Pro Tips: Paddling Out Through Surf With Sam George

Photo: Greg Panas
Patience is imperative for paddling out unscathed, even for 2014 Standup World Tour Champion, Izzi Gomez. Gomez heeds Sam George’s advice and waits for a lull between sets. Photo: Greg Panas

Pro Tips: Paddling Out Through Surf With Sam George

By Sam George

GET OUT. Without a doubt the most daunting aspect of stand up paddle surfing—besides getting your board off the roof racks—is actually getting out through the breaking waves. This doesn’t just hold true for beginners. Even experienced paddlers find themselves taking a deep breath when faced with three of four rows of tumbling whitewater.

READ THE WATER. You got to the beach, you’ve carried that giant board down to the sand and can’t wait to get out there. Slow down. Way down. Watch the waves. They generally come in regularly spaced sets. Depending on the strength of the swell these sets can contain two waves or 20. Doesn’t matter—between sets is when you want to hit the water. So watch for these sets, at least two, and time them. That’s how long you’ll have to paddle out.

PADDLE AWAY FROM PEOPLE. Most surf breaks will peel either to the right or left. If there are surfers, watch to see which direction they’re riding most often. Watch paddlers heading out to see which path they take around the shoulders—where the wave tapers from the breaking curl—and go even wider just to be safe.

GET SPEED. Try to launch as whitewater from the last wave of a set nears shore. Carry your board into the water, nose pointed directly at the oncoming waves. Don’t put it down until you’re at least mid-thigh deep. At this point you can climb aboard and stand up, stay on your knees or paddle on your chest. Whichever way, the key is to start paddling, and paddling vigorously. The shorebreak is no place to dawdle—you want to get out past it as quickly as possible. Rolling whitewater is much easier to negotiate than even modest shorebreak.

DON’T LOSE MOMENTUM. If you’re faced with oncoming whitewater, don’t just stand there. Whether you’re standing or on your knees always paddle hard straight into the soup. With whitewater waist-high or under you have a good chance of getting through if you charge right at it in a surf stance, weight the tail, sink your paddle on top of the foam and pull yourself over. Even if you fall at least you and your board will be floating on the backside of the wave. If you do get knocked off climb back on and keep paddling, even on your stomach. Maintain that forward momentum until you’re out there.

Originally published in our 2015 Beginners Guide.

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