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HOME arrow FEATURES arrow Is Prone Paddle Surfing a Pre-Requisite for Stand Up Paddle Surfing?
Is Prone Paddle Surfing a Pre-Requisite for Stand Up Paddle Surfing? PDF Print E-mail
By: Stand Up Paddle Surfing Magazine   
Friday, 02 October 2009

There's no question that stand up paddle surfing is one of the greatest water sports on the planet. With the right equipment and instruction, anyone can have a successful experience on the water. For many, it seems that the natural progression of things for those who live near the ocean, is to eventually take their skills to the waves and stand up paddle surf.

Now, the question has been raised, do you need to know how to prone paddle surf before stand up paddle surfing in the waves? Let's look at an imaginary friend named Joe as a case study and discuss. Like always, your comments at the end of this article are always welcome. 


 
Joe fell in love with the sport of stand up paddling about 18 months ago and was instantly hooked. Any spare time he has included a drive to the oceanfront to paddle out in a protected inlet sheltered from the waves and current of the ocean. 
 
Joe became quite an accomplished flat water stand up paddler. His balance was sharp. He could sink the tail and do 180 kick turns with ease. He could paddle comfortably in a surf stance and could really do some impressive stuff in the harbor.
 
After several months of paddling in the calm waters of the bay, he decided to venture out beyond the inlet to paddle in the rough waters of the open ocean. Upon venturing out on the ocean, he found that he had a whole new skill set to learn and master. Balance was more difficult with the waves, wind, and current, but Joe was fairly athletic and determined to learn. He had seen some videos and knew it was possible to have excellent board control in rough water. 
 
Over the next few months, Joe refined his skills on the open ocean. Even when the waters were rough and choppy, and the wind was blowing, Joe could keep control of his board and had developed enough muscle strength to power through the wind and get to his destination. 
 
Having become a skilled paddler in both the flat water and open ocean, out of curiosity, Joe picks up a new board...a little one shaped primarily for surfing. Again this board pushed Joe to the next level of balance and ability. With time, Joe is able to control his new board masterfully in any ocean conditions. He even went off and caught some little waves all by himself on an occasion or two on a day when nobody was out and when the water was rough.
 
Now, here's the question... Is Joe ready to approach a lineup and start catching waves? 
 
He has excellent board control in all conditions. He's "put in his time" and "paid his dues" as a flat water paddler. He has a strong grasp of the core skills that he feels he'll need in the lineup. He's watched countless videos of stand up paddlers riding waves, and has even spent a great deal of time watching stand up paddle surfers at his local break.
 
Is Joe ready to approach a lineup and start catching waves?
 
NO.
 
Although Joe has masterful board control, he does not have the experience of being in a surf lineup. He doesn't understand the ebb, flow, and rotation of the surfers. Even though he has read books about proper surfing etiquette, he has very little first hand experience padding out, getting caught inside, avoiding oncoming surfers, managing the current, and judging wave height and power.
 
He doesn't know what it's like to get dropped in on by an overly aggressive surfer, or to be repeatedly snaked by that guy sitting on the outside with the really big board. He isn't able to see the shortboarders on the inside who are also waiting for their turn to get waves.
 
He doesn't see and understand all of the take of zones in a lineup. Joe has never experienced riding a high speed wave with control. He doesn't understand who has right of way when he's riding a wave or paddling out. Joe doesn't understand that surfing isn't only about the waves.  
 
Although his intentions are good, and he's non-aggressive by nature, if he were to enter a lineup, his ignorance and unpredictable behavior would make him dangerous to both himself, and more importantly to those around him. And, the most scary part is, Joe would never know it.
 
He would go about doing what he thought was the right thing to do in the lineup, and even if someone were to regulate, and tell him to change his behavior, he wouldn't even know what he was doing wrong. 
 
The result would be tension in the lineup from disrespectful and dangerous behavior by a stand up paddler who didn't know any better, anti-stand up paddle sentiments, a blanket label that all stand up paddlers are kooks, and a stereotype about all stand up paddle surfers that is near impossible to break. 
 
