SUP Surfing Certification - Level 1

My experience with Rob and the PSUPA has been extremely helpful in negotiating the many aspects of my lessons and guiding business. The PSUPA Instuctor program not only has more of a detailed focus on paddle technique, safety and modifications than other instructor courses I have participated in, but the course also covers in depth many of the ‘back end’ aspects to running a water based business.

Jaecey Suda

Owner/Operator, More Watertime Maui

The SUP Surf Certification course emphasizes the essential skills required for instructors to teach students how to have fun and be safe in the surf zone.

Course Duration: Typically 2-3 days. Minimum of 2 days.

Minimum Age of Participants: 18 years old.

Teacher-to-Student Ratio: 1:1, 1:2, 2:4.


You'll learn how to teach SUP surfing classes while keeping your students safe and respecting others in the surf zone.

Certification Requirements

Certification Valid for 4 Years: PSUPA certified instructors are required to take a one-day refresher course in their certification every four years to keep their certification valid.

Keeping Certifications Active: Active Annual PSUPA Membership and Current hands-on First Aid / CPR certification is required to keep certification active.


  • Have current hands-on (i.e., not Internet-based) First Aid/CPR certification or Wilderness First Aid or Lifeguard Training certification or the equivalent for your location.
  • Be in good overall physical shape, be able to swim 200 yards, swim in and out of the surf zone and be able to lift and carry all equipment.
  • Minimum three years of SUP surfing experience.
  • Be able to launch and land a board safely, as well as safely fall from and remount a board in surf.
  • Be comfortable walking on a SUP board and comfortable balancing in surf conditions.
  • Know basic SUP paddling techniques and be able to maintain directional control of a board, including various strokes for turning and paddling straight while in the surf zone.
  • Be able to paddle a minimum of 5 miles in varied conditions as well as through the surf zone.
  • Understanding of surf and wave forecasting, marine weather and tides/currents as well as an intimate knowledge of beaches to be used for courses including rip currents, rocks, reefs, and careless or aggressive surfers.
  • Should be on a first name basis with the local lifeguards and several of the experienced surfers.
  • Have at advanced knowledge of SUP surfing equipment, SUP surf terms and history of the sport.
  • Have positive interpersonal skills and understand what it takes to be SUP Ambassador.
  • Hold current PSUPA membership.
  • Sign liability form, provided by Instructor Trainer.This is not a course for beginners.

Note: Instructor Trainers have the right not to pass students who do not adequately demonstrate teaching skills and have a poor overall evaluation. If a student who does not pass wants to continue to work toward certification, further training outlined by an Instructor Trainer, at an additional expense to the student, will be required prior to issuing certification.

If you are not an experienced paddler or don’t yet meet the requirements for this certification, please consider taking some basic and advanced SUP classes from our Instructor Trainers or Certified Instructors before pursuing this certification.


Equipment Overview:

  • SUP surf board anatomy, types, sizing differences
  • Paddles – Types of, length pros and cons
  • Leash – Straight leash vs coiled, ankle, calf and waist attachment.
  • Clothing for surfing
  • Preparing equipment for surfing
  • Safety gear – First Aid kit, ding repair, gear repair kit, helmets.

The Surf Environment:

Introduction and Discussion

Discuss each weather topic below and discuss how they relate to each other, how each affect different types of surfing beaches and which tools can be used to forecast weather.

  1. Wind - Direction, speed, types of, how wind affects waves.
  2. Tidal Current – How current affects waves, rips and how to predict.
  3. Tides – How to predict, effect on beaches and waves, tools for prediction.
  4. Swell and Waves – Origin, size, direction, period, types of waves, parts of a wave.
  5. Marine weather – How to understand forecasts
  6. Bathymetry (beach shape and geography of the ocean bottom) – How the ocean/beach bottom affects wave creation and type. Discuss break types – beach, reef, river, point.

Teaching Tip: After discussing marine weather and how it affects the surf zone, hand out marine charts or maps of different types of surfing beaches. Put students into teams to problem solve how the current weather and wave conditions will affect each beach.

Surfing Safety

Discuss surfing etiquette and how to keep your students safe in the surf zone while also being a good SUP ambassador.

  • Surf Etiquette and avoiding collisions.
  • Respect and communication with other surfers in the water and the line-up.
  • First Aid
  • Hazards to avoid in water – Rips, rocks/reef, swimmers, marine life, currents.
  • Swimming in the surf zone
  • Rescues – First Aid, broken leashes, injured or fatigued surfers or swimmers.
  • Equipment – rubber fins, foam boards, inflatable SUPs.
  • On-water Communication – Hand signals and verbal communication with students and surfers.
  • Creating a visual sense of place (or box) in line-up to avoid tidal current or wind drift.

Paddling Techniques and Strokes in Surf

  • Footwork and stance – Goofy, regular, modified and parallel stance.
  • Most common strokes – Forward stroke, turns, stopping, sideways, backwards.
  • Stability – Bracing, momentum isd stability, staying low.
  • Falling – Fall flat like a pancake. Never dive or fall feet first.
  • Recovering from Wipe-outs – Hold-downs, duck dive, getting back on, keeping fingers out of handle and not wrapped around the leash, hand helmet.

Launching / Landing

  • Choosing the best beach for your students.
  • Carrying of equipment to beach
  • When not to launch – Crowds, shore current, shore break, timing waves to get out.
  • Alternative launch options – On knees, sitting and prone.
  • How to paddle out through surf – Discuss technique and hazards (other surfers).
  • How to land safely surfing in, in between sets or paddling in on the back of waves.

Catching Waves

  • Choosing the best waves to ride and where to line-up
  • When to start paddling, timing and acceleration
  • When not to catch a wave – Refer to surfer’s etiquette.
  • Footwork – Moving from forward or hybrid to surf stance. Nose-ride to trim. Move to tail to end ride.
  • Common errors for missing waves – Poor wave selection, too far back, angle, delayed acceleration, stance.
  • Directional control – Weighting rails (carving), stance, use of paddle.
  • End of ride – Kicking out, turning options, stalling on back of wave.

Fitness and Cross Training

  • Best methods of building strength for surfing
  • Pre-session stretching and warm-ups
  • Cross training – Non-surf sup, prone, kayak, OC, swimming.

Alternative Training

  • Use of regular surf boards, body boards or body surfing techniques to build confidence in the surf and help with the understanding of timing and acceleration for catching waves.
  • Swimming out through the surf zone and return to beach to learn how self-recover during leash breaks.

SUP Business

  • Business start-up
  • Marketing, PR
  • Curriculum design, pricing
  • Permits / licenses
  • Training staff
  • Building community, surf comps/events.

Requirements for Course Completion and Certification

Tests are Pass/Fail with Passing grade at 80% or better.

  • Pass on-water test
  • Pass written test
  • Demonstrate ability to teach land-based and on-water scenarios
  • Approval of Instructor Trainer through standardized student evaluation, which includes accessing leadership, teaching skills, and attention to safety

Cost for Certification

PSUPA Membership (annual membership) $ 85.00
On-Water Session (Price is set by local Instructor Trainer.  Typically a 1 day session) Set by Instructor Trainer
On-Line Test $14.25
Miscellaneous- Any associated travel or equipment rental costs for completing On-Water Session Varies

Certification is valid for 4 years (with active membership)

The entire course must be completed within 6 months from starting, (unless a preapproved extension is granted), so it is strongly advised for candidates to solidify their plans for the on-water portion prior to beginning.

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