Comprehensive Guide: Intro to SUP Surfing

In Instructional, Spotlight, SUP Surf, SUP Technique, SUP Training by Daniel

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Introduction to SUP Surfing

You feel the energy of the ocean underneath your feet as you paddle through the whitewater. After a few tests of balance, you make it past the breakers into calm water. The sun is on your face, the salt collects over the surface of your body. 

You’re looking at the horizon. And you’re waiting. 

After a few moments when you’ve caught your breath, you see the swell rising in the distance. It’s creeping closer as you make your turn. 

You’re paddling hard now, waiting for the wave to form, to propel you forward in the break. 

The energy rises in your heels and travels up your spine. 

You give one final push, enter the wave, and jump back into a surf stance with your paddle in hand. 

You fly down the line with a huge smile on your face as you gain speed along the shoreline. As you pop out the back of the wave, you can hear others on the water give a hoot and a holler in congratulations for the great ride. 

This is the fun of SUP surfing. And you cannot wait to catch your next wave. 

How This Introduction to SUP Surfing Guide Works

Are you ready to give SUP surfing a try?

Before you head to the water, it’s always a great idea to learn as much about an activity before you give it a go. This way your skills on the water are built upon the correct foundation of knowledge…

To help you start and quickly progress with proper safety. This is important, especially with an activity as difficult as SUP surfing. 

So, instead of fast-forwarding to being on the water and catching a wave, let’s first go backwards, in order to work on the very basics. Ones that will get you from being a complete novice to someone who is competent on the waves. And can enjoy the ocean on small or large days. 

Bonus: If you like to check out our SUP Surfing Gear Guide where we discuss what you'll need while on the water, be sure to check it out as well!

This is your comprehensive beginner’s guide to SUP surfing. 

In it we will cover the foundationational aspects of what makes SUP surfboards different from a regular SUP board. What stance you are and how to figure it out. The nuances of the ocean (wind, tides, point breaks, etc). Common lingo surfers use and what they mean. As well as additional resources for online learning and inspirational videos!

With this resource you can expect to learn all there is to know about SUP surfing before you even get to the beach and attempt a paddle out. 

Just one short notice: The best way you can learn how to SUP surf is through a personal lesson with an experienced SUP surfer. If you would like to look up online classes or instructors in your area, be sure to check out our SUP Search feature. There you can find paddling professionals and outfitters who you can instantly connect with to start your SUP Surfing journey today! 

With that stated, let’s begin…

Getting Started - The Basics

sup surfing

How to Prepare for Your First SUP Surf Session

Many of us don’t paddle in the ocean very often, or we just live too far away. To make the most of your first SUP surf session on your next SUP holiday or surf retreat, here are a few tips from a paddling professional to prepare for your first ride. 

First, SUP surfers require three attributes:

  1. Fitness  
  2. Paddle technique
  3. The ability to read the water

Ultimately, you will need stamina so you can take off on lots and lots of waves to create muscle memory and build your reflexes. This takes time but every wave is a chance to get better! If you’re not super strong, be quick and remember to use your paddle for leverage (see paddle technique) instead of your brute force. Additionally, catching waves takes timing.directional control, the ability to create speed, and trim the board as needed.  

The good news? You can work on all of these in some form even while paddling flatwater. 

Cardio, strength training, mobility, and stretching are all things you can work while on land and on the water at your local paddle spot. 

SUP surfing can be tiring. And you don’t want to get all the way to paradise and get fatigued after your first few attempts. To level up your training you can try entering a local paddle race or start training with friends. By paddling long distances in a race you will dramatically increase your cardiovascular output. And the buoy turns that are often prevalent in each race will require you to move on your board and use your paddle for balance. As well as challenge you to turn rapidly without falling. 

To consistently catch waves requires practice, so being able to paddle hard for a 90-minute or two-hour session is great training. 

