SUP surfing is nearly dead and nobody seems to care.

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.

Image result for makaha SUP surf

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.

thU1OVEZA0dave 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.

Image may contain: 1 person, ocean, text and water


Author: Kalikookamalu

Waterman - Hawaiian- basketball junkie

4 thoughts on “SUP surfing is nearly dead and nobody seems to care.”

  1. Good write up bro. I definitely miss the larger sup surf style boards and often find myself playing on an old 10’6″ Paddle Surf Hawaii board I bought back in 2006 and also messing around on my friends 12’0. And you’re definitely correct, in certain waves, usually smaller ones, big board sup surfing is way more enjoyable to watch with all that style. Aloha


    1. The best wave riding I have done has been on my 9’6 it’s the perfect amount of size and stability but also easy to do big turns and is super fun… I’ve gone as small as 8 feet and that just isn’t for me iam not a hyper surfer like Zane Schweitzer or Kai penny . Iam more power and calm controlled maneuvers


  2. I’m not sure that I agree with this. For sure the high performance boards are too small for most riders but the manufacturers seem to have settled at the 7’4” 80li as there smallest offering.
    The vast majority of surf sups are in the 9’-11’ range. Some manufacturers like Fanatic even have classic longboard shapes in their line up.
    Sup surfing has lost its super stars like Kai and Mo who bring young blood into the sport. The industry that pays them wants to sell isups and leisure boards which is understandable because of stiff competition from start up brands. It’s a fragile market and even Starboard is under pressure. They are no longer willing to take chances and invest in riders and board lines that aren’t top producers.
    My two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah but even a 7’4 in a sup contest gets treated like it’s a small short board and people are trying to whip them around and it’s a different style of riding. The paddle needs to get used more for SUP judging


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