Eight Secrets of SUP
If you're new to the sport of SUP you've proably heard several of the claims people are making about it. Maybe you've heard it's an outstanding "core excercise", maybe you heard it's not as hard to learn as it looks. No matter what you've heard, there's probably a few things that they didn't tell you at the surf shop before you walked out. If you're new to the sport there's doubt you will discover all of this on your own over time, but we thought we'd take the opportunity to share with those of you still considering getting into SUP eight of the little known "Secrets of SUP"
- SUP is exceptionally vulnerable to wind. In fact most people only SUP in still water to light wind conditions. Your standing body catches the wind and acts like a sail making it very difficult to paddle into the wind, and this "body sail" effect causes even moderate breezes to blow you off course or tax your energy fighting it. You'll probably notice that when the wind comes up SUP is generally over for the day. This can give a very narrow window of time for when SUP is good, or even possible at all.
- SUPing in winds stronger than 10-15 mph is only possible in a downwind direction. This means that you will only be able to paddle in the same direction as the wind is blowing, provided the wind is blowing in a side-shore direction. Essentially you will not be able to return to the same location you launched your SUP at. This means that you will need a pickup vehicle to shuttle you back to your launch site. "Downwinding" as this type of SUP paddling is known is also restricted to very specific courses. If your downwind course isn't established and plotted accurately you could end up being blown dangerously far from your intended take out.
- SUPing in offshore winds can be exceedingly dangerous. If the wind in your area has a tendency to blow from the land out to sea it is often times too dangerous to paddle any distance from shore or your launch area. This is complicated if the offshore wind has a tendency to blow suddenly or strongly, this could lead to a situation where you'll require rescue.
- SUPing far from shore in unpredictable wind can lead to agonizing paddles back to your launch. Many times the only solution to dealing with sudden strong winds is to reduce your wind profile by kneeling or sitting on the board and head for shore. With a traditional single bladed SUP paddle this can be a slow and painful slog in lousy water conditions or worst case a self-rescue prone paddling the board with your paddle tucked under your chest.
- Even mildly rough or choppy water makes standing difficult. Simply put, the more rough or choppy the water, even without wind, the more exhausting it is to stand and balance the board. Your legs and core will drain faster and you will be forced to rest. This phenonenom is only exacerbated by shorter or narrower boards which make standing more challenging.
- SUP boards have more in common with surf boards than kayaks. In fact the vast majority of SUP boards on the market are designed for surfing and this design makes them inherently poor choices for flat water paddling or use outside of the surf zone. With few exceptions "Surf style" SUP boards have too much rocker to make them effective flat water paddling tools. The rocker that makes them easy to surf reduces their glide in flat water, making you work harder and spend more energy to paddle the board and keep it at speed. Kayaks on the other hand are not designed to surf, they are designed to plane through flat or rough water, they have flatter planing surfaces and require less effort to paddle to speed.
- SUP is easy to learn but difficult to master. Indeed most people can figure out how to stand on their board in the first day or two of practice. However developing the skills and strength to become advanced paddlers takes a good deal of dedication. Unless you have frequently ideal conditions on a year-round basis, mastering SUP may prove challenging. Owning the equipment and practicing the techniques required to progress means very little if you live in an area where your window of SUP activity is limited by seasonal weather or consistently poor paddling conditions. The more time you can spend out on the water paddling the faster you will learn mastery.
- Everyone sits sometime. It's a simple fact of the sport. You will sit down on your board at some point. Whether it is to rest, or to paddle, everyone sits; no one can stand on a SUP indefinitely. SUP is simply too exhausting, especially in the early learning phases of the sport. Your legs will tire, your feet will cramp, or your core will become spent, regardless you will end up sitting down, and when you do you will wish you had a kayak paddle.