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RickI 06-30-2006 04:39 PM

SURF ... a new way
Blane Haleiwa

Stand-up paddle surfing, "Beach-Boy" Style surfing, "BB surfing," paddle surfing, standup surfing or Hui O He'e Nalu, it goes by many names but what is it? I recently put that question to John Bendon of Maui, HI. John is the son of Jim Bendon, the man who introduced me to kitesurfing in the summer of 1998 in the BVI. Standup surfing can provide a viable challenging option to kiteboarding when there is no wind OR too much!
Jim Bendon kiting off Sprecksville, Maui in 1999.

For smaller images click here

John grew up on Maui surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, tow-in surfing and other ocean activities off Maui and Oahu. These pursuits produce well rounded watermen for which the islands are known. These days he crafts incredible vacations for visitors to the islands through Vacations in Maui. Pa'ani Point is a intriguing property that he books with direct uncrowded kite access well to the east of Kanaha (Kite Beach), near Paia. Advanced kiters that are guests can legally ride in a narrow corridor and in close proximity to the airport making this spot fairly unique.
Pa'ani Point, just add wind and rip loose into all that clear ocean without a ton of kiters!

He is fairly new to standup paddle surfing however and provides some good insight into this style of surfing.
John Bendon

Stand-up surfing has really been taking off in Hawaii again. Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama were among the first recent riders to get into standup surfing in a big way. Laird recently paddled across the English Channel to France and biked the rest of the way between London and Paris as a part of a charitable effort to benefit autistic children. You can still donate to this singular effort to heal autism here. Additional information here.

It is not easy to readily track the origins of standup surfing other than to conclude that they are OLD. Some particularly long paddles have been found in archaeological digs on Oahu. Also, John pointed out lacking fins on the early Hawaiian boards the paddle might have come in handy. Duke Paoa Kahanamoku and other beachboys in the last century performed standup paddle surfing off Waikiki apparently to help in photographing tourists.
John Z riding in 1962
Here is John Zabotocky, forty-four years later with a longer paddle but still paddling in. Amazing! More HERE. Be sure to checkout the video of John Z. at the bottom of the page, it is inspirational to say the least and he shows how it is done. 56 years of stand-up surfing in motion.

John says it is a fun way to head out in smaller (or larger) waves as it is more challenging than regular longboarding. He started fairly recently and hasn't been out in "large waves" yet, by local definition. He was saying nothing more than 4 ft. overhead or roughly 10 ft. swells. Lots of guys like to paddle long downwinders in windswells, This might be of particular appeal to Florida guys in our frequently calm summer conditions. These boards feel like longboards however they react a bit slower and there are all the dynamics involving the paddle. Things like carving, pivoting turns and related footwork. If you're on a small wave and it's about to give up the ghost just start paddling to try to renew your ride. The added visibility is like being in a "fish tower" allowing spotting incoming sets easier. I asked John about the challenges of the sport. In flat water is can be as simple as developing balance while paddling. In waves, knowing how to use the board to punch through surf, to avoid heading downwind with all that board and body surface. This has yet to develop as a high wind sport and perhaps never will except for downwind runs. It's pretty much impossible to do it in wind unless you're going downwind. Too much surface area moving you down wind and paddling upwind typically is not on.
Todd Makaha
From: From:

If the incoming wave is small enough, say waist high or lower you can punch through by paddling hard. If the wave is much higher and will breaking on you, you can pivot the board quickly and ride in or jump in and use the leash to anchor the board through the wave. The footwork with a standup rig is similar to that used on a long board but a bit more exaggerated. It is an excellent, full body workout with the constant balancing and paddling. Stand-up paddle surfing can really condition the rider's core. New riders might do well to seek calm water and shorter duration sessions for starters at they develop balance and skills.
Archie Kalepa crossing the Molokai Channel

