The story of a gradual warming to Stand Up Paddle Boarding and a beginners thoughts on sharing waves in these increasingly crowded times.
I wasn’t exactly trying very hard to hide it, but I also wasn’t wanting to shout about it too much either, seeing as i’ve had some banter with, and given some of the local SUP riders a bit of stick over the years. But recently my secret affair with stand up paddle boarding has been outed and I thought that I might as well openly declare my love now, seeing as it’s got to the stage that tourists are requesting I pose for photos with them and my board. 🙂
When I was first asked to do a blog by Charlie at the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard company (who I met whilst I was shooting some press images of Storm Imogen at Freshwater Bay, he introduced himself by saying ‘I know you hate SUPs but I’ve started freshwater bay paddleboard company) I thought I was going to be writing about how i’ve got into Stand Up Paddle Boarding for those long flat summer spells we get every year on the south coast. And I imagined I would illustrate it with photos from my exploration of the island’s beautiful coastline as seen from a new perspective.
Hopefully one day that will still happen, I do want to paddle off with my camera in a waterproof bag and see new bits of coast, but then I caught my first wave on a SUP and everything changed. I re-discovered the stoke of being a surfing grom, that magical feeling of riding your first wave came back, as well as a reminder of how much fun it is to try and do something new for the first time, even at my age, or maybe especially at my age. There’s a lot to be said for being absolutely crap at something but full of determination to get better. And i’ve also realised that it could be a while before I do that whole coastal exploration thing and i’ve not written a decent blog on this site in ages, so i thought i’d just get on with it and write one now as it helps with the sites SEO as well as to promote my Isle of Wight photography business.
I should start by saying that now i’ve actually tried it a few times myself, first on flat days and then on a few smaller swells, I do have a new found respect for those who i’ve seen riding SUP’s well, especially those who have made it look easy on the bigger days and in more critical waves. Because it definitely isn’t easy to begin with, just balancing on the thing can be a challenge on choppy days and once you add waves too, it moves to a new level of difficulty.
The island has got some well known and talented surfers, and a few of them have now also become accomplished stand up paddle boarders too. It’s fair to say they are people who have more than earned their place in the line-up from years of riding all sorts of boards at the best breaks. Say what you like about some of them, and we all have 🙂 you can’t deny that people like Nigel, Scott and Al aren’t proper watermen who love surfing and can hold their own in the line-up on the biggest days the island has to offer.
As it stands today, if there’s a decent swell, i’m still going to be reaching for my surfboard every time, but i think on those marginal days when I would have been scratching around chasing knee-high waves and maybe feeling a bit frustrated with it all, why wouldn’t I paddle out on the SUP and just really enjoy the session from a fresh perspective instead?
But what about the crowds? It’s busy enough out there already without adding SUP’s to the mix.
I should confess that I still don’t really like SUP’s in the same line-up as me when i’m surfing for a couple of reasons, firstly for a selfish reason, because the really good riders are often taking the waves I want to get on my surfboard. Secondly for a bit of sensible self-preservation, because at the other end of the spectrum, SUP learners can be a dangerous liability. It’s bad enough out there on busy days without adding massive uncontrolled fibreglass missiles to the mix, so how do I enjoy both surfing and stand up paddle boarding without becoming a hypocrite?
Sitting here now, I don’t really have the answers, but I think a bit of common sense can go a long way, and I believe we should try to do something to avoid the incidents and aggro we started to see last Autumn at Compton, before people start to get hurt out there. How we go about getting people to listen is another question and maybe the surf club can take an active role in that, but for now here’s a few bleeding obvious thoughts from this beginner….
If you’re a learner, and it’s a busy day, paddle on a few more yards to a quieter part of the beach away from the main peaks, i’ve tried it myself a few times now and there’s plenty of room past the shipwreck towards the middle of the bay before you get to Fields. You’ll feel less pressure, have more time and space to get used to it, and you don’t need the best waves when you’re finding your feet anyway.
At the other end of the scale, If you’re good at it, and the break is already crowded, why not try and SUP away from the main peaks too. There’s lots of spots that could be worth exploring heading east from Hanover, and there could be some real beauties if you’re prepared for a bit of adventure and want to head east from Brook beach.
The next idea isn’t rocket science either, it’s just something that happened spontaneously one day at Compton beach earlier this year. It was an average to small day, waist to chest high maybe at best, and there was a dozen or so surfers just about sharing the main right wave at hanover when about 3-4 SUP’s paddled out. Previously this would have resulted in more pressure on the peak and an annoying session for everyone out there as too many people scrambled for the same set waves. Except that this time, the SUP’s all stayed to the left of the steps, and the surfers to the right, and for about an hour, everyone seemed to get on with it in relative harmony and from what i could see, a good time was had by all. Could that work as a general rule, how would we let everyone know?
So, I’m saying all this in good faith, but I expect to get shot down by some and be slated by others, and maybe if someone else was saying it i’d do the same too, we all have the same right to the waves and no one put me in charge, but with more and more kids and families in the line-up these days, if we want the next generation to enjoy the sea and still want a few waves ourselves, then something needs to change or it will become more and more aggro out there and we will all have lost then.
For now, i’m going to keep on surfing and stand up paddle boarding and try to enjoy both equally, i’ll try and stay away from the crowds whilst i’m a potentially dangerous learner on the SUP, and hopefully i’ll get to explore new parts of the coast as I become more experienced and adventurous with it. I’ll also try not to slag them off too much when i’m out on my surfboard and a SUP comes cruising by having caught a wave ages before I could have without a paddle.
Freshwater Bay Paddleboard company photo shoot.
The photo gallery below contains examples from a promotional shoot I did for the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard company. They are a local business (funnily enough they are based in Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight 🙂 who are trying to make their name in the SUP world by supplying quality boards and paddles. I’m not sponsored in anyway and i’m not being paid to write this, but I do have one of their boards, and I think it’s a good one and it’s getting good reviews from the industry magazines. I’ll leave it to the more experienced riders to compare them with what else you can get out there and maybe do a proper board review for this site one day. In the meantime you can contact Aaran at Earth, Wind and Water to discuss the various boards available and maybe try one out yourself.
All the images below are shot by me with a pair of canon 6D’s and an assortment of lenses, from the Canon 50mm f1.2L, Canon 24-105 f4L, Sigma 12-24mm and Sigma 50-500mm, please check out my isle of wight photography website for more examples of my work, and you can contact me via email@example.com if you’re interested in commercial photography for your business.
©2016 Jason Swain, All Rights Reserved
The photos on the site are all © Jason Swain with All Rights Reserved. The images are not available for use on websites, blogs or other media without the explicit written permission of the photographer. Please contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to use it in any way or license it for your own project.