When done right SUP surfing is one of the most pure/ beautiful ways to enjoy the ocean. When SUP really took off the market was mostly focused on a few key elements. The first was charging waves and using the paddle/board to create a unique dance with the wave…It had its own special style that wasn’t Long boarding but wasn’t Short boarding. It was something so pure and fun. Some of the best waterman really paved the way and gave WAVE RIDING NEW LIFE! Folks like Dave Kalama- Chuck Patterson – Robby Naish were leading the way and creating the competitive culture in those early days.
The second element was the life style. You could pick out a SUP and literally do everything with it. The equipment was made so that you could go surf head high waves and then still go cruise for a paddle workout. From what I saw as young man drooling at the pages of SUP the MAG and StandUPJournal it looked like SUP was the ultimate tool in the water. People like Brian Keaulana and Archie Kalepa really showed me that SUP was a tool not a toy and could be something for SURF\- Fitness- Life saving- Fishing-and Fun.
The perfect SUP scenario to me would be shoulder high waves and a few guys out. But because you are on a SUP you can travel between 2-3 peaks and no matter what the tide did you could ebb and flow with the changes.
Now days SUP has become so gimmicky and lost its soul. SUP media has all but been dead for awhile because they cant quite seem to stay on top of what people want to see. What was once a crazy niche part of paddling is now all you see when you think of SUP and that is SUP yoga… We went from pages and photos of people charging waves and doing workouts to dudes and hot chicks posing on boards or people in exotic destinations… Downward Dog on a SUP isnt technically SUP if you think about it because you arent paddling or standing…( YOGA on water is still bad ass lol)
This past year has also seen a lot of contests shutting down like Pacific PaddleGames in CA and a couple races in Hawaii. Times are changing and the performance side of SUP i think has gone so far that we are just imitating WSL shortboard guys but with paddles in hand. Boards are smaller than ever and most companies only offer really small or really big for experts or newbies who want to just be on the water. With the changing times it seems we have also lost most of our stars or pioneers to other sports. Kalama – Kai Lenny- etc have moved on to foiling or reverted back to prone surfing.
So when I say SUP is dead…I mean SUP as I knew it…Balance -Endurance-Strength and traditon have all been kind of pushed away for instagram photos and yoga sunsets…You can find me at Cardiff Beach CA -almost everyday with my 10 foot board riding every wave from 1foot to 10 foot keeping faith alive that SUP as a whole will one day refocus on hui o he’e nalu-wave sliding!
The Good The Bad The Ugly
When it comes to Hawaii, the West Side of Oahu is unmatched. From the moment you hit Nanakuli you feel the energy. Its a place full of ohana, friendly faces, misunderstood natives and MANA. The West Side normally gets a bad reputation for being “mean” or “unwelcoming” but I think its because the people are UN-APOLOGETICALLY HAWAIIAN AS F@&#. One place that personifies the spirit of the WEST SIDE is MAKAHA BEACH. The West Side is one of the last palces in Hawaii that you can really be Hawaiian. The fishing -the surfing -the history- the land is still pretty untouched by Haoles. It is one of the great wonders of the world.
Makaha is home to one of the MOST IMPORTANT contests in the world, The BUFFALO BIG BOARD SURFING CLASSIC. It is more than just a surf contest, its a celebration of wave riding. Its the only contest that showcases all the different ways to ride waves. Canoe-SUP-LongBoard- Bullyboard-Paipo Board – SupSquatch and Bodysurfing are some of the events you can find. But its not traditional points and judges. Its about showing style and grace while doing maneuvers only a waterman(or women) would attempt. The energy is up the whole weekend and every event is so full of laughter/ excitement/ love and tradition. People come from around the word to experience this place. It truly shows you that “WE ARE ALL CONNECTED BY WATER not divided by land”- Brian Keaulana.
When you watch the contestants out in the water you can see the level of skill and connection they have with the water. It starts with the kids and can be seen in the oldest of competitors, its a sense of kinship and respect for the water that you can see in their performance. Some of the best surfers and wave riders you will ever see come to MAKAHA for this weekend of He’e Nalu. The ocean to the westsiders is more then just a fun time…its their church..school..safe place..home..the place that brings them peace.
When you visit here it is clear that their is a pecking order and its that structure that the surf communities in CA etc. are missing. Its also clear that respect must be earned and it doesnt matter what you ride but HOW YOU RIDE. When you surf in California or other places you get a lot of attitudes and disrespect just for being on a certain board.
