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Monday, March 29, 2010

SUP Barrel riding and Manuver Tips...

Yeah, I'm a Florida guy. And who am I to say one way or another about riding barrels, right? Well, here in New Smyrna Beach we have the most consistently rideable wave on the east coast. I live here and can tell you, it is an amazing place. If there's a hint of wave on the beach, and by "hint" I mean 1/2 to 1ft and not rideable- our wonderful inlet will amplify it to a chest-high wave with a defined peak and good wall section. Even better, it does that over 280 days a year.

Occasionally, the Inlet gets really good. On those days, we'll see little, thin-lipped, beach break barrels peeling off of fast A-frame peaks. For the last few years, I've been trying (with minimal success) to get my SUP locked into a good barrel. I've been looking for the full cover up. Well, I've finally figured it out and I'm stoked to share some of my "tube tips" with you guys. Hopefully, the local photogs will turn loose some of the pics they have been shooting of me getting barreled. I'd love to have some photographic proof.

Photo: Our inlet looking fun...

Riding the barrel on a SUP is tough. First of all, these boards are really fast and secondly, fitting all this stuff into the tube ain't easy. Has anyone else been "clothes lined" by your paddle while pulling into the barrel? I have had my ass handed to me too many times to count trying to fit board, paddle and my big azz in there.

But we're here to talk tube riding, so here you go: Consider the wave from a regular foot's point of view. You'll be going right or front side to the wave. First, sit inside a bit, take off deep, almost on the left shoulder (behind the peak) of an A-framed wave. Now, as you drop in, do not do a full bottom turn or drop all the way to the bottom of the wave. When you start catching the wave, hook or swing your board to the right and angle in- keeping your board mid face. You want to be on the angled part of the wave. As you get going and are front-side facing the wave, drop the paddle with your back hand (the hand on the paddle shaft). Hold the paddle with only your forward hand (the top, grip hand).

The shaft of the paddle will sit right on your thigh. Use your forward hand to steer the blade, keep it from getting hung in the lip. Then, as you drop in put your free hand in the face of the wave, cup your hand to slow yourself down, pull your hand from the face of the wave to speed up. Dragging your hand also brings your body close to the wave face, try to get your upper body as close as possible to the wall. I get close enough to have my hand and elbow on the wave face and my cheek almost touching the wall. Keep your board up a bit high on the face, if it goes to the bottom the outside rail will get smacked by the lip and you'll be violently ejected.

The technique for riding the tube backside is a little different. We tend to hold the paddle to our front side when we are in surf stance. I am a regular foot and like to hold the paddle with my left hand on the T and right on the shaft. So, I like to catch the wave normally, as I drop in I swing the paddle around me holding the T handle with my left hand and clamping shaft under my left armpit. Control the blade so that it is planing on the wave face behind you. I like to lay my weight onto the paddle like an old school backside layback tube ride.

Use your weight on the paddle and your free hand to slow yourself. You can slow down even more by cupping water with your free hand behind you. You will be amazed at how stable this position is. And there's is no better view when you get it right and are laid back and bracing off your inside rail. A word of caution: Backside barrels usually make you fall onto your board. If you are laying on your paddle you can shoot your board down the line as you fall. One of the most important things to remember is trust the wave and have confidence in your ability to accomplish what you are doing. A little doubt will usually result in the wave kicking your azz and possible injury.

John has a good tip on doing a good front-side paddle turn or Swack! I think he calls it. The shortboarders here have named my turn a SUP wallet gash. I guess it's because when I do one front-side and get it right I actually pivot the board off my right butt cheek. That cheek is dragging in the water. Hence I'm sitting and spinning on my wallet, I guess. I see a lot of people doing this turn but most do not get high enough on the wave face and end up turning mid face. That's fine but in pitching conditions you will find yourself stuffing the nose a bit on re entry. I've figured out how to make this turn work on pitching waves- avoiding the stuffed nose and inevitable trip over the falls.

Photo: Capt Ron getting set up for a tail slide.

