Top 5 SUP Nose Riding Tips

Joe Thwaites nose riding a small wave

As with all things that look stylish they never really go out of fashion and much is the same with nose riding. Some brands may purport to have invented nose riding for SUP in 2016 but lots of UK SUP Surfers have been ‘surfing with style’ pretty much from the word go.

So what do you actually need to start your journey into cross stepping and nose riding? Some would immediately signpost specialist kit, consistent surf and hours of practice but this just isn’t the case! Casting my mind back to the early days of UK SUP when all you could buy were Starboard Big Easys or Blends there wasn’t any specialist kit so your board of choice had to be used ‘creatively’. The good thing about those huge tankers was they had lots of volume and stability which meant you could scratch into any wave irrespective of size almost with your eyes closed and once planing on the face you could bust out a headstand, body 360 or star jump without upsetting the board too much at all. Needless to say unlikely legends were born across many beaches around the UK.

nose 1

Today a lot has changed with boards getting progressively shorter and wider at the entry level end of the spectrum so it is nice to see a bit of a resurgence of longer sticks albeit much more wobbly ones than from days gone by. That said you can do about 75% of what you can do on a specialist nose rider on a standard all-round SUP provided you’re happy moving your feet.

nose 6

Anyway let’s get down to the basics and some useful practice ideas:

  • Choose a suitable location and forecast. We suggest starting with small clean waves while you build your confidence. Head out the back and wait for a nice peeling wave and try and drop in as close to the shoulder as possible. Once you’ve caught the wave immediately turn the board so it’s going ‘down the line’ either with foot pressure or using the paddle like a rudder or both.

nose 2

  • Once you’ve heading in the right direction get used to controlling your speed by cross stepping forwards to stall your speed and cross stepping backwards to speed your board up. If you skim the paddle on the top/back of the wave this can be a useful stabiliser. Speed and trim are two of the most important elements so play around with the extremes, staying right next to the pocket high on the wave and right up at the nose then outrun the wave and before the nose sinks completely cross step to the back and try a cutback.

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  • Once you have the basics in place try running up and down the board while trying to maintain a constant speed or position on the wave. Again use the paddle for extra balance or to help change direction. If you get right to the front and are nice and high on the wave you’ll feel the fins come free which opens a new door to lots of attempts at board 360s or riding fins first however briefly.


  • OK so you’re now moving around the board. Can this be useful outside of nose riding and old school moves? Try heading out in a reasonable strong offshore wind. If you’ve been out in similar conditions before you’ll appreciate it can be nigh impossible to drop in with that wind getting under the nose of the board often resulting in a few choice words. Do as you have done before i.e. paddle for the wave but this time just as it picks you up cross step forwards towards the nose and see if your board starts planing any more readily. Admittedly this is a reasonably precise science, go too hard and you’ll sink the nose and time it too late and you’ll still fall off the back. The key here is perseverance but stick with it and you’ll soon know what’s possible and moreover you’ll score more waves in offshore wind.

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  • And so we enter the experimentation zone where you’ll need to suss out what’s the best part of the wave to ride and how to increase your speed to make the next section if the wave starts to close out ahead of you. Generally speaking you can nose ride close to the pocket or on a steep part of the wave so the trick is to mix that up with some cutbacks to make sure you’re always close to the power source of any given wave. Watching the ocean and knowing your local break at different points of tide certainly help with better wave selection and maxing out  hang time. As your confidence builds take on larger surf, where the real pleasure of nose riding becomes immediately apparent.

Whether you’re just starting in the surf or have been trying to emulate your favourite YouTube SUP surfer for a while with limited success, these Top 5 Nose Riding Tips should prove useful. If you have a GoPro or similar it’s often helpful putting it up front to examine your technique after your session as what you think you’re doing and what you’re actually doing can be worlds apart! Be warned though as clumsy feet or a misplaced paddle can result in an expensive session if you don’t have the floaty back!

Whatever your current level or aspirations remember to have fun while you’re learning and expect to get wet, a lot! Rome wasn’t built in a day but with a clear idea of what you’re looking to achieve and a little patience you’ll soon be hanging 10 like a seasoned old school long boarder. Sure the latest kit will help but it’s not an absolute pre-requisite with most all-rounders (matched correctly to a rider’s weight) delivering much of the same results.

As with practising anything new avoid busy line ups until you’re competent and try not to nose ride in really shallow water as this can sometimes end painfully if the lip catches the board and you’re left skidding along an upturned rail using your bits as a braking solution. What style you had is soon lost with onlookers probably wetting themselves with laughter (or so I’m told).

If you’re already moving around your board and want a nice thin railed specialist bit of kit with the on trend spoony nose then our new Inca is certainly a cut above. For those on a tighter budget why not check out our clearance 10’ Nose Riders.

If you’re looking for some more paddle surfing tips click here

Words: Loco SUP

Photos: Loco SUP, Seabreeze, Gong SUP