Stand up paddle boarding, often abbreviated to "SUP", has gained in popularity over the last few years and you can see paddle boards off the shores of popular surf spots all over the United States.
But is there a reason you should consider moving from surfing to SUP? Should you ditch your shortboard or longboard and grab the paddle for an afternoon?
Let's find out as we look at surfing and stand up paddle boarding and see how the two compare.
SUP vs Surfing: The Experience
SUP is relatively easy. There is still a learning curve, and there is a massive difference between a beginner and a professional, but the board is bigger, and the paddle provides more stability, making SUP much easier on the whole.
A stand up paddle boarder uses a paddle to stabilize themselves and move through the water. A surfer uses their bodyweight to control the direction.
It doesn't take long to learn stand up paddle boarding and it's a great way to enjoy those still and peaceful summer waves.
Surfing has a steeper learning curve and it's harder to master the waves during choppy weather, but once you do, there's no end to the amount of fun that you can have.
SUP Boards vs Surfboards
Stand up paddle boards are generally more expensive than surfboards. They typically span around 14 feet in length and are much heavier and thicker, allowing for greater buoyancy.
SUP boards are designed to cover a large area and provide a lot of volume. They glide over the waves and are made for calm water. Surfboards, on the other hand, are made to move with the water and are designed with maneuverability in mind.
Generally speaking, an SUP board is more expensive and much larger and heavier, but it's also easier to ride.
Can You Use a SUP for Surfing?
You can technically ride waves with certain types of SUP, but they're not made for this purpose. It can be hard to paddle without the actual paddle, as your arms likely won't hang over the sides.
It's also not going to move very quickly or provide much agility on the water.
It might be possible with some of the more expensive SUPs, but if you're planning to surf, you'll be better off with a longboard.
Is SUP Surfing Easier than Surfing?
Yes! You can ride still waters and don't need a lot of wind behind you to get going. You will still need to balance and there is an element of skill involved, but it's generally much easier to ride an SUP than a surfboard.
With surfing, you need to have more core strength and more balance. Surfing is also more reliant on the water and the wind, and it's hard to get anything out of the surf if it's a calm day.
Why do Surfers Hate SUP?
There are a lot of reasons why surfers hate stand up paddle boarders, just as there are a lot of reasons why drivers hate cyclists.
In fact, some of those reasons are very similar, as the main gripe that surfers have concerns the inelegant and inexperienced way that SUPs hog the waves.
SUPs tend to lack the experience required to ride safely and may not be clued-up on etiquette, so they often get in the way.
SUP boards weigh much more than surfboards and when you add a rider to the mix, they are basically fast-moving lethal weapons that can destroy surfboards and injure surfers.
In a collision involving a stand up paddle board and a longboard, the longboarder is likely going to come off worse. It's made worse by the fact that inexperienced paddle boarders don't know how to properly control their boards.
Of course, there are other elements as well. Some surfers argue that SUP boards are just too big and awkward. Others insist that riding SUP boards is akin to cheating, as it requires much less skill.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding vs Surfing: The Difference
Paddle boarding is easier and safer, but it's also more expensive and will likely draw a few frustrated glances from surfers.
SUP is fun if you're a beginner and you want to get some fun out of calm and uninteresting waves, but SUP boards are more expensive, longer, and heavier, and unless you have the space to store them, they could turn into an expensive dust-catcher in your basement or garage.
If you want to try stand up paddle boarding for yourself, go for it! Forget about what the surfers think. As long as you remain considerate when you're on the waves, you won't incur their wrath and can enjoy yourself without fear of getting in their way.
But if you're looking for a long-term hobby and have the time to practice, it's best to stick with surfing.
You'll experience a lot of wipeouts as you learn the ropes, but eventually, you'll get to grips with your board and learn to ride the waves in style. Once you reach that level, you'll have way more fun than you would with paddle boarding.