Can you surf with a paddle board?
Let’s find out!
If you’re a stand-up paddleboarding lover, then you know there are only a few things more relaxing, than go paddling around (and getting a free tan).
But, if you’re someone that loves SUP, and also has a wild side that gets fulfilled with adrenaline, you might be wondering, can you surf with a paddleboard?
So, if you want to take your paddleboard experience to a whole new level, keep on reading because things are looking good for you.
- Can you surf on a stand-up paddleboard?
- How to Surf with a stand-up paddleboard?
- Picking the right place
- Getting into the water
- Paddling through the surf
- Best positions for facing the waves
- Paddling into the wave
- Riding the wave
- Getting out of a wave
- Can You Surf With A Paddle Board? Best SUP For Surfing
- Quick read: Best SUPs for Surfing
- SUPs for Surfing Characteristics
- Material: inflatable Vs hard boards
- Deck pad
- Bonus Tip: don’t make this mistake when SUP surfing
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Can You Surf On A Stand-Up Paddle Board?
The answer is YES. And surfing is probably one of the most thrilling things you can do on a paddleboard!
But the boards have differences you need to take into consideration before venturing into the waves.
Can you use a surfboard as a paddleboard? Yes (hand paddling, at least). Can you go paddleboarding on a surfboard? Also yes. Can you use a longboard as a paddleboard? This one is tricky: yes, if you’re lightweight and skilled enough.
The point is, the different boards and the set of skills required make paddleboarding and surfing very different, so you need to know the specifics before getting into the water.
How to do it? Do I need to make adjustments to my SUP board if I want to surf? How do I manage balance while riding those big waves?
All of these are valid questions and important information you should know if you want your SUP surfing experience to be successful.
How To Surf With A Paddle Board
- Before you go out, watch the forecast. It’s important to know the weather and water conditions, especially when it comes to the wind.
- If it’s windy to the point you’re not able to do anything without being pushed by the wind, attach your paddle to your board, lay prone (which is the fancy term for “lay on your stomach”) on the board, and paddle with your arms. You should be able to avoid the wind in this position.
- Remember to keep your focus on the horizon, since it will keep you from losing balance. Your bodyweight should be centered over your toes, your back straight, knees slightly bent, and head up.
- Wherever you’re SUP surfing, watch around and stay out of other surfer’s way, especially if they already claimed a wave.
- If you fall, try to do it away from your board, it won’t go away if you have (and you should have!) your leash attached to it.
- If you want to see for yourself how to SUP surf, check out this SUP surf YouTube video!
1. Picking The Right Place
Now, I know you’re eager to throw yourself at those waves and show them who’s in charge, but slow down a little.
It’s always wise for a beginner to start SUP surfing in a place with smaller waves and a smooth surface.
If those waves are breaking in one place and there is an area of (relatively) flat water for you to paddle out, the better.
Try to pick a beach with sandy bottoms, since hitting rocks will be bad news for both you and your paddleboard. Also, the beach should have an entry spot and a smooth shore break, to make it easy to push your SUP board in.
You probably have been paddling in calmer waters. Remember to give yourself time to get familiar with smaller waves, before hitting beaches with bigger ones.
They are unpredictable, and you’ll need your balance skills at their finest to adapt to these new conditions.
2. Getting Into The Water
Although in Baywatch they make it look easy and sexy, getting your SUP board into the water might be more tricky than you think.
A paddleboard is a bit heavy (15-40 pounds: the lighter boards can weigh 15 pounds and traditional hard boards can weigh 30 pounds), and you have to carry it and your paddle with the other hand.
You need to get past the beach break first and then hop onto your paddleboard and stand-up paddle until you reach the peak.
To achieve this, push your SUP board toward each incoming whitewater or wave, and keep it perpendicular to them, so you won’t get drawn toward the shore while walking into the water.
Once you reach a point when the water is too deep to walk, get onto your SUP board and lay on your stomach, tuck your paddle under your chest and start paddling with your hands, as if you were on a surfboard.
This is a very handy technique to keep balanced before getting started until you’re skilled enough to stand-up paddle through the waves.
3. Paddling Through The Surf
Now you’re past the shore break, the next step is to stand up and paddle to the peak. Remember, paddling in calm waters is not the same as taking a surf in a stand-up paddleboard, with chops and waves testing your balance.
For this reason, beginner SUP surfers usually start kneeling on their boards before standing. By doing so, you can get familiar with the waves, and where is better to position your knees and your feet.
From there, you can try standing up, and let me tell you now: you will fall many, many times. As with everything you learn for the first time, it will take time and patience, so don’t give up.