What is the solution?
 
Before you take you approach any surf lineup as a stand up paddler, learn how to prone paddle surf. Don't just go out once or twice, spend at least one or two surf seasons (not sessions) learning how to surf prone paddle. It's a whole new world from the point of view of a prone surfer, and it's your responsibility to learn it and become part of it do that you don't ignorantly invade it.
 
Not only will you make friends in the lineup, you will understand the lineup from the inside out and have the knowledge you need to surf safely and considerately.
 
Now back the question... Is prone paddle surfing a pre-requisite for stand up paddle surfing?
 
In our opinion, it's a resounding, YES! 
feed13 Comments
rick
April 02, 2012
76.116.136.165

I proned surf for thirty years on the same east coast beaches. After a lower back injury I no longer could lift my head for long periods of time and my surfing, while not great, just got painful..

Fast forward ten years later and my sup has got me back into the water and surfing again..I have major credentials in the lineups and back with my friends...When the surf is small my prone friends and I enjoy the fun and the waves together...However when it gets big I stay out of the better lineups and find a break that may not be as good but I'm out of the way...

The major difference with beginner prone surfers and beginner SUPers is the ability to pull out of a wave while paddling if someone else has the right of way...After two years on my SUP I now have the ability to do this..but it is not easy..With my prone board a quick drag of the legs and you are out..

So please just try to get along...To the new SUPers out there the beauty of the board is that you don't need the best waves to have fun..So have fun, and when it gets big and crowded find your own spot..Its not that hard if you look....

Maikai
January 11, 2012
98.234.48.40

Dated discussion but still so relevant.

Anyone who surfs needs to adopt a healthy respect for SAFETY. If one cannot safely control their equipment & behaviors, please stay away (I suppose this applies to almost anything like driving & other sports.).

Unfortunately, as much as surfing should be all about the stoke, living in a litigious society, and/or a place with populated surf breaks equates to increased stakes.

It helped me to experience various watercraft to gain perspective, learn responsibility for my own actions & equipment, and be aware of the changing surf conditions / equipment / social / operational dynamics.

As we choose to contribute to population growth and associated consumptionism, we also inherently choose to pay the price: be more tolerant / patient / understanding (No choice there, and good for you if you choose to adopt a child / a pet, recycle / reuse your gear, blabla...).

Even if I happen to be surfing by myself, someone still pays the price for unsafe behavior (I am not naming names, but some KOOK hurt himself in some isolated place up in norcal and somehow still managed to hold his SUP manufacturer responsible.).

Here's what I think I've learned so far:
1. Safety first.
2. Equip myself with gear I can control.
3. Gaining perspective from different conditions means learning respect / patience / tolerance / understanding. Don't just bodyB, kayak, LB, SUP or SB and think you "get it."
4. Right-of-way is only valid when it is yielded to me. I am OK with sharing, but only when the surfer dropping in on me can control his gear & not kook out.

Noway in heck can I control an SUP or LB. I can barely control my SB. See you in the lineup. Aloha folks!

Surfer Steve
December 29, 2011
86.15.175.75

If you surf a short board (surf not sup) then chances are that both your skill level and fitness are quite high. You choose to ride this type of board because it is challenging and rewarding, enabling you to pull maneuvers not possible on bigger boards.

The trade off however is that you have to take the waves late as the size of the board dictates that a steep face is required to power the short board. Conversly a larger board will paddle much faster and therefore be able to get into waves much sooner. The reason shortboarders get fed up with poeple on larger boards is by the time the waves reach them there is quite often someone already riding the wave. This person probably didn't even see the shortboarder so how is he / she to know whether to let some waves pass for other people to ride, this is one reason longboarders and shortboarders surf different spots.

There are already too many people at most surf spots which is why I now also sup, and as the article suggests I use the extra power to take me round the headland or to a spot I wouldn't be able to reach on my surfboard. This is the norm for surfers who also sup.