Here's how I do it: When I find a thin-lipped, front-side section that needs some smacking, I stick (I should say plant) my paddle up in the lip. To make this turn work, you've got to have a lot of speed of the bottom. Next, I drive my rail right at my paddle watching for the nose to breach the top of the wave. AS I come up I am already starting to do my turn. This is where a lot of people freak out- and this is where the quadfin is at its best.

The quad fin allows you to transition quickly to the outside rail. The quad also allows you to really start cranking down on that rail. As the turn develops, start to pull past your paddle, keep pulling on the paddle as hard as you through the whole arc of the turn. A quad finned board can easily transitioned from a rail turn to a flat fins first slide. It's fun (and radical) to let the nose come all the way around to 180 degrees or more, don't be afraid hold the turn, keeping your weight spaced on the paddle and board. As you come around your paddle will be behind you, use it to push your body up.

If you do it right, your butt will be on the wave face and you will be sliding a sideways down the wave in a controlled cavitation. At this point in the turn, there are two ways to pull it off: You can hold the slide down the face until you are mid-wave and then recover at the wave's base. The second way to finish the turn is my favorite: As you slide, bring your body upright, quickly bring the paddle around next to you, get a bite on the wave with your blade and turn your board straight toward the beach. Now push hard on the paddle and lift the nose by shifting your weight to your back foot while simultaneously lunging forward. If you were stalled enough, the wave actually starts to pitch and you and your board are now in the pitching lip. With luck you'll push yourself free of the wave and air drop right onto the flats. It feels realy cool and it makes the shortboarders jaw's drop...

Next Tip: AIRS, not just for the groms anymore! I have been adding these into my bag of tricks. As I get better, I'm landing them more often than not. More to come.... Hopefully I will soon have some photographic proof of all this stuff. The way I see it, we're just beginning to see what can be done on a stand up board. Given the use of the paddle and the crazy speed these boards are capable of I think we're going to be busting our own SUP-specific moves. Turns and tricks that won't be possible on other equipment.

Capt Ron


Capt Ron said...

I would like to note the turn I describe can be morphed into many different things. Like a tail slide across the lip, you can hold the turn let your direction of flow change twords the tail and drop down the wave fins first. You can actually do a explosive turn with minimal speed which actually helps generate speed or drop into a left going right get a half a push mid face and slide around up into the lip and come down going left with tons of speed.
Remember if yo uneed more leverage on the turn during the rail transition from inside rail to out side rail/top turn just drop your back foot back on the tail widening your stance and giving more control.

Peace and good luck everyone,
Capt Ron

Anonymous said...

You bout right about New Smyrna, but you forgot to say that is the shark bite capital of the world. That be tooo sharky for me even if they are "only" small ones.

John Ashley said...

Yeah Capt.!

How's that dredger right out your back door? Gnarly!

Getting barreled is tough on these stand ups- you usually just get jamming too fast and blow right by the barrel sections... at least I do.

Being a shaper/rider... how does rocker affect the boards ability to sit in the pocket? If we're looking for a board to get barreled on, should it be more banana than plank?

And... love the description of the wallet turn- I have tried that one and for some reason CANNOT do that layback style turn!

I'm lame...

Killer article- Thanks for that!

When are we going to see some Capt. Ron Vid???

Capt Ron said...

Yeah Buddy we have some sharks you need some we have plenty to spare. Some days I see a hundred or more, have had my friends get bit within 10' of me. Saw about a 12-14' Tiger shark last week. You kind of get immune to seeing them.

That pic is of my favorite wave here on a good south swell it breaks inside our inlet and is such a good wave probably the only right point in Fl. It gets realy square and can break for several hundred yards on the right swell its tough to surf because of the currents from the tides but what a good wave.