To further your fitness here are a few water and land drills you can use today:

  • Technique: If you haven’t taken paddle technique class yet, now is your excuse to do so. Paddling efficiently and with power are great skills to develop for any environment. It also really helps to get home when the wind turns up too! Learning how to use your whole body with every stroke, using your paddle as leverage to drive your board forward while going in a straight line, are great skills to have as a foundation towards catching your first wave. 
  • Fast and Straight: Catching a wave is a lot like catching a train in the old west. You need to be able to go fast as the wave, at the right time, and in the right direction to jump on. And then shift your feet at the right time so you don’t fall off. Practice fast and straight at home and you’ll catch a ton more waves when you head out. 
  • Move Your Feet: Many paddlers who are new to SUP don’t really engage the lower half of their bodies. They’re stiff. Soften up your stance, learn to brace, and practice moving your feet along the centerline of the board. This is a great skill in boat waves too. The ability to move your feet is important no matter what environment you’re paddling in. 
    • To increase your ability - try a short sprint and then step back with one foot and glide. Then repeat. It’s a great drill to practice. Go fast, go straight, and move your feet. 
  • Pivot Turn: Can you turn your board 180 degrees in one stroke? If not, practice! Most of the time you’re going to go for a wave and miss. That’s okay. What might not be so great is if you get caught on the inside. This is the whitewater section where the waves break. You want to be able to get in and out quickly before the next set comes in. It’s turbulent waters there so being able to stop and turn around quickly so you can head back out perpendicular to the oncoming waves is a great skill. 
    • To practice a pivot turn - Practice a sprint, fast and straight, and then step back towards the tail of the board and try to do a 180 degree turn in one or two strokes only. Walk or shuffle back to the center and sprint (this time even faster) back to where you started. This is a great drill to work on both technique and fitness. Both will help you on the water. 
  • Read the Water: Can you tell where the wind is coming from at all times? If not, turn your face until you feel a breeze on both cheeks. This is probably the direction where the wind is coming from. Doubly check by looking at leaves, flags, or anything fluttering in the wind. 
  • Practice Without a Board: If you can go where there are waves, get out in the surf without a board and practice body surfing. Learn what it feels like in the waves and try to catch a few. Get comfortable just being in the waves and being relaxed alone before you add all of the extra gear. 

If you don’t have waves then you can always go to a pool and start swim workouts. These are great for fitness and water comfort. 

  • Eject: Falling is a part of your SUP surfing journey. It’s inevitable. To get comfortable with the motion, you might want to practice ejecting off the back of your board. You can do this at home. Jump off the back of your board, protect your head, land on your back, and if you can, stay underwater and relax for a count of at least 3 to 5. Remember, you have a lot of gear floating around your head and you don’t need to get knocked out on your first ride. Wait a bit, relax under the water, and come to the surface protecting your head. Then, get ready for another ride! 

Note: Ocean waves can be powerful and real time in the waves with a buddy or a coach is always the best way to get comfortable. However, do what you can with what you have and you’ll be better off when you get to that first SUP surf class. 

SUP surfing is a huge part of the sports history. Catching the energy on the water is what SUP is all about. If you can work on your skills at home so you aren’t getting pushed around by the wind and boat wakes, and instead start catching the energy that is out there, your SUP game will explode to the next level! 

The Lingo

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Stoked: Enthusiastic, excited, the feeling of catching the perfect wave brah - you’re stoked! 

Gnarly: Awesome, often used to describe a big wave, rough closeouts, or an extreme ride. 

Quiver: The number/collection of boards owned by a surfer. If you have more than one board, you have a quiver!

Dawn Patrol: Early-morning surf session. Dawn patrols are described by surfers as checking the waves when dawn comes to see if the waves are worth surfing. 

Kook: A beginner, inexperienced, or bad surfer. Kook’s are often described as being clueless to proper surfing etiquette (covered below). Not all beginners are kooks, and not all experienced surfers are not kooks. It’s more based on your actions in the water. Be respectful to everyone in the water with you and you will stay away from the dreaded ‘kook’ label! 

Wipeout: To fall unexpectedly on a wave. 

Inside/Outside: Inside is the place where waves break. Outside is beyond the breaking waves. 

Lineup: The spot in the ocean where surfers lineup to catch waves. This is often the order with which surfers catch waves as well. 

Set: A group of waves in a row. 

Whitewash: The broken section of a wave characterized by white foam. Traditionally, this is what beginners paddle into when they are first starting due to less energy and it is easier to manage. 