In the water of Makaha there is a structure and a sort of inclusion that is sorely lacking here in the states. One of the best lessons I learned from Makaha surfers was “SHUT UP and SURF…Let your ACTIONS speak for you”
If you ever get the chance to visit consider coming for the BBBSC !
Its an art form forgotten
SUP in its early years was really another way to enjoy waves. It wasn’t until about 2011 that the racing and touring side of the sport gained traction with the general riders. When we look back we can see alot of SUP surfing being done in places like Hawaii and California with high level competition. Contests were being held at Sunset Beach, Oahu, Mavericks, CA and Makaha, Oahu. These contests had some of the best young and old surfers who could also get busy on a bigger board. SUP progressed so fast that within a 5 year span people were starting to stay away from the boards you see below… and opting for boards that resembled short boards.
With the growth in popularity and more options for boards SUP surfing has been put to the side. SUP racing has quickly become the popular event because on any given weekend there can be 200 or more people racing SUP up and down the coast of California. Racing has No need for waves – big sponsors -safety teams or high pay outs, just on sheer number of participants you can create a big chunk of the winning money. SUP racing will continue to thrive because of the amateur weekend warriors boosting every event. The entry skill level is way lower than in a surfing contest, participants need to have wave riding experience as well as a number of maneuvers in their back pocket to use at any moment along with the ability to navigate currents shore break etc. Surfing is also more of a solitary competition while racing is all about inclusion and community.
The problem lies in the pro circuit of SUP surfing. It is trying to hard to simulate short board surfing. SUP was intended to stand out in the line up it shouldn’t land in the shadow of the WSL guys. If we can create board size regulations and paddle use rules it could create something special. People like Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Chuck Patterson and Brian Keaulana should be the ones to guide the next evolution of the SUP contests because they are widely seen as the godfathers of the sport. SUP surfing needs to regain some of the athletes its lost to racing and other water sports. some of the best guys have no place to compete so they turn to races and now foiling or free surfing to pay the bills.
dave kalama on a proper wave SUP
SUP surfing when done right is a beautiful thing. Boards that are no smaller than 9 feet and shaped to ride waves are the perfect vehicle to carry the sport to new levels of competition. It can be just as popular as the main WSL shortboard events but can appeal to alot more people. In AUSTRALIA I have seen a few classic contests bring in a 10 foot class for SUP surfing and some of the surfing done down there is amazing. If we can take some of those notes and apply them to SUP here in the STATES we could breathe life into the SUP surf realm. I am tired of going to these events and seeing guys on 7 foot sups and 2 foot waves doing slashes and sloppy cutbacks trying to be high performance when a bigger board would have easily made it more aesthetically appealing and more fun to ride the wave.
SAVE OUR SUP SURF EVENTS
Dont let one thing define you..
When we look back at the greatest athletes we see a similar pattern. It is an amazing ability to adapt. Adapting doesn’t just mean switching stance while riding a wave or running for a touchdown on a hurt leg, its more than that. The best athletes are the ones that see them selves as more than just ONE dimensional. You saw it with Bo Jackson, a HULK of a football player with the speed -finesse – and IQ to also play baseball (along with many other sports) so well that he became an all star in both the NFL and MLB. When you put all your eggs in one basket alot of the time you come up short. Like an all state football player who goes to college and just wants to play ball but then gets injured..and now all he has is a bad leg and little experience in anything else. Being well rounded is the key to longevity….and well longevity is key.
(BO KNOWS -nike campaign- BO SURFS!!)
When it comes to the ocean athletes this idea adapting is taken to another level. On any given day you have most likely have to choose between at a short or longboard. But for some Watermen/women they have endless possibilities when they see a body of water. One great example of well rounded in GERRY LOPEZ. He is a certified legend of the short board world but he didnt stop there. He surfed all sizes of boards -went on to do SUP surf – board shaping and design- SUP racing-diving for fish -canoe-and snowboarding. To take it even one step further you can look at someone like Dave Kalama who has literally every water sport in his repertoire. (Windsurf -kiting-tow in -foil-SUP- surf-canoe-diving-OC1 -kayak -prone paddling.) The ocean is so full of variables that its always a guessing game. Its a beauty and a beast. BEING able to adapt can change your life and not adapting can take your life away.