I probably should note I have some rocker in my boards about 10.25" in the nose and almost 4" in the tail on my 9'4" and 1.75" of Vee from the middle to the tail. I flip the last 8" of the tail rocker but the rocker transition from nose to tail is gradual and smooth, not pinacle. Saying this my therory is make the SUP's rocker fit the wave's curve vertically. The SUP considering its width is fast in its nature even with excessive rocker. I find myself riding the board more in pieces than as a whole. I Paddle the center, Surf the tail, and use the mid for speed on weak sections and ride the nose like a normal longboard. I find the width on any section of the board to plane out better than any prone board I ever had. I have been riding a hard edge from 3ft from the nose to the tail I do the rail in the nose a certain way as to give as much lift as possible. My buddies were watching me do some vertical off the lips and a few airs one day and told me I was dragging half the wave's water with me when I came up. Hard to break free when I am carrying an extra hundred pounds of water. So the board I am riding now I did everything possible for it to shed that water. I have found the hard edge is surgical when it comes to setting up and holding an edge in the barrel. So to answer your question banana rocker in a SUP allows you to do many things not before possible on the classic longboard styled SUP's.

John on the lay back turn get it in your mind you can make it bend the wave to your will and try the turn on a close out wall the most verticle section you can get your board on and get your board to the very top in the flicking thin shinny part turn right there your board will loosen up and feel like a 6' shortboard in that thin section. I can't say enough hold the turn and as you lay back concentrat on turning your board up under your body with your legs, push your body up with the paddle. Don't freak out and bail HOLD THE TURN! You will have plenty of time.

Capt Ron

John Ashley said...

I would NEVER get used to seeing a giant Tiger shark... are you freakin' kidding me!!!!

Gonna go try that turn right now... gotta find somewhere a little cleaner than down the street...

Stoked on the article- and, given all you now know about width and thickness on the stand up... doesn't it really seem like prone surfers are, for the most part, riding boards that are too small for them?

I'm talking about joe average prone surfer... couldn't they do MUCH better with a bigger board? It just seems that most guys out there (not the rippers- I'm talking the average weekend warrior) are mostly bogging and not flying down the line.

I remember a quote from Gerry Lopez where he was talking about his surf boards and he was saying how he likes a board that when you step on it, it wants to go- not something that you've got to MAKE go... interesting.

Rip 'em!

Capt Ron said...

Sharks I see do not bother me much am always worried about the one in the shadows thats stalking me that I can't see.
Exactly on the wider prone shapes for the average guy. I asked quite a few old classic guys who decided a wide longboard should be 23"es? Well have not got a definite answer yet.
Let me know how the turn works out for ya.

Diesel said...

Captn Ron,

Awesome post. This site has some very technical riding info that I can't find other places. sounds like you are shredding in Florida. One question. What kind of board weight would you like in, for example, your 9'4 that you talked about. I have a 9'6x30"x4.5" super light (21 pounds) SUP with a pulled nose and tail. It is a custom. It shreds but it sometimes feels a little jumpy especially as the waves get some overhead juice. Is this the weight you would like as well for that size board? or heavier? or lighter? What is your opinion? By the way, I am 190 pounds. Do you just have to surf a different board when it gets overhead or do you just have to deal with the board being a bit skittish so you can get the light weight? There are not many guys I can ask these questions because most guys cannot surf like what you describe but I am into that style of surfing with the SUP as well. Mahalos from Oahu.

Capt Ron said...

Hey Diesel,
Your board sounds good and I am sure your are talking about the dreaded nose bounce which can realy be a problem when there is a little bump on the faces. I know what you guys get to surf out there. WHOOOO HOOO!
When we actually get a decent sized wave here well decent sized to us a little over head or bigger it can get tough on a sup unless its oil slick glassy faces. I have not found a way to compensate for the nose bounce or skitter but you can calm it down a bit with bigger fins or move your center fin back a bit if you are riding a tri. I get a little bummed when the waves have size but I am bouncing around hard and just getting down the line because I cannot just play with it. When you get a good one just surf the line carefully keeping control and look for a realy clean spot on the face to do a good turn on. You will find sometimes in the bounceyest of days you will find many good clean smooth areas of face to whack the crap out of.
Just change your mind set from a rip the whole wave style of surfing to just getting the wave and riding it and hunt for those smooth rippable spots and whack the $hi!t out of it.
I tend to ramble on a bit but your board sounds good in shape and weight for a large variety of conditions. Do you ride a Quadfin or Tri?
Capt Ron

Capt Ron said...

