G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Learning to SUP - Part Two

After three pretty intense days in a row of early morning SUPing my back is telling me that I am in for serious rebellion if I take it out in the water this morning. even I (the "I" that thinks he's still 16) have to begrudgingly agree. It's not that SUPing is bad for the back, au contraire, SUPing fits in quite well with the back strengthening exercises my sports oriented chiropractor has prescribed. The fact is that I've fatigued my core to the point where it needs a rest.

After spending Monday and Tuesday's sessions on long paddles getting my "sea legs," I spent two physically intense hours Wednesday learning to catch, surf and kick-out of, or exit small waves. I haven't had this much challenging physical surfing fun in a while. It is a blast!

So far, the easiest thing about SUP's is standing on one. I thought it would be harder, but it isn't. In a calm sea anyone with decent surfing and paddling skills can learn quickly how to stand and paddle on a SUP. It gets trickier when there is a swell, wind chop, wind, kelp or whitewater to manage. But learning how to balance and navigate those challenges is just a matter of practice...well, isn't it all!

Surfing is a whole 'nother thing though. First there is the view. On a conventional surfboard you are generally looking up at the wave, no matter what the size. On a SUP unless it is literally overhead you are looking down on the wave. It looks different, it's harder to judge how steep the wave is and when to stop paddling. (Rule of thumb: When in doubt, don't stop paddling. You'll only go faster.) Once you've caught the wave, surfing the SUP is really just learning how to ride another surfboard in your quiver...only one that's probably a lot longer and thicker than what you're used to riding. Important Point: The place you stand to paddle your SUP, and the place you stand to surf your SUP are way different!

Finally, kicking out or exiting the wave on your SUP is not all that easy if your goal is to stay on your feet and paddle like mad to avoid being caught inside, which it is, or should be. Because you have shifted your stance into a surfing stance (one foot in front of the other on the rear 1/3 of the board) once your ride is over you must very quickly jump back into paddling stance which is usually feet parallel slightly to the rear of SUP midpoint. This while negotiating unforeseen sea surface angles and bumps, white water and, oh yeah, the paddle.

Which brings me to paddle management. All I can say right now is that I'm no where near the point where I can use the paddle for anything that would add to my surfing ability. Once I'm riding the wave the only thing I'm concerned about paddle-wise is not getting hit by it, and not losing it (think $300 bucks or so).

Yesterday my barber told me that one of his good friends who has taken up SUP's told him to never get started. Because once he did he would never go back. That feels like it could be true.

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