The parallel stance is the most stable position for paddling in a straight line. Create speed and keep your knees bent while approaching the whitewater. Upon impact, stop paddling and use your
knees as a shock absorber. The wave will pass under your feet and you need to start adjusting with your knees once the whitewater passes. Due to the turbulence it is hard to keep your balance, but you will find that using
the paddle as a stabilizer gives you additional support.
2. Surfing Stance (one foot forward): You can also cross the wave in surfing stance which requires a bit more balance but lets you get over bigger waves or white water as you can spread your weight more efficiently. Again, make sure you create enough speed before you hit the wave. When the whitewater approaches your front foot, move your weight towards your back foot with your knees bent. When the water lifts the nose of the board and passes under your center point, move your weight forward and you will basically pop over the obstacle. Again, the turbulence will try to throw you off balance. Use your paddle to stabilize.
Choosing waves is the most critical part of the surfing experience. You need to give yourself time to turn around (which will take you a bit longer in the beginning). It is important to not get hectic and to not waste all your energy for that process. Make sure you are far enough out so that you don’t pick the waves in an area where they are already too steep. The leverage you get with the paddle lets you catch the waves very early. It will take some practice to get a feeling for that.
1. In Parallel Stance: You can again use the stable parallel stance to turn around and start paddling for your selected wave. Keep your knees bent which will make it easier to keep balance and to adjust to bumps. Turn your board to get ready for the take off by paddling a bit sideways on one side. When you are pointing towards land, make sure you take off 90° to the wave. Use short and fast strokes which will get you going and will give the wave the chance to pick you up. Keep your knees bent and when you are certain that your board is gliding and on the wave switch to surfing stance (regular or goofy depending on your preference).
2. In Surfing Stance: Again this requires a bit more balance and practice, but is ultimately the fastest and most effective way as you do not have to change your stance when on the wave. You also have a better option to move your weight back and forth in order to stall or accelerate right away as well as to adjust to the steepness of the take off. When putting weight on your back foot and paddling on one side, you can turn the board pretty much on a dime and react to wave selection very quickly. You can also position yourself better and adjust your takeoff angle. Again use a fast short stroke which will give you the best acceleration. Don’t stop paddling until you are certain that the board starts gliding and is fully carried by the wave.
Surfing your Stand Up Board
Surfing your stand up board is very much like longboarding, except that you are already standing up when catching the wave. The main thing is positioning. You want to be close to the breaking part of the wave where most of the energy is and use that to create speed down the line. Turning the stand up board requires a certain technique that is based on longboarding. As the boards are bigger it is important to start the weight distribution to the rail in your ankles and knees.
Initiate the turn from there – only when you feel the board turning you can apply additional pressure by leaning into the turn. Remember that riding high on the wave gives you a better chance to create speed and position yourself on the wave. In no time you will have the hang of it – fun from the beginning is guaranteed.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
MICHI SCHWEIGER: NAISH SUP PRODUCT MANAGER
Originally from Austria, Michi Schweiger runs Naish’s SUP division. His job includes everything from coming up with the product line to testing and bringing the product into commercial production. Naish has been developing stand up boards for the past 5 years. Michi said that when the sport first started to appear through Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama, Naish developed their own boards with their shaper Harold Iggy, mainly for personal use. This gave them the advantage of actually having a lot of prototyping done and being right on target when they decided to launch SUP boards commercially.
CHUCK BADAR , SOLO PADLESURF
Born and raised in the Philippines, Chuck first started windsurfing in Maui on a summer trip to Hawaii. Soon after, he became a full-fledged boardhead for the next 19 years including training and competing with the Philippine National Windsurfing team for 6 years. Chuck permanently moved to California in 1997 and discovered kiteboarding in ‘99. He started paddlesurfing in early 2007 and has been doing SUP 4 to 5 days a week since. He is a co-founder of Solo Paddlesurf which launched in 2008.
JIM BREWER , ONBOARD WATERS PORTS (US DISTRIBUTOR Paddle Surf Hawaii)
A third generation surfer, Jim started doing standup paddlesurfing 5 years ago in Santa Barbara. He first got hooked up with Ron House out of San Clemente, one of the very first shapers to start doing custom SUP boards. As time passed, he became a sales rep for Ron House, Gerry Lopez SUP boards and Quick Blade paddles. Jim is currently owner of BlueLine Standup Paddlesurf Santa Barbara, one of the largest SUP retail stores in the world and is also the owner of OnBoard Watersports, the US distributor for Paddle Surf Hawaii SUP boards.
PETER TROW, TEAM RIDER Paddle Surf Hawaii
Peter Trow grew up in Northern California surfing and windsurfing from age 13. He became absorbed in kitesurfing in 1997 and quickly became a professional kiteboarder competing and traveling around the world. Today Peter is still involved in the kiteboarding industry running the US distribution for Flexifoil Kiteboarding USA. Now residing on the Central California Coast, Peter’s newest passion is stand up paddle surfing. He now spends most of his free time exploring and tapping into the Central Coast’s endless SUP possibilities and is currently sponsored by Onboard Water Sports and Paddle Surf Hawaii.
KEN RUSSELL, FUACATA SPORTS (US DISTRIBUTOR JIMY LEWIS)
Fuacata Sports was founded by industry veterans Garry Menk and Ken Russell. The company name (pronouncedFWAH-KAH-TAH!) is spanish slang meaning “Wham!”, used to describe a surprising high impact. Jimmy Lewis began shaping custom surfboards in Maui over 40 years ago. He has shaped boards for many of today’s top riders and companies. His production lineup now includes 9 kiteboard models in 27 sizes, 5 SUP models in 12 sizes, and 7 Surfboard models in 14 sizes. The current production process combines epoxy construction, hand shaped rails and a high gloss automotive finish for maximum speed, control, quality, and design.
ANE-MARIE REICHMAN, TEAM RIDER STARBOARD
Based in Maui, dutch pro Anne-Marie Reichman is not only a pro rider on the Starboard SUP team, she is also a world champion windsurfer, passionate surfer and accomplished painter. Her goal is to share her passions with other people around the world during clinics, interviews, promotion activities and events. By doing what she loves to do most, she wants to motivate and inspire others to follow their dreams and passions in life. Her motto is: “Dream of life, live your dream.”
BLANE CHAMBERS, Paddle Surf Hawaii
Blane Chambers is one of the most well known Stand Up Paddle Surfboard shapers in the industry. He founded Paddle Surf Hawaii and builds boards for many of the elite surfers and paddlers around the world. He is also one of the leading SUP surfers and on the invite list to the prestigious Ku Ikaika Big Wave Challenge held at Makaha every year.
TOD BRADLEY, C4
Todd Bradley along with co-founders Brian Keaulana and Mike Fox base their business philosophy on the four core disciplines of a waterman – balance, endurance, strength, and tradition – leading to their C4 brand. An accomplished waterman in canoe paddling, surfing and SUPing, his passion and energy are huge driving forces in the C4 mission of further exploring the waterman lifestyle.