Insider Tips From Pro SUP Rider Dave Figlioli

Dave Figlioli beats the small wave blues of Summer with a 14' Starboard race board and an open mind.
Dave Figlioli beats the small wave blues of Summer with a 14' Starboard race board and an open mind. Jim Brewer
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In Southern California, things can get pretty boring in the wave department once winter winds down. The Pacific turns her attention south for surf energy, while the location of the offshore Channel Islands promise that all but the most bizarre of those swells will never reach the shores of Santa Barbara. Quite frankly, it can be a real bummer.

But if SUP is how you prefer your salt water kicks, have no fear of the flatness, says Santa Barbara-based SUP pro Dave Figlioli. A transplant from Maine who moved west a few years back to follow his passion for SUP, Figlioli, whose nickname is Figgy, manages the SUP department at Blueline Paddle Sports, which has a strong SUP following. Add in his addiction to the sport, and the 23-year-old has no shortage of suggestions for how best to stay stoked once spring hits the South Coast.

The pure golden bliss of a sunset paddle along the coast of Santa Barbara.
The pure golden bliss of a sunset paddle along the coast of Santa Barbara. Courtesy of Dave Figlioli

1. More foam can mean more fun.

The formula is simple: When the waves get small, your board should get big. “More length just means more speed,” Figlioli says. He'll trade in his standard 7-foot, 3-inch surf-oriented SUP for a 14-foot flat water racer that makes it possible to cover long distances, inspect offshore kelp beds, and still have a hoot on the occasional one-foot roller he might encounter along the way.

Breaking away from your typical routine can lead to magic moments like this. Dave Figlioli enjoying the fruits of the search somewhere in Santa Barbara County.
Breaking away from your typical routine can lead to magic moments like this. Dave Figlioli enjoying the fruits of the search somewhere in Santa Barbara County. Courtesy

2. Fall in love with fitness.

“Hot sunny days, girls on the beach, lots of flat water: Summer is the perfect time to train,” Figlioli says. From long and slow paddles aboard a SUP to evening cool downs on a prone board, getting in the ocean in the name of physical fitness is a great way to keep your gills wet and make sure you aren’t playing catch-up if and when some proper swell shows.

3. The search is eternal.

Santa Barbara surfers have long known that staying stoked in the summer means getting in a car or on a boat and chasing it. Things are no different for sweepers. “Searching for waves is always part of life for Santa Barbarians,” says Figlioli, “but especially so in summer.” He says a 45 minute-drive north or south greatly improves the odds of scoring during the hotter months for wave hunters in the SB area.

Contest season starts in Summer and is a great way to keep the fun factor high during the flatter months. Here, Dave Figlioli demonstrates some serious SUP shred while wearing a jersey.
Contest season starts in Summer and is a great way to keep the fun factor high during the flatter months. Here, Dave Figlioli demonstrates some serious SUP shred while wearing a jersey. Courtesy of Dave Figlioli

4. Competition is good for the soul.

Summer means the start of the contest season for organizations like the Stand Up World Tour and the United States SUP Tour. “This can be a great time to get involved in contests and races,” Figlioli says. “It can make smaller waves more fun because of the competition factor or just introduce you to other people out there in your community or events, like a race or a distance paddle, that maybe you have never done before.”

For the more advanced rider, contests also offer a great way to help evolve your own performance levels. After all, as Figlioli is quick to point out: “This sport is still so young. No one knows where it is going to go. When I go to a contest, it is all about the progression for me and seeing where we can take this sport next.”

5. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

A Happy Hour SUP cruise runs smack into a markedly different kind of cruise off the coast of Santa Barbara.
A Happy Hour SUP cruise runs smack into a markedly different kind of cruise off the coast of Santa Barbara. Courtesy of Dave Figlioli

It’s important to remember that your SUP board is, if nothing else, a means to fun. On that note, Figlioli suggests making fun your priority even if it means doing things with your SUP well beyond the scope of your typical session. This can include taking a first-time sweeper for a spin, paddling around a toddler for a little pleasure cruise, dropping a hand line and fishing for dinner mid-paddle, or, for those on the right side of the legal drinking age, using your SUP as your mode of transport between watering holes.

“If you have a few bars or restaurants on your coast like we do here in Santa Barbara, it can be pretty darn fun to rally together some friends and paddle up somewhere for a drink or two,” Figlioli says.  “Of course, you have to be careful about having too many, but bar hopping a bit on a board is a blast.”

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