Also known as ‘beach boy surfing’ or SUP - short for stand up paddle - the sport has been called a cross between outrigger canoe paddling and longboard surfing. It goes back to the early days of Polynesia, but in more recent times, SUP was a way for Hawaiian surfing instructors to manage their large groups of learner surfers; standing gave them better visibility. ‘The ancient Hawaiians started it. Modern Hawaiians revived it, and then the rest of the world caught the bug.’
Stand up paddle board surfers use a long paddle with a handle at the top, and one blade with a bend in it. The SUP rider stands with feet wide, side by side and turned out slightly, a little duck-like, rather than with one foot ahead – a la normal surfing. A few quick digs of the paddle and the stand-up paddleboard surfer is gliding onto a wave and switching into a normal surfing stance, one foot in front of the other.
The paddle is a subtle tool used in many different ways: dragged in the water beside the board to help with a ‘cutback,’ or held around chest height, and skimmed along the lip of a fast breaking wave for help with balance. If the wave slows, the paddle can used for a quick burst of paddling, to get through the slower section.
Not surprisingly, stand up paddle boarding has caught on at the long-time surfing mecca of Mount Maunganui, and you’ll see them in growing numbers, especially at spots such as ‘Long Lefts,’ just south of the main beach.
A good second-hand board could cost you not much more than $1000, but expect to spend well over $2000 for new equipment and a good carbon fibre paddle. Longer is better for starting out, with suitable boards ranging from around 11 to 12 foot. Some boards are designed for flat water paddling, and there are even models for use on rivers.
If you’re keen to test drive a stand up board, try Quiver Boardshop at 37 Totara Street (tel 575-6070). They are the Western Bay’s only stockist of the superb, Hawaiian-designed C4 brand. The models you can try out range from sleek, ocean-going 12 and 14 footers, to short wave models (they also serve excellent cheap coffees!).
Mount Surf Shops (also in Totara Street and downtown Mount) have a range of well-known Naish, Surftech NSP and other SUP’s, and also provide demo boards for $40 an hour, the same price as a rental board.
Learn to SUP? Aloha Suping (tel 022 43 44 584) at Pilot Bay is the only operator providing lessons and board hire solely for stand up paddle boarding. Olivia Novak has four years of SUP experience and provides the very user-friendly Starboard brand of paddle board, with a range of boards and paddles to cater for all ages and sizes. Boards are $15 a half hour, or $25 an hour, and they also hire by the day. The calm harbour waters are a great place to try the sport and get your balance, without waves coming at you.