You can catch waves a bit earlier and more often when standup paddle surfing than in the conventional way. This can even bum normal surfers out at a crowded lineup. Spots that were usually "ruled" by longboarders such as Kanaha are now feeling a bit of competition from the standup guys. Folks may recall that shortboarders can grumble about longboarders grabbing the waves and now the long boarders have some competition. This may not be a good thing. There could be some problems with guys doing the standup surfing at crowded spots. Some fights have been reported at Hookipa because of it. If it gets to a point where there's lots of guys doing it at the more popular spots then there's going to be problems for sure.
Todd Makaha again

So, what does all this have to do with kitesurfing? I asked Paul Menta of about this. Paul said there are strong parallels in board handling particularly if someone is thinking of kiting with a surfboard. Also, it is great cross-training for kiting and a solid workout. Paul also wants to try it out for tandem kitesurfing and even spearfishing. He is introducing standup paddle boarding into his operations at TheKitehouse. Paul tells me that a lot of kiters are taking on this style of surfing.
The guys grab some surf time with TheKitehouse in the Turks & Caicos

If you look around online quite a few other big names have been seen paddling in standing up, folks like Gerry Lopez, Buzzy Kerbox, Brian Keaulana, Loch Eggers, Sean Ordonez, Kelly Slater, Robert "Wingnut" Weaver, Todd Bradley perhaps even Kenny G and Adam Sandler in addition many other watermen, and women.
Laird paddling in.

John pursues stand up surfing as it is a way from him to get into the water on days when it isn't very good for other things. For example if it is way to windy/gusty for kiteboarding as can happen in summer on Maui, he plans to do some downwinders. You can just glide the chop for a long time.
A beer ad inspired by a recent competition in Hawaii

Standup surfing puts the challenge back into tackling smaller waves more suited for longboards that he would pass on as a rule. You get a good workout and keep paddling to extend the ride when the wave backs off at points that would strand you on a longboard. He would use stand-up surfing to cross train for tow-in surfing, which can be a great deal more demanding.

There is a video clip of standup paddle surfing with some footage of Dave Kalama riding a few:

Women may have an edge over guys in standup surfing in that they may approach things more with finesse than strength. This seems to be the case in kiteboarding at times.
Andrea Moller of the AMAZONE SURF TEAM has a go and it is a workout!

I asked John to describe his most memorable standup session to date. It was his second go at stand-up surfing. He had paddled out to the outer reef about 1/4 mile off Sprecks on a glassy wave day with two friends. The waves were about 4 ft. overhead with no one else out. It was great to work on the dynamics of balance and paddling in such fine conditions complete with turtles surfacing all over the place. Recently he told me about another great session involving perfect head high waves at Sprecks. No one was out with offshore winds with little barrels everywhere. Kiters and surfers like getting "tubed" John tells me standup guys love it too. He got barreled quite a few times that day.
A sequence of images showing a cold water standup ride
More of the same rider. It even shows turns back into and riding through breaking waves.

I asked John what to do for gear if you don't live in Hawaii where this stuff is located in many shops. He said there is a fair amount online particularly through some of the shapers in the islands. He mentioned HiTech Surf Sports ( ) in Kahului, Maui as a good source of gear.

I spoke to Tom Cherry at HiTech Surf Sports in Kahalui, Maui about gear for stand-up paddle surfing. He said men typically ride boards around 12 ft. long while women go for 11 ft. boards. Some paddles are entirely of carbon while others may have an aluminum shaft and carbon paddle blade. Paddle length is determined by rider height and preference being about 1 to 2 ft. taller then the surfer. There is a trend to go longer to improve the reach of the paddle. Paddles go for about $290. to $315.+.

More about paddles at:

Stand-up surfboards range from custom to production epoxy to production soft top construction. Custom boards price out around $1600. to $2000.+ with production epoxy boards at around $1000. to $1200.+ and soft top boards at around $695.. The epoxy boards around 12 ft. and up that have been shaped for standup surfing may have more stability and displacement than the soft tops for heavier riders. There are a variety of shapers fabricating boards these days such as Sean Ordonez, Jimmy Lewis, Mickey Minoz and others. Some guys are even using old long windsurfing boards with square tails or 16 ft. paddleboards. You can sacrifice some performance with the windsurfers and paddleboards in the waves and turns by virtue of weight and board shape.
The SOS Boards Big Red. The softop board measures 12' x 26 1/4" x 4 1/4." Big Red measures 11'11" x 29 1/2" x 4."
From: ,

A lot of photos of Sean Ordonez, a well known shaper riding his Big Red board off Hookipa follow (Click the photo below).
and at:

Additional information on standup paddle surfing can be found at:

And while we're still out in Maui, a look at tow-in surfing ...