Other SUP surfers choose to go from prone to stand-up position, so you can also try this technique. The advantage is that you will be forced to get in the right stance on the SUP board and get ready to ride the waves earlier.
You should try to get your SUP board balanced as soon as possible, especially if there’s a great amount of chop. In this case, you should stand up quickly and start paddling.
If you are still wondering how ‘can you surf with a paddle board?‘ and want to see how it is, check this YouTube video: How to Paddle Through Breaking Waves!
4. Best Positions For Facing The Waves
When SUP cruising, you probably stand with your feet in a parallel position and facing forward.
While you can use a similar pose when SUP surfing, you might feel more comfortable putting one foot a few inches backward, to maintain your balance and stability.
5. Paddling Into The Wave
This is one of the most important things to learn when you are wondering if ‘can you surf with a paddle board?’
When you’re comfortable enough standing up on your SUP board, it’s time to learn how to go over whitewater while standing.
A good idea is to face the wave head-on, going perpendicular to it, and in the precise moment you hit the wave, you take a strong paddle. While you do this, shift your weight backward, and push the board against the wave with your feet.
This will work better for smaller waves, whereas it’s better to jump off your board until the wave passes for stronger ones. Let your body relax so your ankle and leg don’t receive serious damage from the leash pull.
When you have the standing-up paddling and passing small waves nailed down, it’s time to learn how to get to the peak of the waves.
We recommend leaving the whitewater alone and go for the unbroken waves instead. They’re easier to balance on, and they won’t shake your SUP board too much.
Pick an incoming unbroken wave, paddle toward it, and when you’re close enough, turn your SUP board around, so it’s facing the beach. To avoid falling over and over, it’s better to give yourself time to turn your board without any rush.
With time, you’ll be skilled enough to make faster turns, which are accomplished by pushing one foot toward the tail of the SUP board while turning. The nose should be out of the water.
At that moment, you take wide circular paddle strokes on the opposite side of the direction you want to turn. This is called a pivot turn because your board will pivot around its tail.
When you’re facing the beach, paddle hard before the wave pushes you, which will work to gain momentum (which you lose when doing the turn). Make sure the nose and tail of the SUP board are not underwater.
Another way to ride a wave is turning in parallel to the incoming wave you’re paddling to. Once the wave starts to reach you, take hard strokes, face toward the beach and drop into the wave.
This technique will allow you to easily position for the takeoff.
6. Riding The Wave
Surprisingly, riding the waves is easy-peasy compared to caught them. Your paddle will provide balance and help you make tighter turns.
Slide down the wave and position yourself in a surfer stance, by positioning one foot toward the tail, since it can avoid nosediving. Your core should be engaged in this, don’t rely only on your arms when paddling.
7. Getting Out Of The Wave
For getting out of a wave, you have three options: you can use your paddle to slow down until the wave passes by, you just jump off and hold on to the leash, or you can use your feet to steer the SUP board up and out of the wave.
Can You Surf With A Paddle Board? Best SUP For Surfing
Quick Read – Best SUPs For Surfing:
- Waterwalker All-Around SUP by Thurso Surf (The top winner! Easy to carry and provides great stability)
- Versa Paddle Board By Isle Surf And SUP
- ACE-TEC Cross SUP By BIC Sport
- Premium Inflatable SUP By SereneLife
- All-Around Inflatable SUP By PEAK Paddle Boards
This is a very right-footed and versatile board, that is easy to travel with and turns beautifully in the water.
Although it’s a bit heavy, it provides great stability, and the PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) material it’s made of, makes it a solid board.
It’s easy to carry, has 4 stainless D rings for accessories attachment, and has removal fins for better storage.
This all-around SUP is super versatile and stable. It’s perfect for all kinds of SUP activities, including SUP surfing, and it’s also suitable for several water conditions.
It’s durable, very lightweight, and built with eco-friendly materials. It has a full deck pad that provides protection and handles that make it easy to carry.
This paddleboard is extremely durable, stable, and easy to maneuver. It will handle chops and waves with no problem.
The plastic material it’s a bit heavy, but the core is made of EPS foam that’s very lightweight. It’s also very resistant and durable. It’s a perfect board for beginners.
This is a sturdy yet comfortable and balanced paddleboard, perfect for either beginners or experienced paddleboarders.
The not-slip deck pad provides stability to the rider and has three fins that provide traction to slide through the water easily and help to increase speed.
It’s easy to maneuver and carry around since it’s lightweight and includes every accessory you need.
This all-around inflatable paddleboard is perfect for starting to learn how to SUP surf.
It has a big and stable deck, with a diamond design to provide traction and avoid slippings. It also comes with a package including everything you need.
The board is easy to carry and the fins are easy to install and remove.