Closeout: A wave that breaks all at once with no shape or shoulder to surf. Closeouts usually span a large section of the ocean and break at the same time. 

Backside: When a surfer catches a wave with their back facing the wave. 

Frontside: When a surfer catches a wave with their face towards the wave. 

Barrel: The tube or the curl of the wave. 

Getting Barreled: The act of being covered up by a barreling wave. This is often regarded as the ultimate experience in surfing. To sit in the barrel of a wave and ride it while still being covered by the breaking wave. Other terms used instead of barreled are are pitted, tubed, slotted or kegged.

Duck Diving: The technique of pushing a surfboard underneath and through a breaking wave to get to the outside. When it comes to SUP surfing though, you do not need to duck dive as the board are often way to big and have too much volume to push underneath a breaking wave.

Hang Ten: In longboarding, it means walking to the front of your board while on a wave and curling your ten toes over the nose of the board. 

Lip: The curling part of the wave. 

Pocket: The part of the wave where you should surf if you want to generate the most speed. This is the steepest part of the wave, or the area on the wave that is closest to the curl or whitewash. 

Peak: The spot in the ocean where the wave breaks both waves. Like the peak of a mountain, this is the highest part of the wave. 

Rail: The edge of your surfboard or SUP board. 

Shorebreak: Waves that break directly on the sand or the shore. If they are big, they can be difficult to get over. 

Twin-Fin: A board that has two fins. 

Thruster: A board that has a three fin setup. 

Windswell: A grouping of waves generated by local winds. These can be messy and disorganized. And can break back-to-back in quick succession. 

Groundswell: A swell of waves that has  traveled thousands of miles through the ocean, with a period of 15 seconds or more. These waves usually come in sets as opposed to windswell that break in quick succession. 

Water Etiquette

introduction to sup surfing

There are certain unwritten rules of the water that every surfer, whether you stand on a SUP or sit in the ocean, must follow in order to have a fun, respectful, and most importantly, safe time. 

Follow these and you will not have to deal with any shouting matches in the ocean, or angry locals waiting for you on shore after your session! 

The biggest problem beginners face happens to be who gets to drop into a wave and who doesn’t. 

In order to avoid any problems, it is always best to learn who has the right of way. 

As you spend more time in the water, it will become easier. To get started here is a condensed version…

The fundamental rule in surfing tells us that the surfer closest to a wave's peak gets priority.

If you're paddling for a right-hand wave, and another fellow surfer is on your left shoulder--you must give them first dibs!

The surfer who is furthest or has been waiting the longest is always the next in line for a wave. If you just caught one, paddled out, and want to catch another, make sure you are far enough away from others who are waiting before you snag another. Or simply let them go. 

The surfer who is first to paddle for a wave has priority over others. As well as the first surfer to make it to their feet and into a wave has priority over others. 

Don’t drop in! Generally speaking, it is known in the ocean that one wave is meant for one surfer. Meaning, don’t drop into a wave if you already see someone on it. 

However there is one exception - what is called a party wave. A party wave happens when multiple surfers agree beforehand to catch the same wave at the same time. It’s a fun way to enjoy the experience with the other surfers in the water. It is important to know that a party wave is best enjoyed when all paddlers know before catching the wave, have the skill to handle their boards (turn, change direction) and can read the wave to know which direction to surf to avoid any collisions. Party waves are for the experienced surfer only.  

Don’t snake waves! Snaking waves is a very rude action in the water. It involves paddling around one or more surfers to get closer to the peak and gain priority on the wave instead of allowing other surfers who have been waiting for a chance. It is always best to be patient, there will be another wave for you. 

Always wear your leash! SUP surfboards are big. They’re heavy. And they can be dangerous if they get away from you. To avoid any problems, keep your board tightly tethered to your leg to make sure it doesn’t get away from you and hit anyone in the water. 

Communication is key! Not sure if the wave you see is yours? Ask the other surfers in the water. Let them know that you are paddling for the wave. If the wave is a point break and is breaking left and right, call out to the other surfers in the water which way you plan on going. 

The ocean can sometimes be crowded with surfers. To avoid any problems, follow these unwritten rules while in the water. No matter if you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced, if you can remain respectful to others, you will gain respect from them. 

