Fun Whitewater SUP Tricks

by Zachary Collier

Last spring while Dan Gavere was in Hood River he showed us the latest whitewater SUP moves and we’ve been practicing. I’m excited to share some photos and descriptions, but first I want to talk safety.

1. “SUP-ping is swimming” so you need to be a solid whitewater swimmer. Think about getting elbow pads, knee pads, and any other body armor you can find.

Quick recovery from a swim is critical for whitwater SUP

Quick recovery from a swim is critical for whitwater SUP | Photo by Tyler Harris / River Drifters

When you fall off your board, you must keep your feet up to avoid a foot entrapments. This dangerous possibility happens when your foot gets pinned in underwater rocks and is very difficult to recover from.

2. Wear a quick release coiled leash waistbelt and practice using it. You’ll need a coiled leash (not just a rope) to get your board back when you fall off (and you will fall off). This leash needs to have an easy to use quick release waistbelt. Ankle leashes are dangerous because they can't be easily released. If you keep SUP-ping, eventually your board and/or leash will create some sort of entrapment so your life may depend on your ability to quickly separate from the leash.

Tim Thornton dressed for SUP success

Tim Thornton dressed for SUP success

3. Finally, be whitewater safe. Wear a PFD, helmet, and bomber river shoes. Never SUP alone. Watch out for man-made water features and avoid trees and bushes.

And now for the moves…


Dan opened our eyes to the size and style of river waves that can be surfed. We’ve learned that his signature Starboard SUP is awesome for catching waves on the fly.

Tim surfing Dan's signature Starboard at the Cave Wave on the White Salmon River

Tim surfing Dan's signature Starboard at the Cave Wave on the White Salmon River

Rock Stall

This is a fun and easy one. Get on the back of your board and paddle up on a rock. As you hit the rock run up to the bow of your board until it’s stable.

SUP Rock Stall on the Hood River

SUP Rock Stall on the Hood River | Photo by Tim Thornton / River Drifters

Bonus: Turn around and walk down the board putting emphasis on your last step which gives the board some oomph to come off the rock.

Rock Hop

This is my favorite move. First, look for a big rock that slants upstream. Paddle up on it and jump off your board on to the rock (your shoes need to have sticky rubber).

Jumping onto a rock for a Rock Hop

Jumping onto a rock for a Rock Hop | Photo by Tim Thornton / River Drifters

If you have a good leash, the board usually swings around the rock into the eddy behind it. Jump off the downstream side of the rock on your board and keep paddling downstream like it’s no big thing.

SUP Hopping off the backside of a rock is so glorious

Hopping off the backside of a rock is so glorious

SUP Rock Hop Video

Rock Spin

This is one of my favorite kayak moves that’s been fun to do on a SUP. Move your stance back and paddle your board up on a rock that comes just a few inches out of the water. As your board hits the rock, walk up the board to the center and take a stroke that starts to spin your board. If you time it right the current will catch the stern of the boat and start the rotation. You’ll need to get enough rotation to get the bow to come around and catch the water too.

SUP Rock Spin

SUP Rock Spin | Photo by Tim Thornton / River Drifters

And, of course, this move takes a lot of balance. The key to this move is getting your weight on the pivot point of the rock as the board spins around you.

Jump Boof

Like many SUP moves this seems impossible at first, but is really useful once you get good at it. Pourover holes are difficult because the bow of your boat tends to dive into the hole and the fins get caught on the rock forming the pourover. Both of these can be averted with a well timed jump that acts like an ollie.

The jump boof requires a well timed jump

The jump boof requires a well timed jump | Photo by Tim Thornton / River Drifters

As your bow is diving underwater take a quick jump which takes weight off the board and allows it to sail through. Land back on the board and throw a huge brace. With practice this move also helps when paddling through meaty holes.

SUP Jump Boof

SUP Jump Boof | Photo by Tim Thornton / River Drifters

Thanks Dan for inspiring us to practice these moves. We've had a lot of big swims this past year, but the smiles have been even bigger. We’re looking forward to have you come back to town to show us some new ones!

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." - George Bernard Shaw

NWRC Thank You

Thank you Sawyer Paddles, Lifeproof, and Watershed for providing the support and equipment for this story.


Zachary Collier

Zach is the owner of Northwest Rafting Company and has led groups throughout the U.S. as well as Siberia, Bhutan, Nepal, Honduras, and Chile. His passion for wilderness shines through how he runs both his trips and his company. He's as confident on the oars as he is on the chess board, while he delivers a truly memorable experience in the most amazing places on the planet.

Connect with Zach:  Google+  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram


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