An essential part of becoming a competent stand up paddle surfer is learning the difference between a right and a left. I'm not talking about that little R and L your mom used to write on top of your hands when you were in elementary school (or for you advanced guys and gals out there, the L you can form with thumb and pointer finger); what I'm going to discuss are waves because in surfing you can go right or left- but not in the way you think. Let's take a look:
|This wave is what we'd (us surfers... soon to include YOU) call an "A-frame" peak because it looks like an A-frame house, with a distinct peak and sloping shoulders. We love these types of waves because they offer BOTH a left and a right.|
Going Right: In the photo above, you can see the stand up paddler dropping into the wave and turning to the side of the wave where there's a surfer watching. In this case, the stand up paddler, who is riding towards the surfer on the shoulder of the wave, would be said to be, "Going right". I know, I know- from your point of view, he is moving left across your field of view. In surfing, however, we label waves from a sitting-behind-the-breaking-wave reference point. In this instance, if you were the guy watching from the shoulder of the wave, John would seem to be moving right. It may seem odd, but that's how we label a wave and in this case, John is going right.
Going Left: In the same photo, you can see that this wave could actually be ridden in either direction. John has chosen to ride toward the surfer, he's going right- but there is also a left running toward the pier. If you were sitting behind the wave, looking toward shore, you would see the wave running off toward the pilings and we'd say, "There was a left on that wave". Once again, the surf terminology runs counter to what you are seeing from the beach.
|If you were sitting behind this wave, looking toward shore, you'd see me zipping along going left- so this wave is called a left.|
Knowing the difference between a right and left is really important in the water. In some instances, as you paddle for a nice A-frame peak (you read the first photo's caption right?) the surfer next to you might ask you if you're going right or left with the intention of splitting the peak with you (meaning he will go one way and you'll go the other). Being able to communicate your intentions with him, so that you may both get a ride, will go along way toward getting you accepted in the line up.
Now go paddle!