Surfing is hard, shortboarding is hardest, when you spend many years perfecting your skills to ride certain breaks and someone inexperienced comes along and gets in the way it is very annoying. The respect part has been mis understood, it's understanding, you can't understand something if you know nothing about it. I've been surfing over 25 years but wouldn't dream of paddling my sup into waves where competent surfers are riding.

It's like turning up at a BMX track with a motorcross bike, they are both bikes but you just don't do it.

Randalls comments that sup has changed everything are quite frankly naive and narrow minded, they might have changed everything for him but have some consideration for those who have spent their life honing their surfing skills, our time is also precious.

Andre
March 24, 2011
98.247.170.134

Super interesting conversation. Im pretty new to SUP and have never been a surfer (though spent a lot of time in the waves growing up boogie boarding and body surfing). So my surfing skills are still rough and I dont go near any real line-ups, yet. But as I get better, I know I am going to want to be challenged by more and better breaks. And I really dont want to deal with what I consider to be often "assholish" behaviour by many prone surfers.
I do hope that the nature of SUP allows for surfing less desirable breaks and getting a lot out of them.

Marie-Claude
September 08, 2010
67.68.224.236

wow I just feel like I will be surfing in my next life with all that hierarchy going on. ''pay your due with a boogie board first'' oufff.I can feel the fast growing seed of respect in me...just reading that!!!! I feel that some just don't understand that respect is not something you impose on others but something you inspire and earn... both ways. Likewise in other spheres of life, the ground perhaps, there are stupid People (jerks) everywhere with no manners that have lethal attitudes. I totally understand that.I also understand like most of us who are craving the waves, that before entering an occupied playground it is respectful to first stand there and watch and figure what you are getting yourself into. Talk to people (ya communication my friend)and ask about level and stuff like you would do if you saw a bunch of guys trowing the football in a parc and wanted to join but I wouldn't want to have to throw a foam ball on the side of the field for 2 years to earn respect, neither ride my car on small roads for two years before being worthy of the highway. If I am in the wrong spot I rather have the ocean tell me to get the freeze out of there than be told to boogie board for 2 years. Some have to act like they look...cool.Stop acting like the ocean is totally yours. Be nice too.

That being said, I find the article above very clear about all the work I still have to achieve if i ever want to make it out there before I am too old.

Thanks...I love cool people who makes nice things.

Marie-Claude

no_paddles_in_the_lineup
August 23, 2010
24.23.248.246

99.9% of SUP riders do not belong in lineups with prone paddle-in (aka "regular") surfers, PERIOD.

Yes, expert kayakers and riders of various craft can safely share a line-up with surfers, but 99.9% of SUP riders today DO NOT QUALIFY as such, and the majority of them NEVER WILL.

Those of you who consider SUP presence in a lineup to be "just another board" and think that there is no difference between a SUP and a short-board sharing a peak and a long-board and a short-board sharing a peak are simply flat-out dead wrong.

If you absolutely must crack line-ups on your SUP, containing people on short-boards and long-boards, pay your dues with them on a boogie board first, so you know how the break works.

You are otherwise an accident waiting to happen, in almost every case.

stableroad
December 29, 2009
24.94.78.247

SUP's without knowledge of surf and surf protocol are totally hazardous. It's a weapon that is dangerous and being around other surfers while learning is totally wrong...even if you know how to surf. I am a regular short, long and SUP surfer. My break at Kanaha is a nighmare now because of beginner SUP surfers out trying to learn to SUP. Plus all the good SUP guys have NO respect for the pack of surfers waiting for waves too. Spandex wearing SUP guys rotating endlessly and then dropping in on you and straight lining. It's bad....it's a lost cause. I won't SUP when surfers are active in a section - there is too many other options to go to. SUPPERS DON'T PADDLE OUT TO A PEAK WITH SURFERS - MOVE ON AND SHOW RESPECT!

jeffery Corning
October 08, 2009
68.113.38.6

I don't agree with the prone surfing for 2 seasons as a lesson for sup.