John started tow-in surfing about three years ago but has put in about one and a half seasons. He left the islands for a couple of years and had to set it aside until about a year ago. The tow-in season runs from about October through March. He described the course required to obtain the ski decal required by the State to tow-in. I asked him what sort of physical and mental demands tow-in surfing places on the rider? He said you want to be in shape and be able to take a beating and be confident in your swimming. He also strongly felt that you should be capable of paddling into "huge" surf before starting tow-in surfing. There seems to be a lot of guys towing into big surf that they might have trouble handling if they tried to paddle into them. That is paddle by hand, not while standing up.
John tows into a big one. These big wave shots were captured from video hence the fuzzy aspect. Still, the size comes through!

In some ways tow-in surfing, can be "easier" than paddling into surf, as long as things don't go wrong (sounds like like kiteboarding). You get into the wave sooner and may have less of a drop than when you paddle in. You are more manuverable with a small board going fast than in a larger board suitable for paddling into big waves. John feels that if you want to tow into 20 ft. "Hawaiian style" waves (waves for 40 ft. faces) you should be able to paddle into these same waves. I understood prior to this time that guys just couldn't paddle at a high enough speed to catch these big waves. John corrected me in stating that applies but to REALLY big waves, 25 to 30 ft."Hawaiian Style" waves (50 to 60 ft. plus wave faces!). He feels that waves of that size aren't readily manageable by paddling into waves. John indicated that "the drop is still the same, it’s just easier because you don’t have to paddle and then stand up in the critical section. Aside from wave height, the spot also has a lot to do with the necessity for towing in. Spots where the peak is shifty or waves that are super critical and heavy (like big days in Tahiti at Teahupoo) also require towing in. Jaws has so much wind and is such a gnarly peak that it’s much more suited for tow surfing than paddle surfing."
John is into an even larger wave, looking good

I asked him what sort of board he would use for paddling into 40 ft. face waves. He said it would be a "big wave gun" or a 9 to 12 ft. long narrow pintail board specifically designed for big waves. The pointy tail is intended to help the board grip the wave better through a longer rail section during turning. I asked him what the largest wave he has towed into at this point. He said there was a session at Jaws with 30 ft. wave faces. I asked him just how shallow the water is in these tow-in spots. He said that unlike say Pipeline where bottom impact is a serious concern, "hold down" is more of an issue in wiping out in the big tow-in surf. I asked him what his most memorable "hold down" experience has been to date. He said it was probably while surfing at Waimea. He saw a set coming on the horizon, it seemed to turn black. He was sitting deep, about 20 ft. inside the pack as it was super crowded that day. There was a peak barreling in and he concluded he was going to get smashed by this big set. He took off on one of the first waves in an effort to get in pretty far to avoid getting "destroyed." Unfortunately, it sectioned off and closed out. He surfaced after the wipeout for his first breath and saw the next wave with a 30 ft. face looming over him. It broke about 10 ft. in front of him, bounced him off the bottom a couple of times. He surfaced again and was fine.
Hey John, watch out for that left turn. Looking real good.

I asked him if he wears any safety gear when towing in? He said he wears a PFD and a helmet for sure. The most dangerous part of towing in may be all the ski's ripping around. It would be bad to surface from a wipeout and was slam into you. Checking around for some background on Jaws, it has been reported that up to 30 skies might be towing in there at one time. Given the limited area, shoreline shape and wave characteristics you might conclude 15 to 20 skies could create crowded conditions there.
30 ski's, guys in and under the water and monster waves?

