Beginner SUP Surfing Technique and Etiquette Tips for 2021

Don’t let @kookoftheday discourage you, SUP surfing is an absolute blast. Not only will you end up getting more waves per session, but they will often be bigger, longer, and cleaner rides. However, before you go charging out into your local lineup, these beginner SUP surfing tips for 2021 will help you find your flow and avoid a nasty wipeout.

Beginner SUP Surfing Tips Black Project 2
Beginner SUP Surfing Tips Black Project

Know Before You Go

Abiding by Surfline’s motto is always a wise decision, but especially if you’re a beginner SUP surfer. Before you even think about packing up your board, paddle and leash, you need to look up the ocean conditions for both the time and place you want to surf. There are several sites that offer detailed condition reports, forecasts and live cams––Surfline, Magic Seaweed and even the NOAA Buoy Data Center are all great options.

Once you’ve confirmed the waves are within your personal limits (nothing above three-foot waves if you’re a beginner), you’ll still want to watch the waves in-person for a few minutes before paddling out. While you might be eager to hop on your board and go, spending a few extra minutes watching how the waves are breaking, what the current is doing, and where the other surfers are will benefit you throughout your entire session.

Lesson: Always check the surf conditions before paddling out.

Beginner SUP Surfing Tips Black Project

Don’t Piss Off the Locals

There’s probably countless reasons why traditional surfers have cast standup paddle surfers as the black sheep of the ocean. But by far the biggest reason is that inexperienced SUP surfers have a terrible tendency of paddling into crowded surf lineups, taking off in front of everybody, and having a complete and utter yard sale. Whatever you do out there, don’t be that guy.

Like it or not, surfers were there first and long ago established strict rules of ettiequte. It may seem silly to non-surfers, but it maintains order and keeps things operating safely and smoothly in the water. As a SUP surfer, respecting local lineups (and their rules) is an absolute must.

Here’s a few etiquette rules to keep in mind for your next paddle-out:

1. Don’t be constantly paddling in and out of the lineup. Sitting down between rides will not only help you blend in, but will also reduce your fatigue and allow for longer sessions.

2. Don’t be a wave hog. Just because you can catch that beautiful outside set wave, that doesn’t mean you should catch it. Letting a few prime waves roll past will go a long way towards keeping the peace between paddlers and surfers.

3. Beginners should seek out breaks with less people in the water and gentler waves. Paddleboards are much heavier than regular surfboards and wiping out in front of other people can cause serious injury.

Lesson: Be mindful of other surfers and always follow basic surf etiquette. 

Beginner SUP Surfing Tips Black Project 4

Standup Paddling Through Whitewater

Paddling out through whitewater and incoming waves is the most challenging (and frustrating) part of SUP surfing. While flopping around in the impact zone can be discouraging, with the right technique and lots of practice, your paddles from the beach to the lineup gets easier.

To simplify your paddle-outs, let’s break it down in three simple steps.

1. Paddle hard towards the wave at a perpendicular angle in a staggered stance.

2. As the whitewater approaches, shift your feet into your natural surf stance.

3. Once the whitewater reaches you, add some weight to your back leg to lift the nose of your board up and over the whitewater. Simultaneously, plant your paddle on the top of the whitewash and stroke hard to power through the whitewater and then brace as you go over it.

Lesson: Paddle into the whitewater head-on and don’t get discouraged. 

Beginner SUP Surfing Tips Black Project 2

Catching and Riding Waves on a Standup Paddleboard 

Now that you’ve made it to the lineup, the real fun begins. But just like paddling out, successfully catching waves on SUP is going to take some time. To ensure you’re not missing out on dreamy rides, there’s a few key points to remember.

1. Short and quick paddle strokes are critical to getting into waves. These high-cadence and powerful strokes are what produce enough speed to get into the wave. For an additional boost of speed, pump your front foot up and down in sync with these quick strokes.

2. Turn into the wave as it approaches so you are in the right position. This means paddling parallel to the wave before taking a few hard strokes (either left or right depending which direction you want to go on the wave) to turn towards the beach as the wave gets close.

3. The right stance is essential to being able to maneuver your board. As the wave approaches, start in a staggered stance and generate speed with your chopped stokes. Once you are in position to catch the wave, switch into your surf stance and get ready to make your first bottom turn.

4. Once you’ve caught the wave, use your paddle to push and pull yourself through your turns. You can paddle forward to help with speed and control, and push or pull on the paddle to add power in the turns.

Watch more SUP Surfing tips on our YouTube channel. 

Lesson: Quick strokes and proper positioning is key to catching waves. 

Beginner SUP Surfing Tips Black Project

Upgrading Your SUP Surfing Equipment

If you think you’re gonna paddle out on your Costco iSUP and catch some sweet rides, you’re going to be disappointed. Equipping yourself with quality SUP surfing gear––board, paddle, fins and leash––will not only help you improve quicker, but also can prevent injuries and reduce fatigue so you can enjoy longer sessions.


When choosing your first SUP surfboard, you’ll want a board that is buoyant and stable. This means a board in the eight- to ten-foot range, approximately 30 inches wide and with a volume of 140 to 200 liters. It’s also important to have enough rocker–the bottom curve of the board from the nose to the tail–so that you don’t bury the noses at the bottom of every wave.


When it comes to surf paddles, bigger is not better. The ideal paddle is one that allows you to crank out short, high-cadence, and powerful strokes for both catching waves, paddling out and maneuvering on the wave. Shorter paddles and smaller blades are ideal for these quick strokes, while simultaneously reducing fatigue so you can enjoy longer sessions and ultimately––catch more waves.

Based on this philosophy, our Surge surf paddle is specifically designed to deliver exceptional power, blade stability with an optimized flex for SUP surfers. It will allow you to paddle harder into waves, enhance your board control, and also protect your body from injury during longer sessions. Our proprietary scooped dihedral blade technology securely holds water through the power phase, eliminating lateral blade movement and delivering force in a smooth, efficient manner.

For recreational SUP surfers looking to save money without sacrificing performance, our Lava is a premiere paddle that can do it all. Utilizing the same DNA as the Surge, the Lava features the scooped dihedral blade technology, a power ridge to boost durability, and 90% 3k carbon construction to significantly reduce its weight. It delivers exceptional paddle performance for those looking to surf today, tour tomorrow, and race on the weekend.

Lesson: Set yourself up for success with high-quality SUP surfing equipment.

We’ll see you on the water.

Need help choosing a paddle?