Duke Kahanamoku always said that “the best surfer is the guy who is having the most fun.” Having options when it comes to daily activities is proving to be more and more beneficial (more fun too) every time I step back and think about it. Switching up the little things in my day to day life to break the routine/the grind has opened alot of doors for me. Each water sport I’ve participated in has all helped one another being a good canoe paddler helps my SUP and being a good SUP surfer helped my regular prone surfing.
Recently I adopted the motto BE LIKE WATER. It comes from the great BRUCE LEE –
” Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot.Water can flow – water can crash. ”
BE WATER MY FRIENDS!
This past week San Diego was hit by a big south swell which made for an epic couple days of summer surf. I just happen to find out that the ISA SUP surfing contest was green lighted and set to happen in Oceanside CA. With over head conditions-brutal rip currents and foaming white water the contest WAS AWESOME to watch. It became more of a chess match as the paddlers had to navigate different peaks along with where and how to paddle out. For most of the paddlers it seemed like the best rides were only may be 2 maneuvers before the wave blew up !
While watching from the beach I felt that the judging was a little more generous than I would have been but there was a few classic rides that really make SUP surfing special. It Wasn’t that the waves were crazy huge or dangerous but they were unpredictable and no matter how ell they were predicted they looked a little hard to read which left most paddlers caught inside or struggling to get back to the waves after a good ride. I havent been to a SUP surf contest and SO CAL REALLY needs more!! The amount of progression you see is so inspiring and although I can go surf every day at my local break you arent always getting to see the best riders. I love seeing people SEND IT but i also like seeing the latest and greatest in boards and paddles. And I seriously fell in love with the CAMO CUSTOM from infinity. Contests bring out the best in the wave riders and is just a overall fun time.
With this contest I was expecting a few of the bigger name SUP surfers to come and compete but some of the main paddlers from INFINITY-NAISH -STARBOARD were all competing in SUP races. With it being summer I figured that would be the case but there is also a new group of SUP surfers sometimes I forget that the STARS of the SUP world are already 10 years deep in their careers and have other things to focus on.
(above: Jason Latham off the lip )
It led me to think what is more important in SUP… WAVES or RACING ? (this topic can go so many waves and the arguments are endless but here is just a few thoughts) When it comes to ISA and other big events for the most part SURFERS PAY FOR everything and while it is cool to represent a team or country most the time you can make more money racing/ traveling and having your sponsor front most of the fees.LETS MAKE SURF CONTESTS worth it so the best guys comeout! For me I rather see guys making as much money as they can because if I could I would so I dont blame people for missing out on certain events. MORE money and effort should be put in to getting so SOLID CONTESTS in place and it can be high performance or longboard style SUP. We have already seen the best guys(Kai lenny -Dave Kalama etc.) switch to more of a wave focus and it would be great to see more of it !
RACES will always be around and on any given weekend there is sOOO many up and down the coast of California so we need to shake things up!! As a spectator I want to see the best guys SURFING stand up as much as possible. The racing side of the sport is in very good hands with all the new aggressive paddlers we have now. There is many debates for BOTH RACING AND WAVE RIDING but for the core group of Americans and Hawaii paddlers I think surf should be the main focus. With so many new faces maybe the scene will shift and new people will be on top of the SUP charts.
WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER SEE THE PROS DOING ??? race or surf????!?!?!?
Why conform to one craft???
THE WORLD OF WAVE RIDING HAS A F@#$%%*$% PROBLEM…. & Its something you wouldn’t think existed until you’ve experienced it first hand. Its hands down absolutely the most annoying thing to deal with. If you haven’t been through it MORE POWER TO YOU but for alot of SUP surfers PURE HATE from “REAL” surfers and straight up disrespect is something you have to deal with (probably a lot). NO MATTER WHAT “rules or guidelines ” we try to follow as SUP surfers there is always someone who has a negative comment. You can just be parking your car at the local break and some short board surfer is already giving you a dirty look. In surf , line up banter is a great way to learn and make connection but when you have a SUP under your feet you almost get discredited right off the bat.
For whatever reason the SUP community doesn’t ever talk about it. Or if it gets brought up in a chat or message board it gets glossed over and people just try to “keep positive vibes” and “its not that bad”. I hate shining light on negative things but sometimes shining a light brings attention to the things that other wise would lie in the dark. There is full blown websites and clothing that protests SUPS in surfing. Literally the stupidest things i HAVE SEEN LATELY. Why are people so triggered by SUP??
