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SUP Etiquette

SUP Wave Etiquette

If you ever read regular surfing blogs etc you will quickly realise that SUPs are (quite often wrongly) getting a very bad name in surf breaks. There has already been one instance of a surfer being hospitalized during an incident with an SUP at Croyde Bay, the accident was actually caused by another surfer, but those watching just saw the near presence of an SUP and jumped to the wrong conclusion.

The information below is designed to give you a brief guide to catching waves, while also giving correct priority to other wave users where appropriate.

Naish put it beautifully - “Please use respect and common sense when surfing an SUP. Just because you could catch every wave, doesn't mean you should. Nobody likes a wave hog, give respect, and don't be a kook!”

General surfing rules say that priority is given to the closest surfer to the peak (peeling part) of the breaking wave, or the surfer that is furthest out, or that has been waiting longest. Given that most SUP are further out on a surf break that any other user, you could then claim priority on almost any wave! To reduce the chance of conflict it makes sense to (where possible):

  • Find some space! You are more mobile than most surfers, if you can keep your distance then there is little chance of conflict.
  • Catch waves that are breaking deep, and pull off before they reach the main surf or shore break.
  • Try and look for waves that are peeling away from the crowds learn to read 'green' unbroken waves from a distance and use this to your advantage.
  • Catch the later waves in each 'set' or group of waves this normally allows the main line-up of waiting surfers/bodyboarders to empty to some extent. This will give you a longer, hazard free, safer ride.
  • Give waves/earn respect if waves are sparse leave certain sets of waves to other users completely.
  • Keep control it's better to pull off a wave if you are not 100% - your board is heavy and very hard, nobody is going to be happy if you kick it out and turn it into a loose missile. This is especially true if you are coming into shore through crowds of families with small children.

In addition it is worth using common sense when choosing where you are going to surf. Breaks that are known for surf longboarding will normally offer a smoother, longer breaking wave. In addition longboarders can be older and less aggressive than (younger) shortboarders. Breaks where there are deeper breaking waves to ride, or other less crowded areas will reduce your risk of conflict. As a sweeper you have the ideal means to get to breaking waves well off-shore and in hidden secret spots so use it to your advantage!

“I was out surfing a shortboard wave recently when a SUP rider came out, at this little wedge at the Cote Basque. I had to tell him, “It's not a wave for SUPing here bro. It's dangerous for us to have you and that thing here,” and the guy understood and paddled over to the next peak and got on with it. But sadly it doesn't happen that way all the time, maybe hardly ever.

“When I go out with the SUP, I tend to choose spots without too many guys out surfing, I don't surf my regular waves ... If SUPing continues to grow ... it'll make surfing etiquette more more important, we're gonna need a new set of rules as making sure the old ones are understood. It is about respect first, but also smart communication.

“Explain to SUPers, beginners or otherwise, that they can't just show up at a spot and take all the waves, and be a health threat for others. We have to regulate it a bit now because it's a young sport and needs it.”

Antoine Delpero, surfer, shaper, SUP sweeper extract taken from Surfing Europe No 83 July 2011.

The above is given a guide only by, if you reproduce it, please be courteous and give us a mention. If you think anything here needs editing or adding to please email us

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