SUP is growing like crazy throughout much of North America, Europe, South America, and some parts of Asia.  Such rapid growth is exciting but can also lead to issues usually in already crowded surfing beaches or urban waterways with a lot of boating traffic.

Beaches such as San Onofre north of San Diego have a specific SUP surfing beach called the Dog Patch.  If one paddles a SUP outside of the Patch, a stiff fine often can be given.

Vacation beaches of Hawaii have seen a heavy use of SUPs mostly from tourists passing through town.  Issues here have included tourists with little or no surfing experience trying to surf SUPs in crowded beaches where a large SUP can be a hazard to others if out of control. SUPs in many surfing areas may take more waves than traditional surfers thus sparking a bit of tension.

Here in the Seattle area, SUPs are paddling in crowded boating areas without any knowledge of boating right-of-way rules thus are pissing off boaters.  At the Seattle Boat Show this year, several tour boat operators told me they hate SUP’ers due to being cut-off or having paddlers fall in their path while underway.

In my Instructor Certification course, the first topic we cover is becoming a good SUP Ambassador for your community.

A few tips to becoming a good SUP Ambassador..

Boating Channels – Know your local boating right-of-way rules.  In most areas, SUPs don’t have right-of-way over boaters.  That said, wait to cross a busy waterway.  Learn where the specified boating channels are and stay clear when it’s busy.  Give yourself ample time to cross when clear.  View a boating channel as a two lane highway, always look before crossing – remember Frogger?

Surf –  don’t go out in waves beyond your skill level.  If a beginner, stay in waves about 3′ tall or waist high.  Don’t paddle into a crowd of surfers unless you can 100% control your board both paddling in and out.  Sit down while waiting for waves and talk to those around you.  Don’t be a wave hog.  SUPs being so long can catch waves easier than traditional surfboards.  Give more than you take and avoid taking waves outside of the line-up.  Consider surfing 50’+ away from others – your leash and 12′ board make a 24′ radius around you when you fall.  Also learn Surf Etiquette (google it).

Marinas – Slow down at each entry and boat aisle and slowly peek around the corner before crossing. Boats don’t have brakes and in narrow marina passageways have little room to work with.  Don’t lean on boats and stay off the docks.  Many live in marinas so doing so is the same as standing on someone’s front yard.  Watch marina entrances as boats can come in around a sharp corner without warning.
* Note: I do take my students in a local marina for calmer conditions if the outside conditions are too bumpy. 

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips