How to get started with SURFING when all you can do is paddle?

7 Jul 2021

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For many paddlers, SUP comes as their first-ever experience with board sports. Many of them paddle for years before sup surfing their first wave and even a portion of them have never experienced the thrill of paddling on salty water not to mention downwinding bumps in the middle of the ocean. However, it is a known fact that modern stand up padding takes its origins in surfing and many stand up paddlers are drawn to surfing as a way to figure out the roots of their beloved sport. But where do you start when you have never surfed before? Dave Boehne, CEO of Infinity Surfboards, is the right person to ask. His love for stand up paddling is only matched by his love for surfing and his family-run company has been making surf, sup and now foil boards for 50 years.

Before designing SUP boards, Your family brand Infinity has been historically a well-established surf brand in SoCal. Can you tell us a bit more about the brand history and evolution to recent days?

Infinity was started in 1970 by my Dad Steve and Mom Barrie Boehne. We’ve always been open-minded to board building so we’ve been making boards through all the evolution of surfing since then up until now which includes SUP. My Dad was one of the very few first guys to make SUP boards and consequently, Infinity has been manufacturing SUP boards from the beginning of the sport. It has been very cool and very fun to be a part of it all.

Here is a great 5 minute TV documentary on Infinity Surfboards

What specific pieces of advice would you give to a stand-up paddler who would like to learn how to surf but has never been on a wave before?

Ease into it. Take a lesson and even if you are a seasoned “pro” level flat water paddler, start with an oversized, easy, beginner-style surfing SUP to make it as easy as possible when first learning to ride waves. It’s much different from flat water as you would expect.

Can you tell us about the different shapes and sizes of surfboards and what gear you would recommend to a beginner?

Basic descriptions would be longer, wider, single fin would be the easiest to ride. Something like 10’6” x 32” the typical rental type shape you see that looks like an oversized longboard surfboard shape. As a surfer gets better at maneuvering and starts riding better more critical waves there are shapes that adjust to those needs. Shorter, narrower, multiple fin options. When you start out the best is to start in small slow waves which the larger boards lend to for easy wave catching and basic riding. As you get better the waves get bigger, more critical and faster so the shorter more narrow boards will adjust and “fit” into the steeper shapes of the waves and create speed easier to accomplish more critical maneuvers.

Single fin, twin fin, thruster fin, quad fin… what’s the difference and how important of a choice is it?

When learning, the fins really don’t matter too much as you won’t have the feel of the difference yet. I like putting beginners either on a large single fin or a thruster with a large single center fin only because these setups are stable and predictable. Single fins are smooth, predictable, and have a more drawn-out feel when turning.

Twin fin is the fastest setup with initial speed from the get-go. The twin can feel out of control for a beginner without the center fin tracking and stabilizing the board through turns when going from rail to rail. Thruster again is predictable and offers the most “traction” and control but needs more effort to go faster.

Quad fin set up is really great for a SUP since it provides the added traction of the rear quad fins and eliminates the center fin creating the drag.

Since you are an expert in both, how would you compare SUP surfing and surfing? What are the main differences and pros and cons with both?

Surfing is surfing really. If you catch a wave you are surfing. Traditional surfing is great. Less equipment (no paddle) and is the gold standard. It’s pure fun, pure stoke. SUP surfing is never going to be as radical as traditional surfing so I don’t like to compare the two. SUP is uniquely and equally fun just simply a different approach to riding a wave. SUP if done correctly should be smooth, require less effort, and use the paddle for leverage in turns. To become an efficient SUP surfer you need to learnt how to use your paddle efficiently not only to catch waves with ease but to use it for your advantage while turning. Otherwise why have the paddle at all? With proper paddle technique you can unlock many advantages with your SUP.

I would tend to think that SUP surfers take more waves than surfers. Would you agree with that statement? Is that even relevant as a point of comparison between the two?

I would disagree. It’s the rider surfer or sup surfer that is greedy and taking lots of waves. It’s not the equipment they are using. Proper etiquette is always of huge importance no matter who you are and what you ride. Get in line.

How much is a surfboard compared to a SUP board?

Surfboards range from $500-$2000 in some cases… I’ve seen some terrible SUP’s cheaper than that and of course some of the high-end carbon SUP products can reach up to $4000+

To find your first Infinity surf board, go to:

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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