One last word on becoming familiar with proper water etiquette…

Observation is important. Before you head into the water, watch the lineup on the beach to get an idea of what type of paddler is out there. If you see someone ripping apart a wave, shredding back turns, and flying down the line, you can get the idea this person knows what they’re doing. And possibly the conditions may be too advanced for your skill level. It is always a great idea to stay away from a surfer of this caliber. 

If, however, you see people falling off their boards, struggling with standing, and maybe riding waves straight to shore, then you most likely have a beginner lineup in front of you and this may be more appropriate for your skill level.

That said, when in a beginner lineup, always be aware of any loose boards flying towards you. And make sure the beginner paddlers are aware of surf etiquette or you might be the victim of a water collision. 

If you are brand-new to the sport, it is always a great idea to only surf in beginner spots. To understand where they are - talk to a local pro! Head to our SUP Search section, type in your location, and reach out. 

The Types of Boards

Boards come in all types of shapes and sizes. Each one is specifically crafted to fit the skill level and body type of the rider. 

In order to keep this section short, we’ll be briefly discussing the differences between three categories…

Regular SUP boards, SUP Surfboards, and Surfboards. 

Regular SUP boards, ones that are built for flatwater paddling, beginner lessons, leisurely touring, etc, vary in shape and size. However, they usually fall in the range of 10’4’’ in length up to 12’.

They are often characterized by a square tail and rounded nose. Typically, these boards paddle well in flatwater and can be taken into the ocean to catch some small waves. 

These are the types of boards you will usually see at outfitters used for rentals and beginner lessons. Consider these boards your average, everyday cruiser. 

Compared to regular SUP boards, SUP surfboards are typically smaller in length (anywhere from 7’ to 10’), more narrow (26” to 30”), and will offer more variability in fin count and size (4 fin setups). 

In addition, SUP surfboards have less volume than a cruising board. The length, width, thickness, and shape of a board will determine how much water it will displace, or what is known as its volume. 

Most SUP boards have enough volume to support the weight of the paddler (determined by height, weight, physical shape of the paddler). However, some SUP surfboards are sub-volume and will sink unless the paddler is paddling. This will allow for more performance on the waves but offer a challenge to stand in the water in between sets. 

When it comes to SUP surfboards, It’s always a give and take between stability and maneuverability. You may choose one board shape based on the wave you are paddling or what type of surfing you plan on doing - longboard style, short board style. 

Whichever it is, the volume of a board can be an important number to know when shopping or demoing a board. 

Due to these size restrictions, SUP surfboards do not paddle as well on flatwater due to their decreased size and pointy noses (plus higher amounts of rocker). 

Side note: Rocker is the curve in the board from tail to nose that helps with dropping into waves. The higher the rocker, the more the prevalent the curve, the better it will be to use to drop into a wave without burying the nose. Flatboards will typically be undertaken by the wave if the rider is not standing far back enough. 

Surfboards are characterized by their much smaller shape and size compared to SUP boards. Surfboards can be upwards to 9’ in length, but have much less volume and width. They can also be as small as 5’ in length for shortboards. This is due to the fact that you do not paddle a surfboard standing up with a paddle. Instead, you lay flat and paddle with your arms. 

You can use a SUP board to surf but you cannot use a surfboard to SUP due to the smaller size, shape, and volume. 

Can You Surf Your iSUP?

sup surfing


Like all boards, there are pros and cons:

For experienced paddlers who have developed their reflexes and timing, an iSUP might not have the same speed or maneuverability as a hardboard, but it does have more stability and portability.

However, for the beginner, the converse is true. Inflatable boards tend to ride very high on top of the water and will respond quickly to your stroke. The benefit here is that a beginner who is still working on their comfort in the surf zone can get a quick take-off and, more importantly, turn quickly to get back outside before the next wave on a larger board.

For example, a good starter size for most surf paddlers is a 10'6x 32" (for many but not all riders) so you can be stable enough while learning to maneuver in the surf zone. An iSUP of the same size (once you're comfortable on an iSUP, that is) will have a quicker take-off and shorter turn radius.  

iSUPs with a high sidewall 6” can be tippy in rough water and if you can’t create enough speed to actually catch a wave because you’re not feeling confident enough to dig in and go for it, that may stop your progress right there. 

