Home | Doug Silva | Surfing | Kitesurfing | SUP | Windsurfing | Pros | About | FAQ

Beginner Tips

I’ve been teaching my friend @beau how to SUP, both downwind and waves, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience for me, and I suspect that it might have helped me get #1 in my division and 23rd overall in the Maui Olukai Race this year. Here’s a few of tips I’ve given Beau, plus a few nice intro videos from Annabel Anderson below.

  1. Keep the paddle shaft vertical if you want to go straight. That means that your top hand is well over the water, and the blade is close to the board. You can try exaggerating having your hand over the water. When you do this, you’ll need to counterbalance by putting pressure on the opposite leg.
  2. Keep arm bend to a minimum. Watch some good paddlers stroking. They hardly bend the arms. Do other sports to build up your biceps.
  3. Flex the ankles. Keep the knees supple. Telling Beau to bend his knees wasn’t working. Ankles flexible and butt closer to heels got some of the stiffness out.
  4. Use the right equipment. We got Beau started on a 9’5 2014 Naish Mana and an adjustable Naish carbon paddle. The adjustable paddle will be nice for when his wife wants to try out the SUP. The board is floaty and stable enough that it was easy for Beau’s first board. It’s also nimble enough to have fun in the gentle waves of Maui’s south shore.
  5. Wave judgment is probably the toughest part of dealing with surf. There’s no substitute for this other than time on the water.
  6. We did some practice of turning the board around in flat water. That was good for me as well as Beau.

And here’s a few videos that are helpful. In the video on carrying equipment, carrying the board on your head is suggested for longer walks. However, in Maui, we sometimes have very windy conditions, and carrying a board on your head can be very precarious. And when loading boards on a car, it’s critical to be careful when it’s windy. In other words, don’t leave a board unattended on a roof rack in windy conditions, or else you might hear the sound of crunching carbon very soon.

Lesson 1: Equipment

Lesson 2: On the Water

Lesson 3: Transporting Your Boards

@justin What do you think the ideal board width is for a beginner? I’m thinking 31-33". My first board was a first generation C4 BK Pro that was 27" wide. If the water surface was smooth it was fine, but if it was the least bit bumpy, it was a challenge to not fall, especially because I was learning in a dumpy beach break (El Porto).

A couple tips I would add:

  1. Consider buying ProTeck fins, which has a rubberized trailing edge and could save your skin (literally) if you come down on them, which is very likely if you are pushing yourself in the waves. I broke mine pretty quickly but enjoyed them while they lasted. Expensive.
  2. Don’t go out if it’s windy on your first time - could be tough
  3. Trying paddling out through the waves on your knees at first
  4. Think of your paddle as a locomotion device, as well as the third leg of a tripod when you lose your balance (this is probably more advanced, but conceptually very helpful)
  5. Stay away from prone surfers if at all possible

@steve Definitely a good tip that I missed, which you got, which is to stick your paddle in the water to keep your balance. Width of the Naish Mana 9’5 is pretty ideal: 32".

1 Like

Thanks @justin for all the help! I feel pretty comfortable paddling around on the board now. The hardest part of catching a wave seems to be just switching into the surfer’s stance without wiping out. Every time I try to move my feet around the board I start turning or lose balance, and just get chewed up by the wave. What’s the best way to practice switching from the normal to/from surfer’s stance? Should I think of it like a stepping forward, then stepping back? Or is it more like a quick jump?

@beau I tend to move swiftly from front-facing to surfing stance. Sometimes I do it as the very last minute if I’m paddling late and hard for a wave and feel the need to stay in a forward-facing stance to get a little more acceleration. I will start to accelerate down the face and jump into position, dig my paddle into the face of the wave for stability, and do a bottom turn.

What do you guys think is a good size board for a heavy guy like me 220 lbs?

Hi @zeevgur, what level are you? Here’s a good discussion on boards for bigger guys.

I have solid long board/short board skills, and complete novice on SUP

@zeevgur, you definitely want a wider board while you’re learning to SUP. @beau really likes his Naish Mana 9’5 (32" x 4 3/4" x 163L). I would try out that board along with the with the Naish Mana 10’0. That board is 10’0 x 33" x 4 3/4", 190L, with a recommended max rider weight of 230#. The 9’5 has a suggested max rider weight of 210#, so you’re not too far beyond that.

The Mana boards seem like a really good compromise of fun to ride, yet easy enough to learn to paddle. Enough width and volume are key when you’re learning.