On another note a smaller SUP 7'10-8'6" with a thinner rail will suck up the skitter better than a 9'+ SUP and allow you to surf like a prone board. BUT! being in large conditions on a board that is tough to paddle and stand on is somewhat scarey and I tend to get cleaned up alot. And I hate that!!!

Deisel said...


Thanks for the info. It sounds like I haveto ride my heavier board in overhead waves if I want to get that solid feeling unless it is oily glassy. Otherwise if I want to shred on a light board I haveto deal with the skittishness. I have dealt with the same dilemma when surfing surftech type epoxy prone shortboards and traditional pu/pe prone shortboards. It is a tradeoff. I guess you have to have the quiver.
Regarding the shorter sub 9 foot boards. Those might be too small for me when it gets bigger because I have to drop in too late on those small boards unless my skills get way better.
Over here in Hawaii, you can't blow a wave when there are other guys around or you don't getrespect and they don't want you around. You have to make every wave you go for if possible and surf it well or else you have to surf the empty breaks.
Thanks so much for your help and I look forward to more of your technical breakdown of SUP performance riding (pictures or video too). It is the best writing I have seen to understand the detailed aspects of ripping on a SUP. Mahalos from Oahu.

Diesel said...


I forgot to answer your question. I ride a J Richardson SurfboardsMakaha 5 fin setup. I have only rode it as a 2+1 which is what I am comfortable with. I would like to try as a quad as my skills progress but at this time, I need the paddling tracking and stability of the bigger center fin. I ride my shortboards as quads or big twin fins with a trailer so I that quads are really fast. The quads give me that extra speed on the shortboard so I don't have to pump the board as much. The SUP is so fast already that I was not sure if I needed to go faster. What do you think? Mahalos from Oahu.

John Ashley said...

Hey Diesel-

The best board I ever had for surfing big waves was almost 26lbs! I like 'em heavy for surfing way out there... they power through the chop and they carry speed across those swooping, big-arc bottom turns.

They are, however, HELL on leashes and they'll bust yo' balls carrying them around. I like 'em at least 10' too when it gets big.

That being said, I have surfed some big ones on my 16 lb 9'4" it was do-able but not as comfortable.

Capt Ron said...

Awesome, I understand completely about making waves or the other guys will just block you and go and push you out.
I agree with John about a little bigger, heavier board for whne its gets Hawaii big. Or the board you feel most confident on.
What a quad does for ya is allows you to have more control on the rail. A quad likes to be ridden high in the face of the wave and holds much better on verticle sections. Also turns generate speed instead of bleed it off. You can do more turns in a smaller space of wave on a quad.
I just found this video on you tube
you probably know these guys and this spot. They are fully charging but I can tell but how they are turning their boards and where they set up they are most likely riding trifins. Do not get me wrong they are ripping and much respect but they go around quite a few sections where a quad would pull you through high on the face. Pay attention to how much more solid and smooth their board is up on the face compared to the base of the wave. The top half of the wave also gives a little bit of a wind block or difference in wind pressure and lets your board go a little free of those hard offshores but its a tight rope don't get that air under your SUP or its smack time. But considering the size of the surf in the vid these guys are FULLY ripping. Much respect and a big Bow from me.......
John broke my 3rd powerex paddle yesterday on my 2nd wave and found out they are out of business and cannot get it replaced. DOH!
Capt Ron

Diesel said...

Capt Ron,

Thanks for the info on quads. I will try it on my Richardson because I have the five fin box setup. Good video. I have not seen that one before of the Naish guys in some good size waves.The Naish boards are pretty light and you can see the bounce on the front of the boards on some of the waves. I think I am going to experiment with adding weight to the front half of the board in bigger waves. should be interesting. I will post my findings on if I learn anything cool. Mahalos.