So, you've got the surf bug. Your first ride is a cherished but distant memory, you're well acquainted with whitewater (and how to get through it), you're geared up and constantly craving more. It's time to take your paddlesurfing to the next level, but to get there you need to grow your comfort zone. Elevate your game on the ocean with these turnkey tips.
Forecast. There's a reason every good surfer you know can recite the seven-day surf outlook. The surf report is your guidebook to getting better waves, and in turn, getting better at riding them. The science of waves is complicated, but sites like Surfline and Magicseaweed are great places to start. They offer free, easy-to-understand daily reports and forecasts, as well as live webcams for most popular breaks. Checking these regularly will improve your chances of scoring while increasing your understanding of the ocean, a process as fun as it is endless.
Use that paddle. One major advantage to SUP surfing over traditional surfing is the ability to employ your paddle. Not just with catching the wave, but also while riding it. Watch a few videos on SUPthemag.com and you'll see the best paddle surfers planting or transferring sides with their paddles on every maneuver. These techniques, when done correctly, will put your body in position to do things on a wave that you never thought you'd be doing yourself.
Fall, fall, fall. "If you're not falling, you're not trying hard enough." Words every SUP surfer should live by. Getting more comfortable underwater inherently makes us more comfortable on top of it and learning to relax while out in the ocean is an important facet of your SUP surfing career. Keep safety and proximity to other surfers in mind, but don't be afraid to wipe out, especially while trying something new. There's no better way to learn than trial and error.
Try different boards. You found a shape you love and went out and bought it. You're steadily improving, falling less and feeling the rhythm of your new sled. Then you swap with your buddy and you're back at ground zero in Kook City. To really improve your SUP surfing, you have to get comfortable changing it up. Volume, length, rocker, concave and fin setup are all variables to toy with, and different shapes work better in different conditions. Plus, you'll find that your favorite ride is that much sweeter when you come back to it.
Surf different spots. Kind of like surfing the same board every session, always surfing the same break is limiting. Figure out which spots around town are SUP-friendly and rotate through them. Generally speaking, beachbreaks work great with windswell while reefs and points are best for longer-period groundwells; getting comfortable at all three will diversify your skillset substantially. Use the forecast to guide you and over time you'll learn the best conditions for each break. Just remember to be extra friendly and courteous at new spots; having allies in different lineups around town always helps with wave count. –MM
Get more Simple SUP tips in the Paddle Smart feature from the 2017 Skills Issue of SUP magazine.