Low profile iSUPs tend to require more air pressure and more time at the pump but provide stability and maneuverability while you’re learning - can be the best of both worlds plus a bit more forgiving if you fall on it. 

Overall, iSUPs are quick to respond to any energy out there. If it’s from wind or waves pushing you around they can be tricky to handle. But with skill and technique, you can be the energy controlling the board and you'll find an iSUP is a great tool to use on your SUP surfing journey.

Pro Tips:

When you first get into an uncrowded (empty) lineup try catching the first few waves on your knees. You'll be more stable and you can practice getting your timing down, as well as turning and getting out of the way of the next wave while not exhausting yourself by falling in a bunch.  

Anytime you're paddling a new board and/or paddling in a new environment expect 2 to 4  sessions to get used to it.

Break up your sessions with lots of breaks on land and give your sea legs a chance to rest.

Final thoughts -

For the beginner SUP surfer, an inflatable stand-up paddle board can be a great choice while you work your way up the SUP surfing learning curve plus you'll have developed a ton of skills that you will rely on when paddle touring in new environments with moving water.

Choose a high-quality iSUP, take a technique lesson, get a great coach, get out there often, and start building your wave count on your iSUP - charge!

Basic SUP Surf Knowledge

Congratulations! You have made it this far.

Going from flatwater paddling to moving water is a big step up and will be a game-changer for making the most of your time paddling on any body of water.

Stroke technique, being able to move your feet, recognizing the conditions around you, situational awareness, and equipment knowledge are all about to be a big part of your paddling life not to mention a new connection to your water-based life, and every moment on the water going forward. Excited? We are too. Let's get into it.

The Stance - Goofy Foot or Regular Foot

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Before you begin your journey into SUP surfing it is first very important to become familiar with the way you paddle, what side you are stronger on, and how you position your feet once in a wave.

This involves figuring out whether you are a Goofy Foot or Regular Foot. 

What does that mean?

It’s fairly simple…

When you take a step back on your board and move into a surf-style position, do you put your left foot back or your right?

With your left foot back you are considered a Goofy Foot. With your right foot back, a Regular Foot. 

Practice this first on dry land, then move to flatwater until you are comfortable switching stances. 

To get an illustration of the two types of stances, check out this diagram below:

Types of Waves

Beach Breaks: These waves are ones that break over a sandy beach. These are the most common types of waves. They are largely dependent on where the sand is, the shape of the coastline, and the wind direction. Due to these factors, these waves are not entirely consistent as the environment can change over time. 

Point Breaks: When the perfect conditions exist, a point break can create long waves that wrap around headlands and then run along beaches. Point breaks usually have rock, sand, or coral bottoms; they're typically considered by most surfers as the best type of wave you want to ride due to the length of the wave and the way it breaks.

Mushy Waves: Also known as crumbly waves. These waves are perfect for beginners or people who want to learn. They're not too steep, fast, or hollow so you can easily control your board without fear of being caught off guard by the wave's power as it breaks gently. 

Reef Breaks: Reef breaks are created by a reef (often made of coral) under the water. The surrounding water is often quite deep. These types of waves can create some of the best conditions for surfing but also can be known for some nasty injuries. Coral is a hard, jagged, surface and can be dangerous for SUP surfers if they land in a shallow area. Beware of low tide on reef breaks. These are for advanced surfers only! 


Onshore Wind: Onshore winds blow from the ocean toward shore, destroying the quality of waves. 

Offshore Wind: Offshore winds blow from the shore out to the ocean, holding the curl line and smoothing the wave face. Offshore winds are what you want!

How much the wind factors the waves is dependent on the location you plan on surfing in. Often the best times to go surf are during the early morning hours when the winds are light. 

Of course, it is always a great idea to check the wind speed and direction using a surfing app like MagicSeaweed or Surfline. 


On any given day there are three tides paddlers must be aware of. 

One is high tide. 

This is when you will see the waves break at their farthest point up the sand. 

The second is a low tide which is the exact opposite. 

This is when the water is at its lowest point in a marina or at the beach when the water is breaking farther out towards the horizon. 

