Whitewater climbing is the easiest and most efficient method for getting from the shore to the surf. Photo courtesy of SUP 'n" Surf Retreat
Whitewater climbing is the easiest and most efficient method for getting from the shore to the surf. Photo courtesy of SUP 'n" Surf Retreat

Sean Poynter’s Pro SUP Surfing Tips: Whitewater Climbing

In our last installment of Sean Poynter’s Pro SUP Surfing Tips Series we covered Parallel Surf Stance, the proper technique for standing on a SUP surfboard. The benefits of that stance are clear: added stability, better wave catching, and ease of dealing with whitewater when paddling out. Taking it further, this stance also prepares you to handle whitewater of all sizes.

As you probably know, you can't surf without dealing with whitewater because it’s the byproduct of breaking waves. It comes in different sizes and ranges in power depending on swell direction and wave size.

As paddle surfers, we don’t have the luxury of going under whitewater like prone surfers. Instead, we are forced to go up and over it–a term I call “whitewater climbing.” This demands set of techniques that are challenging to learn as whitewater is both powerful and turbulent which causes great instability.

Trying to stand through this instability is tough to do. However, with the right technique the task will be easier and quite manageable. That said, let's categorize whitewater size into three groups: Small (0-1ft), Medium (1-5ft) and Big (5ft+).

Small (0-1ft)

As you would expect, small whitewater is less powerful and creates the least amount of turbulence. This makes the whitewater climb relatively easy, but only if you're in parallel surf stance. This is the stance I always use when climbing over and through small whitewater.

Note: All whitewater needs to be approached with the front of your board, or nose, facing directly perpendicular to the whitewater as it's coming toward you.

Medium (1-5ft)

Medium whitewater is when the climbing process becomes tricky as it requires a slightly different technique. This is where the parallel surf stance really comes into play as it will quicken the positioning of your feet as a critical component of this technique. From parallel surf stance, we will switch into surf stance in order to climb up and over the whitewater. Here's the process…

· Medium size whitewater approaching
· Standing in Parallel Surf Stance
· Increasing your speed – match power (whitewater) with power (your speed)
· Before whitewater meets the nose of your board switch to surf stance (switch with enough time to have at least one powerful stroke in surf stance before the whitewater touches the nose)
· Paddle on the side your body is open to -this is your strong and most stable side when going through whitewater
· Paddle hard
· Moments before the whitewater touches the nose of your board shift weight onto your back foot to lift the nose up ¾ height of the whitewater, and execute an aggressive and powerful paddle stroke (Note: your nose needs to be directly perpendicular to the whitewater as you climb it)
· Stay low, knees bent, whitewater is passing under you now as you’re climbing up it
· As you enter the backside of the wave and into continued turbulence, execute another powerful paddle stroke or several to clear the turbulence as you pass over and through the whitewater
· Switch back to Parallel Surf Stance
· Repeat for any additional waves

Note: If whitewater sections are coming at you one after the next without a long enough break, it may be easier to remain in surf stance until the final section has passed.

 

World Tour contenders prepare to face a Sunset Beach bomb. The board kick is particularly useful with big waves like this. Photo: Greg Panas

Big (5ft+)

Big whitewater requires a different technique. Here you have to do something we call the ‘Board Kick.’ The Board Kick is when you kick the board forward, up and over the whitewater as you fall backward into the water. Many people think this is counter-intuitive to getting the board through whitewater and instead getting hit by your board and getting beat up by the whitewater. Actually, it's quite the opposite. If done properly, this method will get your board through whitewater and you underneath it quite easily. Here's the process…

· Big size whitewater approaching
· Standing in Parallel Surf Stance
· Increasing your speed – match power (whitewater) with power (your speed)
· Before whitewater meets the nose of your board switch to surf stance (switch with enough time to have at least one powerful stroke in surf stance before whitewater touches the nose)
· Paddle hard
· Moments before the whitewater touches the nose of your board, in one seamless motion shift all your weight onto your back foot and kick the board forward as hard as you can. This will allow your board to go up and over the whitewater. (Note: your nose needs to be facing perpendicular to the whitewater when you kick it forward)
· As you kick your board forward you will naturally fall backwards into the water allowing the whitewater to pass over you. (Note: if the whitewater is hitting your body before you go completely under the water, you're kicking your board forward too late)
· Come up with your hands covering your head. Chances are if done right, your board will be waiting for you on the other side of the wave when you pop up.
· Repeat as needed

Note: It's very important to kick your board perpendicular to the whitewater. Always protect your head with your hands when resurfacing after any fall. 

These are my suggested techniques to get through small, medium and big whitewater. For intricate first-hand instruction of these techniques and much more, come join us this October in Mexico.

–Sean Poynter, Professional SUP Surfer/SUP ‘n’ Surf Retreat Coach

 

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 October 10-14 and 17-21, 2017.
To learn more or to book a retreat, visit the SUP ‘n’ Surf Retreat website.

See also: Sean Poynter’s Pro Surf Tips: Reading Conditions

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