The Girl's Guide to Surfing

I’m pretty sure I’ve read almost every surfish book published within the last 5-8 years. When I first started with board sports in July 2009 I read memoirs, technique books, essays, compendia, histories, you name it, I’ve read it. One of the most helpful books to me, when starting out, was Surf’s Up: The Girl’s Guide to Surfing by Louise Southerden. It was invaluable, in terms of talking about technique, safety, reading the waves, equipment, sea life–pretty much everything you’d need to know.

I took lessons, lots of lessons. This book helped reinforce what my teachers were showing me. I surfed for about a year before I started to SUP. I sucked at the standing up part of surfing, but I spent a lot of time in the water, looking at waves, learning how they felt when they were breaking (or not breaking), where to sit in the lineup, etiquette in the lineup, how to choose a wave, how to fall, how to avoid being hit by my board (mostly), and general board handling skills.

All of that is information that has come in handy as I’ve started to do more paddling in the ocean. For one thing, I’m not terrified of the ocean (thought I don’t like being out there myself) because I learned to deal with certain things while managing a smaller board (a thinner 9 foot longboard instead of a fat and wide 10 or 12 or 14 foot SUP). I have plenty of healthy respect (fear), but it isn’t unmanageable because I’ve been taught what NOT to do, whenever possible. (The ocean is very much out of my control–anyone’s control, but knowing things like “don’t get between your board and the beach” will help you avoid some peril.)

Take a Surf Lesson to get Better at SUP Surfing

It is my opinion, and I’d like to hear from you in the comments, that people interested in taking their boards out into the ocean should take a surf lesson. Whether a regular surf lesson or a SUP surf lesson, a lesson is in order. While there are many things that can go wrong or be dangerous in flatwater paddling, there are many more in the ocean, the biggest of which is getting hit with your board or hitting someone else with your board.

The power of the ocean swells and breaking waves can send a standup paddleboard crashing into someone in the blink of an eye. You can get thrown off and your board can get thrown out. Let’s say you have a 12 ft leash and a 12 foot board. That’s a 24 foot radius of destruction. A 48 foot diameter of destruction. The violent washing machine of paddler + paddle + board + waves is unlikely to happen in flatwater. Whitewater, maybe, but that’s its own situation.

In the ocean you can:

  • Get thrown off and hit your head on your board.
  • Get thrown off your board and tumble around underneath it (and underneath your big fin).
  • Be slammed into by your board.
  • Ride your board to the beach, catapult off of it, and break your neck when hitting the sand.
  • Crash into another paddler or surfer. Hard.
  • Cut your fingers on your leash.
  • Get thrown off your board, become disoriented, try to surface, and hit your head on your board or your fin.
  • Cut off another surfer or paddler and receive ire, get hurt, or hurt them.

Sounds awesome, right?

How do you avoid some or all of that most of the time? (None of it is entirely avoidable. You WILL get hurt eventually.)

TAKE A LESSON.

I am not a Surf Teacher

I’m not an anything teacher, so I’m not going to tell you how to avoid that stuff. Read the book or take a lesson. If you learn board handling skills with a surfboard, they will serve you when it comes to dealing with a SUP in the ocean.

Let me be clear though: I DO NOT THINK THAT A SURFBOARD AND A STANDUP PADDLEBOARD ARE THE SAME THING. They’re not.

I would not advocate taking a SUP lesson from a surfer who has never SUPped. Or a surf lesson from a SUPper that has never surfed, if you want to learn technique. Technique for SUPping and technique for surfing are different.

When it comes to SHEER BOARD HANDLING SKILLS, though, things like safety, and reading the water, and etiquette in the ocean, and what to do if you fall, a surf lesson will give you transferable skills. Better yet, take a SUP surf lesson.

DON’T just take your SUP out into the ocean without learning about handling a board in the ocean first, though. It isn’t the same as flatwater.

Check out the Mullet’s 10 Tips for Standup Paddle Surfing for the First Time

So, what do you think? Discuss in the comments.

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