So, that's some insight into the new, old sport of standup paddle surfing with a quick look at tow-in surfing. Thanks John for all the info and experiences, have fun and ride on ...
John about to plunge down the face.

Aloha and Mahalo


RickI 07-01-2006 10:19 PM

It would be great to get some input from guys that are doing standup currently. I understand that boards are being sent out all over, to the Great Lakes, the east coast, overseas. So how about it guys, what do you like about it and what are you working on?

biggins 07-02-2006 07:22 PM

How hard would it be to just use the 10ft longboard I have now??? wonder if the balance would be too hard?

This would definately make crappy days more fun and more time on the waves probably as well!

VERY nice thanks,,,,and help appreciated with board advice...would like to just use what I have.


RickI 07-02-2006 07:29 PM


Originally Posted by biggins
How hard would it be to just use the 10ft longboard I have now??? wonder if the balance would be too hard?

This would definately make crappy days more fun and more time on the waves probably as well!

VERY nice thanks,,,,and help appreciated with board advice...would like to just use what I have.


I hear you. I have a long windsurfer, 325 cm and a 9'2" tanker I would like to use for it. Unfortunately, from what I have been told from the shapers and riders out in Hawaii, neither my 9 ft. or your 10 ft. board would be good for standup. The thickness/displacement of the board comes into it as well as the width for stability. You want to be able to stand motionless without too much trouble. Add waves and you still want some stability while not moving forward. Maybe look around for an old long windsurfing board, something around 12 or 13 ft. It won't measure up with the purpose built boards particularly in the waves but it can get you going on the flat and in lighter waves. Even lighter women seem to start with 11 ft., beamy standup boards.

biggins 07-03-2006 12:57 AM

Yeah, that's what I figured. :( unfortunately since I live in Japan shipping of a nice new 12+board isn't really feasible.

This is a great looking sport for the guy who has to travel far to the beach only to arrive to zero or too much wind! Even a one footer could be fun I think with one of these...or just flat water exercise. This is exactly what I've been looking for but such a shame to not be able to get a board over here.

I'll figure something out...they probably have some old longboard around here somewhere.


RickI 07-05-2006 12:19 PM

This was posted from an ironical perspective on kiteforum. Prior to that time I was unfamilar with the fishermen of Chicama, Peru. It looks like another link in the history of standup paddle surfing has just come along.


Originally Posted by selah
Laird Hamilton a surf god? A 16’ Jimmy Lewis custom? Have y’all lost your minds? Next thing you know he’ll be riding one of those wicker baskets used by fishermen at Chicama… Oxbow will shoot the helicopter footage, American Express will run the ad, Dana Brown will reveal basket-surfing’s inner soul to a worldwide audience, just in time for Billabong’s first WCT 5-Star “Basket Brawl” at Linda Mar, CA. But it’s only the beginning, dudes… next it’s big-wave basket-riding, tow-in basketry, localism and the dark side of basket-riding. Tattooed thugs, black shorts, the North Shore Basketweavers.

Where will it end?

Doing a bit of digging on the fishmen and their boards, caballitos de totora or "little reed horses" I came across the following photo:

This image was found in an excellent examination of history of the surfing fishermen of Chicama at:

A history of Caballitos de Totora in Spanish

Even Red Bull is getting into the act and shows us how to make a little reed horse. Three surfers girls go to it with their boards of grass.
A view of the reed craft and aft storage area appears above.

This practice of surfing has been estimated to have started well before the time of Christ. The craft are usually operated seated but it appears that they are surfed in standing up as well. The appearance of surfing in the islands of the Pacific is examined in "Legendary Surfers", a good read by the way. ( )
The beach

Wonder if high strength fiber composites are giving bamboo paddles any heat?

So, did standup paddle surfing originate in Peru? Maybe or perhaps even before then in another place. It seems to be coming back though ...


RickI 07-12-2006 04:52 PM

I received images of some of Jimmy Lewis' standup paddle surfboards ( ), that I wanted to pass along. He is currently working on a production line of standup boards in addition to the custom boards shown below and in the original article above.
Jimmy's son, Marlon posing with one of the family standup paddle surfboards.