I might be a little biased but I get it SUPs are a new thing “threatening” surfing but if you ask SUP surfers they dont give a damn about you !! they just want to have FUN…isnt that the point of riding waves??
THE WORST TYPE OF PERSON>>>>> Instead of worrying about themselves they immediately want to talk SHIT about a sport they probably cant do. Its such a pointless struggle to go through. At the end of the day why waste energy being pissed off when you can use some of that hat eto catch more waves that SUPers supposedly STEAL.
One of the biggest things i hear is that SUPS are dangerous….when in reality all boards are dangerous ..ESPECIALLY HUGE LONGBOARDS THAT DONT HAVE LEASHES…
THERE IS SOOOO much arguing that can go back and forth -pros and cons and all of that. The fact that anyone would yell at someone while in the water is ridiculous.
SUPs greatest ambassadors cant even escape the hate..this was the comments section from KAI LENNY SUPing THE KELLY SLATER WaVE POOL..literally days ago so this is a current problem not just old thinking…(see below)
THE SURFZONE is a magical place and is where alot of us go to zen out or have a really good time. WHen you really think about it its people on short boards and the “real ” surfers that create the static. Cutting people off or snaking waves is never OK but it is forgivable. Not enough people practice what they preach. THey wan to be all ” good vibes and aloha” but when they arent on instagram fronting they are being bullys at the beach!! SO NEXT TIME YOU ARE SURFING KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN AND HEAD ON A SWIVEL and think of ways to keep the trash and trash people out of surf and our line ups…not SUPs
This GREAT DIVIDE really seems to be one of those things that are just going to be there no matter what and realistically wont change. But i will throw this challenge to any “real” surfer …GO SUP SURF one day a week and you will have fun and you will help your surfing I swear. Why conform to one craft??? Be of the water and ride all of them.
PIPI MY KAULA AND I’LL LOMI YOUR SALMON
the best in performance and play ?
*disclaimer …NOT A PAID AD ..i use a different brand of paddle just giving props where props are due. *
In SUP there is a lot of brands that specialize in paddle production, some being QB-Kialoa- Ke Nalu…but have you heard of BLACK PROJECT ?? The company started in 2010 and has been pushing for performance in paddles fins and racing fins for SUP. Will there paddles be your next SUP related purchase.
With so many options these days for equipment it can be a bit overwhelming. Price-materials-shape-pro riders- all make a bit of an influence in our decisions. Me personally I have my favorites and pretty much stick to those when I am heading out into the ocean. For about the last 2 years I have worked at a SHOP in California that sells BLACK PROJECT paddles. From the moment I first saw them I thought they have 2 things going for them. 1 being that they are very eye catching but only have a carbon and red look to them its basic but really aesthetically pleasing. 2 they have an aggressive shape and are SUPER LIGHT.
The thing I like most is that they push for the highest quality and lightest strongest designs. Another great thing is you can specify SIZE OF BLADE-AMOUNT OF FLEX (stiff x medium x soft ) and WHICH GRIP you want and make a custom fit for you. In all of the paddles they have a very long drawn out dyhedral (if i spelleed it right) but its the spine down the middle of the blade that connect to the shaft. With this design you get a very clean and efficient stroke ..(NO MORE RAIL DINGS LOL) A great paddle is important because the PADDLE IS YOUR ENGINE SO DON’T CUT CORNERS!
In the last year or so they have added Zane Schweitzer and Bernd Roediger to they’re team of paddlers so you know they are doing something right. Zane and Bernd are both high level paddlers sponsored by other board companies and are normally required to use those brands paddles and fins but BLACK PROJECT equipment has been so good that they use them in racing -surfing and touring equipment anyway.
In Racing every pound …even ounce counts if you are in a paddle battle with the guy next to you. So when i looked in to the line up of paddles BP offers I saw that the race paddles are only 375 grams….and with them being 100 percent carbon (unlike your local sup package deal with a carbon facade) they truly give you a jump on the competition.
With paddles I see a lot of people flock to a brand simply because a paddler that is somewhat famous uses them. With BP i have already seen a massive growth in popularity. It will only grow with more average joes wanting to progress and more pros wanting that competitive edge.
CHECK THESE PADDLES OUT !
(all pictures- BLackprojectsup.com)