SUPs For Surfing Characteristics
Now that you know the answer to ‘can you surf with a paddle board?’ is a BIG Yes! It is time to look at the most important features when buying a paddle board for surfing, which are:
- Inflatable paddleboards or hardboard
- Similar shape to a surfboard
- On the short side, average width and low volume
- Carbon paddle
- Extra fins available
- Narrow rails
- Narrow tail
- Thick deck pad with texture in the foot area
1. Material: Inflatable VS Hard Boards
This decision will be highly influenced by whether you are after pure SUP surfing or you want to switch from cruising to surfing at your convenience.
- Inflatable boards
If surfing will be something you’ll do like an occasional activity, then an inflatable paddleboard will suit you better. They’re more convenient for cruising and doing other activities besides surfing.
Inflatable boards have a more comfortable surface than hardboards, which will come in handy when falling on the table or kneeling while learning how to surf (and also, if, for some reason, the board gets flipped onto your head – ouch).
- Hard boards
Hard boards have some advantages over inflatable paddleboards in terms of performance. The rails are more narrow and sculpted, which will give you more speed on the water and more control when doing turns.
Also, hardboards are easier to manage because inflatable paddleboards tend to be larger than hard boards and have more volume.
On the downside, hard boards can be expensive to travel with.
The shape of your paddleboard will determine how good it is to catch a wave. It’s good to find one that is similar to a surfboard because they are best designed to ride waves.
If the board looks more like a canoe or a floater, they’re probably designed for cruising instead, so we recommend not going for them.
However, if you’re looking for a board that is suitable both for surfing and cruising, an all-around paddleboard will do fine.
Paddleboards tend to be big, but the smaller they are, the better for balancing and maneuvering on the waves. SUP boards, best suited for surfing, are short, about 9 feet in length.
The same goes with the width, try to find one that doesn’t exceed 30 inches wide.
Also, if you can carry it around easily, chances are you can handle it just well in the water because it’s not heavy. The volume of specialized SUP surfing boards is lower than the volume of boards for general paddling.
As you have read, your paddle is critical when it comes to SUP surfing. It’s your tool for doing turns, and well, paddling your way around in the water.
It’s wise to invest in a paddle that will perform well as much time as possible, like a carbon paddle.
Surfing SUP boards have at least a long center fin that creates the least drag. Adding additional side fins is recommended if you’re using an inflatable paddleboard.
Inflatable paddleboards have more rounded rails (compared to the narrow rails of hardboards), which influences the carving performance the board can make. Hence, additional fins will help you control the tail better.
You should look for paddleboards that allow you to add extra fins.
Rails are determinants of the performance of your SUP board when surfing. Inflatable paddleboards have rounded rails, while hardboards have more narrow rails and are less thick.
This means that hardboards will be faster and will do a better contribution to carving and turning performances.
A narrow tail makes the board respond better to your foot pressure when you want to do some turns. Look for narrow tails if you want to achieve more maneuverability when turning your paddleboard.
8. Deck Pad
The material and quality of your SUP board deck pack also play an important role in its traction.
When learning to SUP surf, you’ll be falling a lot, so it’s a good idea to find a paddleboard with a thick deck pad that covers a lot of the board area.
The tail section should have a contoured pad and a raised rear edge because when you assume a surfer stance, this will prevent your foot from slipping off the board.
Additionally, it will give you more balance if you’re applying foot pressure on the tail.
If the deck pad also has an arch bar, it will be extremely helpful to apply more weight to pivot the tail. This bar will let you know where your rear foot is positioned without having to look down.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Make This Mistake When SUP Surfing
Try to avoid crowded beaches full of surfers. You and I both know surfers don’t like SUP surfers, because they think of them as amateurs.
Truly there’s no way to compare the two sports, because the conditions of the ocean where they are held are different (calmer waters for paddleboarding, monster waves for surfing), so a different set of skills is required.
But there’s another reason behind this dislike: SUP surfers have more momentum and paddles to get further into the sea, to catch the waves before they break.
While shortboard surfers have to position themselves where the wave starts to break.
This means, SUP surfers can catch waves way before surfers can, and therefore, they have the right of way for those waves.
If you go to quieter beaches, you’ll be able to have a better day with fewer people trying desperately to claim a wave.
And you’ll reduce your chances of hitting or getting hit accidentally by others.
So now you know all the tips about how to surf with a paddleboard and the best features of a good paddleboard for surfing.
Now if your buddy asks you “can you surf with a paddleboard?”, you can say “Heck yes!”
All you have to do is grab your paddleboard and head to the nearest beach. Don’t feel discouraged when you fall, I’m sure that with patience and practice, you’ll master those waves in no time!
Until then, enjoy the ride!