Beginners are beginners regardless of what they ride. They don't belong at crowded technical breaks but easy beach breaks that are not to crowded should be safe for them to learn in.

I introduce newbees to the sport all the time. My daughter has no surf experience but yet on her first day she was able to paddle a 9 foot board out thru the breakers. She learned to paddle outside the breakers and then started surfing. No real skills but she managed to stay out of everyones way and have a good time.

I did have her prone paddle the sup in the surf for a while before I turned her loose on it. Not 2 seasons.

I would recommend some prone paddling before suping in the surf to get used to the zone and this can be done on your paddle board.

The other thing I don't agree with is giving shoulder hoppers the wave when you are in the peak. Surfing 101 says the person in the peak has the right of way. I am not saying take everywave but it seams like the counters forget we are catching waves they can't even get in. Then when we are in position for a bomb we are supposed to say go for it. Not.

I keep my distance from most at a beachbreak by not standing near others. A little space so I am not crowding them out. I still get the whiners but from what I can see these are the folks snaking the others also, so I just ignore them.

surf well, recognize your ability or lack of before you paddle out in the "a" lineups, and give the lineup a little room. Should be good for all.

BillyD
October 07, 2009
222.153.69.182

There's a fundamental point being missed here. We SUPpers don't need to go out into an already busy line-up. Yes, for sure, an inexperienced SUP in an already packed and stressed line-up is simply a recipe for disaster. However, rather than suggesting that said SUPper should get themselves a Mal or something and go out there to learn the rules, as a different sort of kook but still adding to the congestion, the sensible thing (and certainly what we do with all our SUP newbies) is take them to play somewhere else. We can go further down the beach, further out around the point, whatever. Work that slightly more onshore break, because we've got the extra speed to be able to use it and rip it. SUP gives us the opportunity to find our own breaks, reducing crowd tension rather than adding to it. The opportunity should be taken (and taught!) as much as possible.

sagi
October 06, 2009
63.197.190.57

It is not such a big challenge to teach "line up fundumentals" to those who are coachable, and got the aloha spirit, we at STANDING ON WATER instruct begginers and long time surfer how to behave at the line up, we find one simple rule, a hogger is a hogger,in and out of the water, the transformation should be in all pilars of life..

Sabrina
October 06, 2009
69.43.155.250

I don't get what the heck the difference is between a clueless prone surfer and a clueless stand up surfer. What? The other prone surfers will like you better, WHO CARES!

Brent
October 03, 2009
75.213.184.95

I surfed through my teenage years and early 20's and now in my early forties have taken up SUPing. Frankly, as many articles suggest, SUP is the same as long boards are to rippers, and as boogies are to everyone. SUP'ers are the newbies in the lineup- no matter how many years of prone experience you have and how much aloha you surf with, or how much respect you put out their..expect serious vibing unless you you share profusely- or better yet, find a near empty break and give away waaaay more than you take. Another tip, even if tradition says that a wave is yours, if someone else drops in, give it away. It is going to be a while, a long while before the pronies welcome more traffic from anyone, let alone bigger boards, in the line up. For Socal, try 3rd point at Malizoo, C-Street, Latigo or Dume if you can get in. Above all us, surf with Aloha- just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Randall
October 03, 2009
75.175.35.131

These are great ideas and would probably work, but SUP has changed everything. Most people don't have the time or opportunity to take 2 years to learn prone paddling before they venture into the surf. The reality is that beginners will be in the line-up, even if they are too clueless to even know that's what it's called. And it's not just going to be "Joe" on an SUP. Janet, Baby Julia, their dog Spot and all of their friends are going to be playing in the surf on their SUPs. So, yea - maybe it sucks, but times are changing. The surfers (SUP included) who are after challenging surf and big waves are probably going to be able to expect the traditional surf rules to apply. But if the waves are small and the break is accessible, expect the crowds.


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