I’ve always hated stand up paddleboarders. My thinking? They’re longboarders on steroids; a consistent danger, and a greedy nemesis in the lineup (their size means they can catch more waves, from further out, than other surfers).
But recently I swallowed my pride and thought: if you can’t beat them, why not join them? I was offered the chance to trial an inflatable stand up paddle board (an ISUP), and took it with both hands.
The ISUP I tried wasn’t the kind of SUP you typically surf on (though the model I tested claims to work in all conditions, generally speaking, inflatable SUPS are more known for cruising around lakes on), but in the end, I couldn’t help myself but take it out in the very last place you should take a SUP: a crowded, competitive, close-out ridden beachbreak.
Here’s how it went – and what I realised along the way.
Stand up paddle boarding takes serious skill
Despite intending to limit myself to the flat water around the corner off Mackenzies Bay, I couldn’t help myself but try to catch a couple of waves at neighbouring Tamarama. It was bloody hard. In fact, it was hard to paddle around flat water, let alone catch waves, without losing my balance.
It’s pretty easy to pump up – but make sure you keep the valve in the up position before pumping
My 10’6 board was much easier than I expected to pump up. However, when it came time to pull the tube out and plug the hole, I found a lot of air would escape (I later realised there was a setting on the pump which prevents this).
If you secure the valve in the up position before pumping, this can be avoided (and once you do it once, you don’t tend to forget again).
Inflating the board adequately is a game changer
If you’re ever going to use an inflatable stand up paddle board, make sure you pump it up well beyond the canoeing setting on the pump, and get it well into the stand up paddle boarding range. Otherwise, it will be harder to stand on than a waterbed in an earthquake (as I, not bothering to pump it up properly, found out).
Speaking of standing up on a waterbed in an earthquake… I ended up giving up on the paddle and just lying on my stomach and paddling around with my arms, like I would on a surfboard (this wouldn’t have happened if I had inflated it sufficiently).
People are really judgemental of stand up paddle boarders
I felt the stares as I rocked up, the only person with a stand up paddleboard on the beach, and having forgotten my boardshorts to boot (I ended up paddling out in my denim shorts).
I also saw people smiling at me, though I am not sure if they were mocking me or being friendly.
You have such a ball you don’t really care what snobbish surfers think
I’m not going to lie – I had a lot of fun. It was really enjoyable to try something different to usual, and (try to) learn a new skill.
It’s very easy to nosedive
This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it was extremely easy to come a cropper when taking off down a wave. This could probably have been avoided with a smaller, more surf specific ISUP board (rather than the all-rounder I had) and – more than anything – by pumping the board up adequately.
It’s essential you use your legrope, especially when there are people around
I discovered this when I went to lend the board to a friend in the water, and then we got taken out by a set in the process. Fortunately, I recovered the board before it hit the rocks, but it was a close call. I don’t know if I became the most hated surfer in the Eastern suburbs that day, but I certainly felt like it.
It’s super convenient if you don’t have roof racks
Compared to normal SUPS, these guys are much easier to transport. If you have a decent-sized boot you can just whack it in the back.
The bag is very useful
Why carry when you can roll?
Stand up paddle boarders are the cyclists of the sea
They are probably having more fun than you, and they don’t care if you know it. Bonus points if you rock up later on to the cafe in your spring suit…
They are super fun
I can’t wait to try one of Red Paddle Co’s boards again and go on more of an adventure, getting in fewer people’s way, and putting its storage features to the test.