Winter in the UK signals a downturn in air and water temperature. The weather closes in and summer stand up paddlers (by and large) head for the hills. Hanging their SUP gear up until spring it’s time to sit by the fire, wait it out and dream of rising mercury levels. Those searching for performance SUP, however, have different ideas…Particularly SUP surfers and SUP foilers.
The phrase ‘performance SUP’ can conjure images of elite level stand up paddling that’s offputting to newbies and those progressing through the stand up ranks. Yet from a layman’s point of view it simply refers to conditions other than placid flat water. In this instance, we’re talking waves.
Stand up paddle surfing.
The art of sliding along moving walls of water hardly needs any introduction. Surfing’s been around for yonks and plenty of people indulge. Adding a paddle and oversized board has only come about in recent years but there are a fair few takers.
One massive advantage with SUP surfing is the paddle. This gives additional propulsion, which when combined with said oversized board (which delivers momentum and stability, yet also maneuverability) you have a vehicle that can take on all sorts of swell – from super small to big. It’s also possible to easily access those out of the way spots that traditional surfers don’t frequent.
Most stand up paddle surfers aren’t aiming for macking conditions. Death bombs are out whereas much mellower waist high pulses of oceanic energy are in. There’s nothing more idyllic than cruising along an light wind kissed wave, hearing nothing but the ‘ssskkiiissshhh’ of your SUP surf board on the wave’s surface. It can really get the juices flowing and stoke levels high.
With winter comes an increased chance of scoring waves – particularly at places often dormant in summer. Now those shorter days are here Mother Nature sees fit to send waves to all corners. which is great news for anyone with a stand up paddle board and paddle. Time to get involved in SUP surfing then!
The mischievous new school sibling of stand up paddle surfing SUP foiling is poised to deliver a very unique feeling of flying above the water in total silence. With a hydrofoil protruding from your board small waves are game on, only unlike SUP surfing, the lack of resistance helps to increase speed and glide.
For those with real finishing one wave ride and pumping back out to the next line of swell, using leg and paddle power only, increases ride time and looks amazing to boot. To be honest this does take a little practice whereas actually SUP foiling along a wave is much quicker to achieve. If you can SUP surf then with some time and perseverance you can also SUP foil thereby increasing your wave session hit count significantly.
If you’re looking to progress into the realms of performance stand up paddling then both SUP surfing and SUP foiling are worth a look. Plenty accessible, and as extreme as you want them to be, both disciplines are extremely fulfilling as a paddler. And for those who want their cake and be able to eat it then perhaps both ways of riding are for you.