It is really important to realise that stand up paddleboards have the potential to do a lot of damage (both physically, and to the sport’s reputation!!) in the surf line up. They are big and long, and on long leashes. To a regular surfer they look HUGE, scary – and unwelcome. They also enable us to get more than our fair share of waves. So it is vital that SUP surfers behave responsibly – especially over the next few years, while we go through the transition from being a novelty, to a normal part of the line-up.

Once you join the surf line-up it is vital that you obey the normal rules and etiquette of surfing:

  • keep your board under control
  • don’t drop in on people (i.e. paddle onto a wave that someone else is already riding)
  • don’t snake people (turn so as to take a wave that someone else has already set up for)
  • don’t surf dangerously.

As well as these fundamentals, there are some other important safety issues specifically for SUP surfing:

  • Start slowly in the surf, going to places with easy, small waves where there are FEW people, if any, around you.
  • Always wear a leash – this will stop your board becoming a weapon when you fall off.
  • NEVER paddle out into a busy line up – the beauty of SUP is that you don’t need the most perfect wave to have fun.
  • Paddle further down the beach, away from the crowds. There you will most probably find your own, empty wave.
  • With a SUP board you can catch a lot of waves. This does not mean you should. Be nice and if you are surfing close to others let them have their fair share of waves. There is always another one coming. Don’t be a wave hog. You and SUP surfers in general won’t be welcomed back.

We would also strongly recommend:

  • Positive discrimination – Make a point of giving waves to the surfers on occasion. Even if it’s a good one, tell them to go for it (in good time, so they can). Unless they’re a real piece of work, they’ll be stoked by your generosity, and now at least one other person in the line-up thinks you’re OK. Indeed, next time they’ll probably call you onto one!
  • Social skills – Talk to the other surfers in between the sets. Call the sets when you see them coming. Congratulate a great ride. If you get in anyone’s way, apologise. Be friendly. If you get stink-eye in return, don’t bite back – let it go. You tried. It’s all so easy to do, and it’s so well worthwhile if it changes the mood in the line-up. It’s always a huge breakthrough when you get your first hoot (of appreciation) from a surfer!

The SUP SAFE Courses

To learn much more about all aspects of paddleboarding safety why not check out our SUP SAFE courses? You can do them online (completely free!) or with one of our trained SUP SAFE course presenters around New Zealand.