SUP wars – SUP surfing vs River SUP

SUP wars – SUP surfing vs River SUP

As more people discover the versatility and diversity of stand up paddle boarding a plethora of new locations and environments are springing up. No longer confined to just open sea, SUP can be practiced anywhere there’s a puddle – literally.

Those choosing to specialise are also thinking outside the box and over the last few years wave heads, who don’t live anywhere near a surf break, have been ‘putting in’ at rivers.

Toes on the nose, in the river! Pic courtesy

In the latest instalment of SUP wars we match up the more traditional SUP surfing side of the sport against the new school river SUP.

River SUP?

Stand up paddling in white water is an up and coming part of SUP that still has yet to make the mainstream. However, interest is rising as paddlers imaginations are being pricked almost daily.

For wave heads, dropping in, ferry gliding over to a standing wave and being able to ride endlessly (or at least until you tap out due to leg burn) is of great appeal.

The real deal? SUP surfing in the ocean.

Certain brands are now producing technical SUP boards that have rockers, rail configurations and outline shapes designed with rivers specifically in mind.

That’s not surfing!

Some purists would argue that unless you’re on an open ocean moving wall of water then ‘it ain’t surfing man!’ Standing in one position with a dribble of froth holding you in place looks less than appealing – maybe.

Ramp it up a notch and, where the standing wave gets noticeably bigger, and it’s a whole different story.

On the right river wave it’s possible to carve, hack, slash, punt aerials and do everything we see all our SUP surfing heroes do. The added bonus of a river wave is that you don’t have the wait between sets. If you stack it, then hit it again and again. Quick progression is almost guaranteed.

The downside?

The problem with river SUP is finding good conditions. Just as with open sea wave shredding it all comes down to what Mother Nature decides to gift us.

In the UK rivers are abundant. However, it’s only in certain parts of this green and pleasant land where you’ll find topographic anomalies that are perfect for setting up a river SUP wave. Scotland, Wales and Ireland are prime locations but not as consistent as you’d think – particularly during summer.

The other limiting factor is weather – or more importantly rain. To get a river wave we need a decent amount of flow and for that we need rain. Even as damp as the UK is (or certainly that’s the global perception) there are still bouts of drought. Unfortunately, as with conventional SUP surfing, patience is key to scoring a sick river SUP sesh.

And the winner is…

The jury’s still out on this. There’s nothing quite like the rush of dropping down a salty wall and laying into a big bottom turn before rebounding off the top and hurtling down the line to set up for the next hit.

Bashing one…

On the flip side, having a never ending wave, that lends itself to the progressive and new school skate orientated way of riding, is also appealing.

You decide…

Tez Plavenieks is a freelance writer who loves windsurfing, SUP, surfing, snowboarding, drums, art and beer. If he’s not out sliding sideways then you’ll find him producing articles, stories and content revolving around his passions. Check out more at