The Jimmy Lewis production standup boards are 11'7" long X 26.5" wide and 4 3/4" thick. They are EPS (styrofoam) core with PVC sandwich construction and very light for the size and volume. Jimmy created the production standup board for someone who can already surf and wants a standup board that they can actually surf waves on well. Of course it can be used to just paddle around too. The retail price would be between $1000-$1100. So, it is a bit narrower and sporty than some of the boards out there working a compromise between glide characteristics and performance in the waves.
Randal Morikawa, a friend of Jimmy Lewis posing with another custom standup board. I understand that Randal although new to standup paddle surfing is moving out strongly already, these Hawaiian watermen.
Jimmy tells me that Maria and Andrea, the Brazilian Amazones are entering the Molokai Ocean Challenge with new Jimmy Lewis custom standup boards. I am debating kiting in the challenge, the scenery looks incredible.
The Challenge

Jimmy also sent along some great shots of a special custom standup board he made for Laird Hamilton. Laird has been putting in some distance standup paddle surfing, across the English Channel, to Catalina, etc.. This is not intended as a wave board but is designed for covering miles, a LOT of miles across the water with an exceptional glide.
At 16 ft. this ain't your sister's shortboard!
Excellent workmanship
This thing is even self-bailing!

I commented to Jimmy that this board looks like a (big) work of art. It would be a good candidate for the Smithsonian Transportation Museum.

That is a look at some more boards, hopefully more info is to come. Stay tuned and let us know how you are doing out there with standup paddle surfing.

admin 02-08-2007 10:11 AM

A Super Kona wind has been blasting through the islands. The watermen have been hitting it along with Laird Hamilton on a standup paddle surfboard out in the big stuff. Chaby* uploaded some interesting shots that are passed along below.
Hookipa, Maui, HI going off
A good thing about standup is how easy it is to handle large inbound surf, don't believe it!
Sliding into one
Riding a smaller wave with company
The wind at Kehei, Maui, HI on January 29, 2007. They had several days of similar winds.

* Originally uploaded at:

admin 02-08-2007 09:51 PM

Just got an update from Paul Menta down in Key West, FL. They may not have triple head high and larger surf to play with all that often (ever outside of hurricanes?) but they have no end of calm water with gentle swells. Great for learning standup paddle surfing in other words.
Hundreds of square miles of warm, shallow water to paddle surf through. There are even smaller swells at times to ride. More about the Flats HERE
How it's done

here are some key west shots....

training is the best on these reef waves and others in key west makes surf possible here

turks is sick for it in big waves way out there...2 mile paddle!

if there are waves on the outside , you can get to them this way...

south swell in hawaii was fun all summer, this sport can be done by anyone!

Paul Menta
No end of cruising ground throughout the Keys
SLIDESHOW, click photo, then hit slideshow in the upper right of the page and watch Paul have at it
Heading out


The Kite House 02-09-2007 01:45 PM

just some things to ponder.

No wind sucks!

i can paddle and train to stay in shape on these boards.

I wish i could live in maui or Oahu, i vist alot but i cant move.

So key west and turks and cacios for me......waves in key west...yes, but way out or harder to get to, so i can on the stand up board. Turks the breaks are 2 miles out, so i paddle out, do a session and then do down winders. Key west, the paddle helps me catch the wave eaiser..

Stand up late in the day on a reef.....bull sharks bumping the boards like crazy...there goes that mith

i paddle around the islands, take a small pole spear and stop to spear fish or get a lobster, all while enjoying the water. When i am done i put the 12 foot board on my head and walk home 7 blocks.

we never had the option to surf here before.....even in miami

point is to get on the water and love it, when i go to stand up , the guys are surfing the inside, i go to the outside and have it to my self

when i am in maui i surf, then i go to the other spots where i can stand up where no one is really there.

Good fun, great exercise and beats doing nothing with no wind.

I have the sean o big red 12' and a 10'7 custom

lairds are great, but to big, ment for long distance...we will try a cuba run in the summer.

Aloha PAul

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