by Sean Poynter

In the last installment of our series Sean Poynter’s Pro SUP Surfing Tips we discussed the importance of completing the wave. For this edition, let’s move on to best practices for maneuvering your SUP surfboard.

Maneuvering involves a variety of components—strength, technique, equipment, balance, flexibility, etc. To keep it easy though, I'm going to start this lesson by focusing on technique. It should be said though: the more strength, balance and flexibility you have, the more your potential for quality maneuvering increases.

Technique is of paramount importance to the task of maneuvering. It's what makes a half-hearted turn into a proper turn. Maneuvering your SUP is based on understanding the wave you're attacking and how to best position yourself to throw in your maneuvers and get the most out of your wave by riding it until the end. Read more about completing the wave in my last tip installment, where we discussed the two overviews of wave types, i.e. fast and slow waves.

For fast waves, or faster parts of the wave, we stay higher in the pocket and use that pocket to build momentum. But when the wave slows down we exit out of that high-line pocket and utilize the speed generated to go into maneuvering on the wave face.

Start focusing on your maneuvers now and eventually you may find yourself here. Photo courtesy of SUP ‘n’ Surf Retreat/Ben Thouard

Your choice of maneuver is anything you want. That is of course the beauty of surfing—the creative freedom to ride the wave and paint the canvas however you want. From high-lining for speed in the pocket to carving a deep, shallow bottom turn to throwing a vertical, horizontal top-turn to pushing a powerful throw-tail or roundhouse cutback, or even adding an air in there. You have the freedom to do whatever you choose. However it's the technique that's going to help you make each one a possibility.

Simply put, the most important component of technique comes with an understanding of weight-shifting. Surfing and maneuvering is all about weight-shifting. For frontside and backside turns it's your weight shift that largely makes the maneuver. Weight-shifting onto your front foot, back foot, toes and heels. You mix these four components of weight shifting with power and technique to create the maneuver you want.

For instance, if I was doing a frontside vertical turn, I would drive deep off the bottom after creating speed in the pocket to allow myself enough time, speed and radius to clock the bottom turn around and get into a vertical angle, weight-shifting from my front foot and toes to my back foot and heels as I come up to hit the lip and redirect back down the wave face. This same technique is used for going backside.

Utilizing your paddle to drive through turns is a major facet of SUP surfing maneuverability. Photo courtesy of SUP ‘n’ Surf Retreat/Ben Thouard

There are other maneuvers, say a roundhouse cutback, that utilize your paddle by planting it inside you and the wave while pushing your feet into your board like you would a leg-press as you lean into your paddle, creating your turning radius as you press through the board further straightening, or push out from your legs as you turn the radius.

Depending on backside or frontside roundhouse you're doing this all through weight being on your toes, heels, front foot and back foot.

As the World Surf League (WSL) bases their scale for best maneuvers, that is how I base mine. The components are:

  • Commitment and degree of difficulty
  • Innovative and Progressive maneuvers
  • Combination of major maneuvers
  • Variety of maneuvers
  • Speed, power and flow

This excerpt marks my last tip of the seven-part series with SUP 'n Surf Retreat in partnership with SUP Magazine, but it doesn't mean the education stops here! If any of you have additional interest in taking your SUP surfing to the next level, please reach out to us at to receive information on our next retreats in May 2018. The premise is, how can we all get better with our SUP surfing or even learn how to do it. Myself and Ian Cairns coach you to answer that question, and performance increases we see.

Until next time!

Thanks for reading guys.

Sean Poynter

More Pro SUP Surfing Tips with Sean Poynter

This installment of our series of SUP Surfing tips with Sean Poynter is brought to you by 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.

See also: SUP Surf Trip Tips with Sean Poynter

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