How to stay safe in the surf on your SUP board

The adrenaline rush of riding waves on your SUP is an awesome feeling. Beginners will love the size and stability that their paddle board gives them to catch waves, whereas advanced paddle boarders will be able to take advantage of the maneuverability of smaller surf SUP boards. Either way, chances are you’ll soon be hooked!

However, as with any watersport you need to take precautions when starting out. This is particularly relevant to SUP boarders, as due to the size of our boards, we need to look out not only for ourselves but for others in the water too.

So in this Ripple Boards blog post we discuss some pointers to keep you safe when first taking your paddle board into the surf. Stand Up Paddle Boarding is relatively easy to pick up and many SUP boarders quickly become confident with their new skills on flat water. Pretty soon, you’ll want to venture out into the waves to have some fun. However, this is where you may find yourself in trouble if you’re not adequately prepared. A frequent problem comes from overestimating your skill and fitness and underestimating the power of the ocean. Getting wiped out on a SUP board can be quite unpleasant, and when you’re under the water, your board is free to collide with other water users (or yourself). So here are some tips to help you have an enjoyable and and safer time in the surf.

Get fit.

Being fit is going to help you navigate those waves and will allow you to swim out of any trouble if you get separated from your board. Due to their size, SUP boards get pulled hard by breaking waves and therefore you’ve got to be ready for your leash rope to be pulled loose occasionally. So before you hit the waves make sure you’re physically ready.

Swimming is obviously very different to most other forms of aerobic exercise, and great runners don’t necessarily make great swimmers. So if you’re not a strong swimmer you might want to spend some weekends swimming in the surf before heading way off shore.
Start small and stay within your abilities & fitness level

When hitting the waves on your surf SUP know your limitations- don’t go out all gun hoe and try and catch that big kahuna first go! If you’re a complete beginner, swim/body surf around in the waves before taking your SUP board out – it’s a great warmup, and it gives you a firsthand feel of what’s going on in the ocean.

Understand currents & rips: SUP boards are big and buoyant and are usually easy to navigate out of rips, provided you know what to do. Try and get an understanding of the water flow before you venture out. The signs indicating a rip current are:

1) A break in the incoming wave pattern as waves roll into shore.

2) A line of sea foam projecting out into the sea.

3) Different coloured water.

4) A channel of choppy, churning surf.

If you find yourself in a rip it’s important to not panic. On the bright side, remember that your big SUP board is a pretty safe refuge! Try and stick with your board at all times. Paddle or swim sideways (parallel to the beach), and try and catch little running waves to take you out of the rip. When you’re experienced, you’ll learn to use the rip to your advantage to get out through the breaking waves.

Keep away from surfers until you’re competent. 

Remember that a stand up paddle board is like a boat, it’s a large vessel and when it’s out of your control it can be dangerous.
Many SUP boards are too large to be easily duck dived, so if you have to abandon your board you’re going to leave a 21ft area of possible damage behind you (10’ board + 11’ leg rope) – that’s a fair distance.

You can reduce the risk of injuring another person in the water by being aware of who’s around you – visualize the clearance you’ll need if you come off and always keep it clear, especially when paddling up or down the break.

Keep it safe, and give others clearance.

Beware of your leg rope. 

For people that haven’t surfed this is especially important. If you come off your board and you feel your SUP getting dragged by the surf, be careful of it recoiling towards you. Recoil is more likely if the board happens to remain upright as the wave passes. The trick is to take notice of your leg rope –take special note when it’s under tension and then goes slack. We supply long leashes with our SUP boards to reduce the chance of you getting hit by your board on the recoil. If you ever need to change your leash, make sure it’s designed for SUP boarding, as these leashes are slightly thicker and longer (10’ to 12’) than surfing leashes.

We hope this information helps you to keep safe when you first head into the surf. In our next blog we’ll change the tone and discuss the awesome fun you can have from riding waves on your Ripple!

Happy paddle boarding, and stay safe amigos.
Team Ripple.

May 06, 2022 — Matt Roberts