Standup Paddle Surfing
by Rob Munro (Naish Africa)
Maui has always been a steering pot for a lot of different surfing and windsurfing trends. Some of them grew up to be bigger, like kiting and some stayed in a niche. But all of them have something in common – they are fun.
The group around watermen like Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Robby Naish, Buzzy Kerbox or Shaun Ordonez socialized paddle surfing and brought it to an extreme level. In the past years, especially in summer time, you were able to see people paddling down the coast on oversized longboards mostly driven by Laird Hamilton and some of his friends this new sport combined traditional hawaiian canoe paddling with long board surfing. It didn’t take long to gain momentum on Maui and Oahu, partly as a great opportunity to get away from crowded surf spots as well as a work out when doing downwinders along Mauis prestige north shore stretch while surfing all the spots on the way down to Kanaha.
Several major surfing publications also picked up the trend and by now you can see stand up surf boards on cars from Maui to California, South Africa, Australia, Japan and Europe’s coast line.
Various surf and windsurf brands have taken on the trend and profit from their excperience in producing durable higher volume sandwich boards. The open mind of the windsurfing industry towards various facettes of the sport and the ability to use stand up boards also for longboard sailing in waves and flatwater brought this part of the water sport industry a bit closer together. In the end people like Robby Naish, Dave Kalama, Laird Hamilton and many others are simply adicted to being in the water with the right toys. Open mind is the key word there again that allows for such a great development.
What can Stand Up Surfboards do?
As usual what we can see in the first outgoing media is already the tip of the iceberg but I don’t know many other sports where the versatility is so obvious. Sure, the surfing part is core, popular and on the top of the list right now but it is amazing how many fun facettes there are.
- The surfing part; Most hip right now. Stand up surfing gives a new aspect not only to old time surfers but also to first timers. Standing up on the board to begin with you see the waves easier as you are higher up, You are faster to get to the right position in the lineup, earlier on the wave and last but not least it is easier to get to uncrowded spots. As a general rule you should stay away from crowded surfing lineups or if you are good enough at least show the proper respect and share waves. This is the most important factor. There is enough room in the ocean that we can coexist with everybody else who is having fun out there.
- Core training and distance paddling; The famous paddle board Molokai – Oahu Channel crossing sets the hard core example for the next way to use the boards. Distance paddling is kind of like going for a walk on the water. In some locations like Maui we race downwind trying to catch the open ocean swells and surf them by connecting as many glides as possible. But even in flatwater or no wind locations this is an amazing core workout exercise that is social at the same time. You can be racing each other (and you will be surprised to find out that it is more technique to go fast then actual power) or just being on a leisure cruise to check out the beach front properties – it schools your balance at the same time as strenghtens your body and joints.
- And not to forget windsurfing. A lot of areas all around the world offer great surf but only light wind. Stick a rig on your stand up board and you will be able to catch waves and surf in conditions and places you have never imagined before. The almost lost tranquillity of just gliding along and checking out whats going on around you was almost lost to the high strung performance of modern windsurfing. With stand up paddling the balance should be restored again. I am not saying it is the perfect travel item but Windsurfing has always been connected to a certain frustration whenever the wind fails to cooperate. Now I don’t even raise my eyebrow anymore as I can be sure to have something to do that will definitely be fun. The fact that you catch waves not only helps your normal surfing but also improves your wavesailing and most importantly your wave judgment.
Product development in Stand up surfing is blooming right now. The big advantages for the end-consumer are obvious as there is so much heritage of knowledge in both construction as well as shaping.
Here is a brief look into what’s happening in terms of development:
There is certain tendencies that are naturally to any development of something new. More defined directions are addressed and things will get partly more specialized for a while. At the same time the classic longboard style is setting the pace as the most universal shape for a wide variety of applications from pure stand up surfing to core workout paddling. Those boards have the advantage to perform in anything really well. They might not be the fastest boards for downwinders and not the absolute top notch in pure surfing but they do everything well. Right now the range from 10’0’’ to 12’’ with a width between 28 and 31”. This, for m,e is the best choice as you get a board that is fun in everything. With step rails and thinner tails even the biggest of those boards get very responsive, stable and easy to ride.
In pure surfing there is a lot of development towards shorter boards. Again they have certain advantages and disadvantages. The shorter you go the less momentum the board keeps when paddling in a wave. On the other hand you can surf more hollow waves and the maneuverbility in terms of turning on a wave gets more sportive. They are usually harder to ride as they require more balance. The fins are also smaller to loosen the boards up even more. Right now the development ranges around 9 to 10’ with widths around 27 3/4/ to 29. Quad fin setups are also getting popular on those shapes as they provide a lot ot thrust combined with great turning when done right.
As stand up paddling allows you to catch waves extremely early it is also a great platform for bigger waves. Currently there are more and more prototypes showing up that are going more towards classic gun outlines ranging from 11’ to 13’ – they feature a pointier nose and a pintail together with faster rockerlines and thruster fin setups. They allow to drop into much bigger waves early and still have the control on the face of the wave due to their gunnier outline and the smaller tail. Width wise they range between 27’’ and 29”. I expect to see solid big wave surfing with those boards as you can cruise the outside reefs without the need of a jet ski.
In certan places a stand up racing scene starts to develop as well. Coming from a paddle board background which is extremely strong in Hawaii, Australia and California long distance paddles are popular and you can see some boards being designed specifically for that. They are usually longer ranging up to 16’ and very narrow at about 27” to 28” with a partly strong v- bottom and a very fast and flatter rockerline. I would call them specialist boards as they are pretty much limited to paddling in a straight line and do not offer the option to surf.
In terms of construction stand up surfing profits a lot through the windsurfing industry as the used constructions are already proven for so long that they can be directly applied to stand up boards. Weight plays a slightly different role in stand up surfing then in windsurfing as it is not necessarily a bad thing as slightly heavier boards keep more momentum than lighter boards which makes it easier to catch waves and to keep speed. The goal is to reach a combinaton of best durability, comfortable weight to carry and the right shape.
All in all I believe that all this development of custom boards will benefit the production boards. The beauty of this sport is that you can get away with one board that does it all. The goal in development is to make those boards easy to ride no matter if you are surfing or just paddling around on a lake for exercise or to cruise around with friends. Looking at the sport at this point I think that there will always be the surfing part which is the core of the development. At the same time I can see that it is taking a certain place as a outdoors workout trend – kind of like nordic walking on water. Being on the water, gettting a full body core work out and being able to be social at the same time is not combined in too many sports nowadays but stand up paddling is definitely making its way right in there.
It is easy to get into Stand Up Paddling and a lot of you may think that R7000-8500- is a lot for a board, but it’s still cheaper than the average kite and you only need one! Then you also need a board and a harness, so not so bad after all hey?
Demos, Clinics and Lessons are available from the following Naish SUP Centers::
The Cape Dr HQ shop @ 64 Blaauwberg Road, Tableview
Lifestyle Surf Shop – Muizenberg
Friday Island – Langebaan
The Paddle Center – Fishoek
Check out the Naish gear @ www.naishsurfing.com or www.naishafrica.com. Also the great video presentation of SUP @ www.naish.tv