I’ve often regretted not learning to SUP while I still lived in PE. Warm water. Few sharks. Benign waves. Not much white water.
So earlier this year when I went to PE, I tried to hire a SUP to enjoy the kindly conditions, but it didn’t end well. I was given a foam topped, ancient vessel, which, in a sputter of polystyrene chunks, broke in two on the first wave. True Story. Well, not quite true, the stringer clung on for dear life, so the broken board jackknifed around me and wrapped me up like a burrito and let the sea have its way.
On a subsequent visit I was delighted to discover that Coreban (the trustworthy boards I ride in Cape Town) had arrived in the Eastern Cape so I coerced them into renting me a board. (A beautiful 9″6 Ohana which did NOT break on the first wave, or any waves thereafter.)
I chatted to Steve Riley of Coreban EC to get the lowdown on the status of SUP in PE and what their plans are to grow the sport going forward.
You seem to have a sizable bunch on the WhatsApp group. Is the sport growing in PE?
Yep, absolutely, our membership on the WhatsApp SUP group “SUP Life” has doubled in the last 4 months. We have several ladies in the group and they are getting into the ocean which is great to see. Gary Van Rooyen afforded me the Coreban Agency and I chose 2 mates, Marc Kempton-Jones and Jeff Stubbings, to assist in getting the numbers out there based on our single minded passion for the sport.
PE doesn’t have a webcam. Judging by the early morning pings on the group, you seem to be the human webcam?
Haha, that’s about it, I have a view of the ocean from my bed and generally check Windguru and the tide table to deliver reports every weekend at 7 am. I give the outlook and options depending on the group members ability. Then group members post as they get down to the beach around 8 am.
Do you look at the forecasts and if it looks promising literally drive to the spots to check them out? Or do you use your local knowledge to interpret where the best spots will be?
I have been SUP riding for 2 years now so I have a pretty good idea of local conditions.
How/why did you get into SUP?
I was the unfortunate recipient of a 25000 volt shock in 1994 which knocked me pretty badly. I have surfed all my life and after my shock had difficulty standing up quickly – this was frustrating but then Gary Van Rooyen introduced me to Stand Up Paddle. I bought my board and I was hooked.
What do you think the most common barrier to entry is in PE?
Besides affordability of our market, it was a lack of cohesion in the sport and getting together, which I believe has been achieved to a certain extent – we are pretty much a family.
The nice thing about our conditions and spots here are that there is not a ton of white water to contend with before you reach the backline.
Sharks seem to be more of a problem down south and are really not too much of an issue here. For newcomers who show a level of interest, the barrier is actually getting them down to the beach to give the sport a try, and then make sure they follow through sufficiently to get the bug to bite.
What is the vibe like with the surfers?
Generally not good, especially around J Bay, but locally we have created a good relationship with the surfers and we try to educate the SUP group, especially those who haven’t surfed before, that there is etiquette that must be adhered to. I SUP Cobbles often and there is a really good vibe there between all of us.
So you guys do get down to SUP J Bay and St Francis Bay?
Yep, had some classic day trips to J bay and St Francis but the locals give us a hard time, especially when 3-4 of us jump in the water all at once!!
Are there many ladies SUPping in PE?
In the ocean there are several ladies who distance paddle, but we only have three wave riders.
What do you think is a good beginner board from someone in PE who is crossing over from surfing to SUPping ?
If you had to pick one for PE, would it be a longboard style SUP like the California Series or more of the style of the Platinum?
Ideally you need two boards for our conditions, the waves are generally relatively small, weak and we are harassed by the N wind which puts a nasty cross chop on the waves – the 9′ Platinum Plus has really served me well and I have just ordered an 8’5″, that’s my quiver.
What is a good beginner board for someone who has no experience in the water all and would like to start SUP surfing?
In my opinion the Ohana 9’6″ is ideal – the one you rode in PE. Its light maneuverable and easy to handle.
What is the best beginner board for someone who does not want to surf but just wants to cruise at the back?
Due to the bulkiness of the boards the inflatable’s are always a good option – for solids I would suggest Ohana’s as they are nicely priced. Please don’t forget the Coreban Custom’s, I have been so impressed and all those who have ridden my board agree. So you can choose your board on the Coreban range and ask for the custom model – great prices.
Do you have a board that ticks all those boxes?
9′ Coreban Platinum Plus for my weight 85kg’s – I’ve just taken possession of the Coreban 9′ Custom and it is just as good at a much more attractive price.
Any downwinders/time trials/races/surf events? Future plans?
We have had time trials on North End Lake and the odd downwind paddle but certainly there is much we need to do.
Is there anyone coaching Stand Up Paddle in PE?
There is nothing official, but when we sell boards we give a pretty comprehensive introduction and lesson.
Your best SUP experience in PE?
Cobbles at 4-5ft with light SW wind and rides that can go 250m, just heaven, 10 min from my place, no crowds, so close to nature. Some wild side trips have delivered great memories including Beachview and Maitlands, which get the direct swell outside the bay.
For the waveriders:
Here’s a video clip of that day at Cobbles. – supplied by Steve Riley
For the cruisers:
So if you live in PE, you’ve got it good. But you knew that, right? You can find Coreban EC HERE on Facebook They’re keeping a small stock of boards for people just like you.
For more information about Coreban Sups in Cape Town and Durban, check out Xpression on the The Beach HERE