Creative SUP: Ocean Rock Hopping

Standup Paddling Rockhoppin’ with Vince Shay and Fletcher Burton from Randy Allen on Vimeo.

Vincent Shay and Fletcher Burton are fun hogs. They’ll do anything for a rush be it riding a waveski, a kayak or a standup. But really, it doesn’t matter, as long they’re charging. And that’s how rock hopping—standup paddling in ocean rock gardens with wave surges—came about. We talked to Shay and Burton to get the scoop on their latest stunt on the Central Coast of California.

SUP mag: Define rock hopping for us.
Vincent Shay: Rock hopping is just something that we came up with when we were younger. We would practice on river kayaks on over pours and stuff. I think Fletcher came up with it. It’s literally hopping over rocks using a kayak or standup.

SUP mag: Is it a real sport?
Shay: I think it should be. When we were younger Fletcher and I wanted to be river kayakers but the nearest river was three-and-a-half or four hours away. We did it to simulate going through rivers. By taking it to SUP we hope it goes more mainstream. It’s becoming popular on the river. Why not do it in the ocean? What’s cool about the ocean is you can try it multiple times. You can have more of a success rate this way. But do I think it will be mainstream? No.

SUP mag: Does it take a special type of person to rock hop?
Shay: Yeah. Exactly. Someone who has some aspirations of doing SUP on the river and lives at the coast and wants to bone up on their skills. People are tripping on rock hopping. People have probably done it but they probably haven’t done it to that degree. It’s the most challenging thing I’ve personally ever done. The timing is completely different than the river.

SUP mag: What about safety?
Shay: Going with friend and knowledgeable people is very important. I thought I broke my hip out there. Go with a crew that you know and can help you. Nothing we’ve ever done is without support.

Fletcher Burton
SUP mag: What’s the state of rock hopping?
Burton Tiny. Just like a handful of people. Similar things have been done in kayaks and people like Sean Morley said they’ve thought about doing it on a standup. But there aren’t many people out there like that.

SUP mag: What inspired you to do this?
Burton Vince has a tour company (SLO Coast Kayaks) that runs through that area. We used to fish out there and we were bored. We decided to do it on SUPs. This is as close as you can get any type of river scenario without being on the river. So if you’re a river person near the ocean this could be an outlet for anyone around the world. Anywhere that’s got rocks.

SUP mag: Do you see any future in this?
Burton Not really. It’s a novelty. It’s a rush. There’s nothing better than cruising through tight slots in the rocks. It might get a cult following. There is some crazy stuff that could be done, so many weird cracks and caves to explore. Vince has been trying one where he goes up like a halfpipe and then back down.

SUP mag: So the Central Coast is the mecca.
Burton (Laughs) Right. We’re right between LA and San Fran. Anybody coming that way can stop by and run some rock hopping with us.

For more carnage from Burton, click here.

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  • george

    Rockhopping has been around in the kayak world a long while……Julian Patrick designed a kayak in the 90s called the Rockhopper that was intended for open water travel between rock play areas….and there was a Valley boat called the Cliffhanger that was a composite boat in the late 80s/early 90s designed for the same use…so..not something that these guys came up with on their own like Vince says….

  • Vincent Shay

    Fletcher and I know that this is not ‘new’ and I do say that in the video. I am very sure people have tried this on their SUPs in the Ocean…but I sincerely do not know to what degree or difficulty. We found this completely difficult and very dangerous! So, please be careful out there if you try this and use support and safety equipment.

  • Vincent Shay

    Hi George! Thanks for the comments, for sure. I think what was new for us was the name. I know it’s been around for many years, but for us it was a fun way to experience the ocean and we just called it ‘Rockhoppin’. We continue to do it with our river kayaks and ocean, SOT kayaks, and now with the inflatable SUPs. Not new, but for ‘us’ it was.

  • dave


  • Rob Casey

    Rock gardening is the term we use. The Tsunami Rangers in Half Moon Bay were instrumental in educating folks on it.

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