Sean Poynter, well positioned. Photo: Georgia Schofield
Sean Poynter, well positioned. Photo: Georgia Schofield

Sean Poynter’s Pro SUP Surfing Tips: Positioning to Catch Waves

Now that you can get through the whitewater, have conquered the Parallel Surf Stance and learned to observe where the waves are breaking in the lineup, we can get to understanding the best positioning.

Positioning determines who gets what waves. The best positioned will get the longer, more exciting wave and the worst positioned will get the shorter, duller wave, or in other words, the scraps of the better positioned.

Before you paddled out, you observed that their were multiple peaks (see Pro Tips: Reading Waves), and some of you may have picked apart three different waves and defined them Peak 1, Peak 2, Peak 3. But the peaks that you easily picked out on the beach are going to look much different from the lineup because you're looking at them from a different perspective. This can make it hard to recognize just where that peak you spotted on the beach is. A good tip to help you reconnect with that peak in the new perspective is to look inside at the whitewater as the waves break. Your peak will have whitewater that breaks over and over in the same place. This will create a whitewater trail and outside of that whitewater trail will be your peak.

 

Learn to position yourself by following the whitewater trail to the peak of the break. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

The best positioned paddler will be at a spot on the peak that pits himself as deep as possible (nearest to the peak of the break) while still being able to make it to the open face and maximize the ride. So in the example of the peak being a right-hander, the best positioned paddler will be far to the right if looking at the wave from the beach. If it's a left it will be opposite—the SUP surfer will be deep to the leftward side if viewing the wave from the beach.

 

Going left. Photo: Georgia Schofield

 

And going right. Photo: Georgia Schofield

 

This positioning for maximizing rides will cause the surfer to approach catching the waves differently. It forces the paddler to paddle from behind the peak and drop into the wave at the peak or even behind it.

If you are going right, the approach will mean turning to your left to go right and if going left, it means turning to your right to go left. See pictures below for example.

Using this approach provides three major benefits:

1. Giving you the potential to maximize the wave.

2. Creates right-of-way to the wave (you will be deepest to the ridable wall).

3. Gives you vision of the entire wave as it forms. You will no longer turn your back to the wave when turning to catch it, so you’ll be able to watch the wave form and adapt your speed and/or make directional adjustments for catching it.

Understanding this positioning and approach is a critical component in your progression towards becoming a better SUP surfer. Have fun with it, and remember that new habits are hard to form, but in this case will be well worth it.

Paddle on, paddle strong.

–Sean Poynter, SUP ‘N’ Surf Retreat

About SUP 'n' Surf Retreat

Led by two-time ISA SUP Surfing Gold Medalist (USA) Sean Poynter, the SUP 'n' Surf Retreat provides an exclusive paddle surfing and wave coaching experience in beautiful Punta Mita, Mexico. Retreat highlights include coaching by several world-class athletes, private cove with uncrowded waves, panga trips, all-inclusive luxury resort accommodations and more. Rated the best paddle surf learning experience. Adult (18+) paddlers of all skill levels are welcome.

The next set of retreats are taking place May 1-5 and 8-12, 2018!
To learn more or to book a retreat, visit the SUP ‘n’ Surf Retreat website.

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