Stand Up Paddle Boarding SUP Surfing Instructions for Beginners

Four Guys Arrive On Huge Stand Up Paddleboard - 2012 Paddle for Privates Charity SUP Event - Newport Beach, CA


The vast majority of stand-up paddlers get their recreation on flat water such as your local lakes or rivers.

What’s interesting to note is that the sport of stand-up paddling started in Hawaii where there are large ocean waves.

The sport of SUP started in Hawaii (you can learn more about the history of SUP here: because it was an easier method for catching waves compared to a traditional surfboard. It is easier because you are already standing and the paddle gives you the ability to pick up speed and get on a wave that you normally could not on a trad surfboard.

But surfing and surfing on a SUP are not the same. A SUP has its unique tendencies and characteristics and you need to learn the proper surfing techniques to accurately control your SUP.

Safety is one of the first things you need to consider about SUP board surfing. You are not required to wear a life jacket while surfing, but you need to be aware of the dangers you are facing.  And you should be an excellent swimmer if you are not going to use a life jacket or personal flotation device.

You need to take common-sense precautions while surfing. You should never surf or be out in the water on your own, and you should know the water and weather conditions before you go out.

You should be wearing a leash that connects to your paddleboard when you go out into the water.

You have many different options when picking a leash for your board. A good rule of thumb to use is to pick a leash that is the length of your board. This is the ideal length for a leash because it gives you enough room to remain in control of your board while also being able to get far enough away from your board to prevent any injuries.

For SUP surfing straight leashes are also a better option than a coiled leash. You often see coil leashes in traditional surfing, but the reason why a straight leash is better for SUP is because of the paddle. It is easier for a paddle to get caught in a coiled leash than it is a straight leash.

And finally, you will want to wrap the leash around whichever one of your legs is closest to the tail of the board. That way it won’t trip you up while you’re on the wave.

As you are learning the basics of SUP surfing safety is important not only for yourself but also for those around you. That’s why when you are beginning to learn to SUP surf you want to choose beaches with no one around and only surf on waves that are 1 to 2 ft tall. and you want to make sure that there is no one else close to you in the water in case you lose control of your board.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a beach that has a soft sandy bottom, with the wave breaking away from the beach.  This is ideal because while you are learning, you will inevitably fall and a sandy bottom is the softest surface to fall onto.

It’s also super helpful if you can find a spot that has light wind blowing offshore. This means that the wind is coming off of the land onto the water.

This makes the waves easier to catch as well as to surf on. Of course, this is an ideal situation and not everyone will be able to find these conditions, but it’s great if you can because this keeps the waves nice, smooth, predictable, and easy to learn how to surf.

3 Important Things to Learn About SUP Surfing:

The first thing to learn about SUP surfing is to get up and launch the paddleboard and get through the initial breaking waves.

The second thing to learn is catching and riding the wave.

And of course, the third thing is to learn how to surf while you are on the wave. This is the most advanced and difficult part of the three.

Since this is about learning how to SUP surf we are going to focus on the beginning part of how to catch a wave.

The two main parts about catching a wave to surf are, one being in the right position to catch the wave, and then you need to learn how to commit to the wave you had chosen to surf. It sounds easier than it is.

When you are waiting to catch a wave, it is best to wait and line up perpendicular to the incoming waves. This makes it easier for you to quickly turn in the direction that the wave is moving in and get right on top of it.

As you are waiting to catch the wave it’s important to position your paddle in the water in front of your toes.  This is also called the toe side of the board.

When you see an ideal wave to surf, immediately start making some smooth but powerful strokes to get going on the wave and down the face of the wave.

You’ll know you have timed this correctly and paddled hard enough because after about four to six strokes the wave will catch up with you and lift the back part of your board as it gets under you and starts to carry your weight forward.

Once the wave is carrying you forward you need to lean forward into it to propel yourself down the face of the water.

Once you have caught the wave then you need to move your feet back on the board more towards the rear and now you are in a traditional surfing stance.

Now that you are riding the wave you don’t want to just go straight, you want to angle your board so that you are about on the bottom third of the wave. This is also called the pocket of the wave.

This way you have maximum control on the way yet also you still have the energy of the wave to propel you forward.

When your beginning it is easiest to have your toes face into the wave and also have the paddle angled towards the breaking wave as well. This gives you maximum stability while surfing.

Well, SUP surfing is fun, and it might look easy, don’t be discouraged if it takes you a long time to pick it up. While it only has a few techniques to master it takes time to learn how to feel it and to ride the way of correctly.

We hope you got a lot out of this tutorial.  We are passionate about stand up paddleboards and SUP surfing here at SNMB and we hope that you will consider coming back to us to read and learn more about water sports and healthy lifestyles.