And in between these tides is a slack tide which occurs one hour on either side of high or low tide, where the water barely moves.

The tides can most certainly affect SUP surfing. Again, this is largely location dependent. If you are surfing a reef break you will need to avoid low tide as it can be dangerous to be in shallow water near a reef. 

However, on most beach breaks with a sandy bottom, high tide can make the waves too mushy to surf. 

Always check the report before heading out. And know the nuances of the break you plan on surfing by contacting a local pro! 

How to Read the Waves

sup surfing

While standing on your SUP surfboard, look towards the horizon. 

As you see a swell coming your way, identify where the peak is. The wave will always start breaking from the peak. The side of the wave with the steepest angle is the direction in which the wave will break, and subsequently, that is the direction you will ride. 

If there is no distinct angle on either side of the peak, the wave will most likely close out. 

As you become more familiar with waves, spend more time in the water, your ability to identify a peak, turn, and surf it will improve. 

Risk Assessments

What to look for:

  • Wave height
  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Number of surfers in the water
  • Is the bottom sand, reef, or rock?

When it comes to SUP, and especially, SUP surfing, always have a plan B. 

Why? Because sometimes the wind, the waves, and the currents can be very difficult to navigate for a beginner. 

If you are first starting out, we recommend only going in waves 1’-2’ in height. With winds under 10mph. And with a nice, sandy bottom. 

If you arrive at the beach with conditions that are slightly above this, always take into account your paddling experience and skill. 

If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t go. 

Wait for another day when you believe your skill level matches the conditions. The best thing to do in these situations is to observe the other surfers in the water. 

As you become familiar with the movements, the etiquette, and the conditions, you can begin to test yourself in bigger conditions. 

Gear for First-Time SUP Surfer

Stand Up Paddle Board: If you are a beginner to SUP surfing, you are going to want to start on a larger board. This depends on your body size and athletic abilities. The larger the board, the easier it will be to balance in the ocean. However, with a larger board you sacrifice maneuverability. The best thing to do is to start at least on a 10’6’’ board and adjust from there. Of course, if you need expert advice or want the opinion of a professional, then be sure to contact your local pro! 

Fins: The type of fins and how many will depend on the board you are riding. Some boards are set up as a single fin only, some a thruster, and some with four fins. To learn more about fin size, shape, and position be sure to reference our previous guide: Fin Size, Shape, and Position Explained

Leash: Always use a straight leash for SUP surfing. Coil leashes work great for flatwater as the leash will not drag in the water behind you. But in the surf, they can cause the board to recoil back to you which is dangerous, and they tend to get very tangled and will be a chore to untangle. Best to use a straight leash in the ocean! To learn more about leashes, refer to our previous article: Straight or Coil Leash for SUP?

Paddles: When it comes to paddles you have a choice of adjustable, cut to your fit, aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. For high-performance surfing you will want to use a cut to fit paddle that is carbon fiber. These paddles are the lightest, most durable paddles on the market and will make paddling for a wave a breeze. If you are just starting out, an adjustable fiberglass paddle will work as well. To learn more about paddles, carbon fiber, and if they’re worth the extra dough, check out our previous article: Carbon Fiber Paddles and Boards - Worth the Hype? 

Wetsuits: Wetsuits offer paddlers the ability to stay in the water for extended periods of time without getting cold. In addition, they offer a slight rise in buoyancy on the water and can add a layer of protection from boards, fins, sandy bottoms, and other hazards. To learn about wetsuits and see a helpful guide to understand what thickness to wear in what temperature be sure to reference our article: What to Wear for Fall and Cold Water Paddle Boarding

Surfing Apps and Reading Reports

In our modern age we are blessed with the ability to check on the surf even before we go out to look at it. 

By downloading a few great apps like Surfline or MagicSeaweed, you will be able to take a look at what the waves should be doing right from the comfort of your bed. 

At first, when you look at one of these apps, it might seem a little confusing. Let’s go over a brief lesson on how to read the report so you know whether it’s worth checking or not! 

Example of MagicSeaweed Report:

Starting from the left column and moving right, we first have the time of the day. 

Second column displays the size of the waves. In this case it starts at 2ft, moves up to 3-4ft, and then back down to 2-4ft in the evening. 

