A Beginner's Guide to Surf and SUP

Surfing and Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) are two exhilarating water sports that offer a fantastic way to connect with the ocean, enjoy a great time catching waves, or gliding over flat water. For beginners eager to dive into these activities, selecting the right equipment and understanding the basics are crucial first steps. Here’s your beginner guide to navigating the world of surf and SUP, focusing on how to choose the right boards for each and tips for getting started.

Choosing a Beginner SUP Board

When you're new to stand-up paddleboarding, the array of options can be overwhelming. Here are some key considerations to help you select the perfect beginner SUP board:

1. Volume and Stability

Look for a board with enough volume and width to provide stability for your weight and skill level. A general rule for beginners is to choose a board with more volume, as it offers greater stability. Boards that are wider (around 30-34 inches) are also more stable and easier for beginners.

2. Inflatable vs. Solid Boards

  • Inflatable Paddle Boards: These are great for beginners due to their durability, ease of transport, and storage. They are softer, which can be forgiving when falls happen. Inflatables are suitable for flat water paddling but can also be used in small waves.
  • Solid Boards: Typically offer better performance and speed. If you have easy access to water and storage, a solid board might be worth considering, especially if you're interested in surfing waves.

3. Length

For general use and flat water, a longer board (10-12 feet) will offer better glide and efficiency. If you're interested in surfing with your SUP, a shorter board (under 10 feet) will be more manoeuvrable in waves.

4. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

While choosing your SUP, don't forget about safety. Depending on local laws, wearing a PFD might be mandatory. Even if it’s not, wearing one is a good practice for beginners.

Can You Surf on a Paddleboard for Beginners?

Yes, you can surf on a paddleboard even as a beginner, but it requires a board designed for surf conditions. Surf-specific SUPs are shorter, have a narrower nose and tail, and are more manoeuvrable in waves than all-around or flat-water models. Starting with smaller, gentle waves and gradually working your way up as you gain confidence and skills is key.

Related article: 5 Tips for Beginner Surfers

Choosing a SUP for Surfing

When selecting a SUP specifically for surfing, consider the following:

1. Board Shape

Look for a board with a planing hull, which is flat and wide, designed to ride on top of the waves. A pointed nose can help cut through the water but might be more challenging to balance on for beginners.

2. Size

Unlike choosing a beginner flat-water SUP, when selecting a surf SUP, you'll want something that's more agile. Opt for a shorter board that allows for easier turns and manoeuvres on waves. However, make sure it still offers enough stability to stand comfortably.

3. Durability

Surf conditions can be tough on equipment. Consider boards made with durable materials that can withstand impacts with the water and occasional run-ins with rocks or reefs.

4. Fin Setup

The right fin setup can make a big difference in surf performance. Many surf SUPs come with either a thruster (three-fin setup) or a quad (four-fin setup) arrangement, offering a good balance between stability and manoeuvrability in waves.

Getting Started

Whether you're paddling on flat water or catching waves, taking a lesson can significantly shorten the learning curve. Look for certified instructors or schools that specialise in SUP and surfing. They can provide you with personalised tips, help you understand water safety, and ensure you're using the correct techniques.


Starting your journey into surf and SUP is an exciting adventure that opens up a world of water sports. By choosing the right equipment and understanding the basics, you'll set yourself up for success and enjoyment on the water. Remember, the best way to learn is to get out there, practice, and have fun. Welcome to the wonderful world of surfing and stand-up paddleboarding!

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