How to Catch a Wave for Stand Up Paddle Boarders

A regular question I get - how to catch a wave?

A few simple thoughts..

-Pick your wave, start to accelerate depending on normal speed or size of incoming wave
Freighter Wave Surfing in Seattle

-Step way back and squat low if a big or fast wave, but not as far back for smaller (3-4' waves)

-Crouch/squat as wave hits you in staggered stance or surfer's stance while accelerating

-Stick paddle in behind you if you can't turn as a rudder to go down wave straight or lean/carve as needed to turn

-Walk up to nose when wave gets small and loses power (wax forward deck)

-With some speed still on the wave, pull a cross bow turn (but static blade, like a rudder) to spin in a 180 back around to paddle out.

- If you fall, fall flat away from the board. Put your hands up first above the surface if you don't know where you board is. Flip board over to deck up, determine if you have time to get on or need to duck dive under the next wave. If duck dive, let your board go, hold onto your paddle at the handle then duck dive under. Don't hold on to the board handle or leash, you can break your fingers.

If you have time to get on, don't stand up unless you know you can. Otherwise kneel or sit, turn around, paddle out, stand up if you can.  Sitting or kneeling, don't hold paddle handle, choke up to hold middle of paddle. Prone (on chest) out if strong onshore winds make it difficult stand.

-Step on tail while paddling over incoming waves paddling out. very common for folks to stop paddling when they go over a wave. Stay low going over waves - don't rise up.

-If you get tippy - paddle.  don't rise up and put your blade above your head and/or try to balance - get low and paddle.  

A few extra safety tips -
- In the line-up waiting for waves, if slow, sit and talk to the prone surfers vs towering over them.

- Never take a wave if others are paddling out directly towards you (and/or if your turning skills suck while surfing).

- Don't hog waves. If that long boarder has been waiting for wave for 20 min, give that perfect wave to him/her, don't jump on it.  Give a wave, make a friend (the opposite isn't worth it).

- Stay within your skill level.  If you can't handle a 5' wave, stay on smaller waves until you're ready.

- Always check our leash and fin before going out with a tight jerk.

**I have surf camps coming up this summer on the beautiful Washington Coast. Give me a holler or check my site for details

The photo is freighter wave surfing on Puget Sound in Seattle. Board is a 14' Imagine Connector

 Any questions give me a holler. Join my mailing list! Contact me: /     206.465.7167 - Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - Beginning to advanced instruction including freighter and tug wave surfing, coastal surfing, rivers and racing, plus PSUPA Certification.


Mike Chirlston said…
I remember catching my first wave on a SUP. Well, I remember falling off my board a lot when I tried to catch a wave for the first time. It was worth it though. Good article with some good advice. Thanks.
Mike, Thanks for your support. Falling is important as many beginners think falling is a fail. I've heard that a few times already this week! But falling flat and away from the board to avoid injury and of course with a leash to avoid a loose board issue.

Some fall intentionally at the beginning of their surf sessions to get 'warmed up' for their session. Getting wet reduces a lot of anxiety.