The third column is what MagicSeaweed calls their “swell rating.” For a better understanding here is a brief breakdown on their site, “Our rating exists to give you an easy way to spot good quality swell at a glance with a simple rating of one to five stars. Not all surf sessions are created equal and size alone doesn't dictate quality. Generally swells from more distant, more powerful storms create the best surf. With more powerful, more organized waves. Our rating is biased towards this sort of 'ground swell'. This sort of swell also creates steeper faces, more likely to barrel or provide a better quality of ride on most surf craft.”

The next section is what is called the primary swell. It calculates the direction the swell is heading, the size, and the time in between sets.  If you have 14s in between sets then you have a great chance of making it to the outside before the waves break. 

The last few columns deal with the wind and the weather. The first one calculates the wind speed/strength. The arrows indicate whether the direction is favorable for the surf. If you see green arrows, that’s a good thing! It means you have an offshore wind. 

And of course you have the temperature and weather. 

There is additional information on their site/app as well including the tide, what wetsuit to wear, and what board will work best for the conditions. 

As you become familiar with the layout you will recognize each column and be able to decide if the waves are worth checking or if it’s better to sleep in. 

How to Catch a Wave

Position and Board Placement

On every wave you try to catch there are always three things you must be aware of:

  1. Launching your board and paddling past the whitewater
  2. Identifying the peak and when to start paddling
  3. Position on the wave and surfing it

The number one key to catching a wave is being in the correct position when you are paddling for one. 

Always keep your eyes on the horizon for oncoming waves.

Once you have identified one that you can catch, make sure you see the peak of the wave before you totally commit. 

If you can see which way the wave is going to break, start to turn your board towards the shore and paddle forward with your feet in a normal forward SUP stance. 

As the wave approaches, use four or five quick, but powerful strokes to match the energy of the wave. When you complete these strokes you should feel the wave start to lift the tail of your board up. 

At this point, make sure you lean forward in order to establish yourself on the wave and don’t let it pass underneath your board. 

When you feel your board begin to slide into the wave, this is when you will step back into a surf stance and with your paddle in hand, glide down the face of the wave in whatever direction it is breaking. 

If you don’t feel comfortable riding the wave down the face, you can always paddle straight towards shore and ride the whitewater in until you feel more comfortable. 

As you progress with more time in the water, the environment, the movements, and the feeling of catching a wave will become more familiar. 

The important thing is to remain patient. Surfing is a challenging aspect of SUP and many people quit before they’ve even felt the sheer rush of catching a wave. If you can remain positive, keep trying, keep falling, and then keeping trying again, eventually you will catch your very first wave! 

Online Lessons

Beginner SUP Surfing the Puget Sound with Salmon Bay Paddle!

What the course includes:

  • Waves from fast moving freighters and tugs on Puget Sound can throw off 3' to 6' high waves on specific beaches and offshore - sometimes for long epic rides!
  • Get this Puget Sound Surfing Guide and find out how to surf these waves, where to be and when to be there.
  • Surfer's Etiquette and Boating Right of Way
  • Learn how to stay safe, out of the news and get good vibes from other surfers.
  • Understand which craft is best
  • Find out which craft are best for different types of waves from kayak, surf ski and sup to canoe and boogie board!
  • Find Your Own Surf Break
  • Learn how to find your own surf breaks or boat surf opportunities no one is surfing.
  • Tidal, Tug and Ferry Waves
  • Also find out how and where to surf other types of waves from ferries, tugs, tidal rapids - tidal waves and recreational boats.
  • Downwinding Runs
  • Learn where to downwind safely on the Sound and popular runs near Seattle.
  • Surf Spot Maps
  • The Manual includes Surf Maps for South, Middle and North Puget Sound with detailed descriptions for each spot.

Onland Workout for SUP Surfing

Top 20 SUP Balance Exercises to Improve Your SUP Surfing

Video Inspiration


How to: Catching Your First Wave on a SUP 


J-Stroke for SUP Surfing - The #1 SUP surfing technique to catch more waves


How to: Paddle Switch Cutbacks


About the Author


Daniel is a travelling author with a passion for exploring new waterways and sharing his experiences with the world.

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