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Improving your Stand-Up Paddleboarding by Andy Burrows and James van Drunen

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

Interview with co-author Andy Burrows

Improving your Stand-Up Paddleboarding is a recently released book aimed at helping people to develop their skills and confidence on a paddleboard. It's written by SUP Pro James van Drunen and SUP enthusiast Andy Burrows. I met up with Andy when he took part in the Loch Vennacher SUP race Glasgow Paddleboard Co-hosted last August.

Ally 'Hi long have you been paddling and how did you get into it?' 

Andy 'I had a lifelong ambition to windsurf and signed up for a beginners course at Loch Insh 5 years ago. Luckily on the second day, there was no wind we went out on SUPs instead. Given my abject failure to get to grips quickly with windsurfing, I instantly fell in love with SUP.  I bought my first inflatable within a week of that taster session. I went out regularly on Loch Faskally for the following 12 months and thought I was getting good. So when I was on holiday in Spain a year later I entered a local SUP race in the belief that I would win. Of course, I finished last and spent the whole race on my knees. But it opened my eyes to the true complexities of SUP. I happened to meet James van Drunen at that race. James is a phenomenal paddler who has had podium finishes on the SUP Eurotour...' 

Ally 'So James inspired you to get better?'

Andy 'Definitely, I started going out with him on a regular basis and then I received coaching from Telmo Irogyen of the best over 50's paddlers in the world.'

Ally 'What did you learn from these experiences?'

Andy 'The first thing I learned was that you can very easily overestimate your own capabilities. In SUP it is relatively easy to achieve some immediate success. You can stand up and paddle in ten minutes! But to become a skilled paddler, who can read the water and the wind, and also employ a good technique takes years. Every day I go out with these guys I learn something new. The sea is always eager to teach me a lesson.'

Ally 'So why did you and James write the book?'

Andy 'When I watch people go out on the water for a leisurely paddle I have mixed emotions. Part of me is delighted that they are deriving great pleasure from SUP. It is an amazing experience to stand on water and move yourself around in any direction you wish. But another part of me says - you could do so much more. You could go further, faster and more safely by improving your technique. SUP has been transformational for me. I am so much fitter and stronger than I was 5 years ago. But also my mentality and mindset have changed. I am calmer and more resilient. SUP (and SUP racing in particular) build character! So we decided to write the book to give people the chance to get more out of their whole SUP experience. Whether it's going on more ambitious excursions, developing skills, getting into racing or even enjoying a richer social life!'

Ally 'Awesome! Great to hear! What now would you say is your favourite part of SUP?'

Andy 'I enjoy racing obviously. Racing brings you together with like-minded people who all face a common challenge on the water. You have to bring mind and body together in a concentrated time period to do the best you can. It's intense, it's tough and its very transient. I think everyone who SUPs should try racing - but approach it as a personal challenge - not as a competition against others. It's a fantastic social opportunity as well. Races are a great way of bringing people together.'

Ally 'With racing in mind what is your favourite discipline?'

Andy 'Downwinding is my favourite challenge. I am a long way from mastering it but I find it fascinating. Reading the waves and the wind, adapting paddle technique to catch waves. It's like physical chess. I can go out on a downwinder and my mind will not think about anything else for the whole time ( maybe two hours). There are not many things which can occupy your mind and body in such a way.'

Ally'So tell us Andy, who should buy your book?'

Andy 'People with maybe a year or so of experience on a SUP. We don't start with the basics but assume the reader has some prior skill. When I watch most people paddle their technique can definitely be improved.'

Ally 'What are the main faults you see?'

Andy 'There are many faults because the process of making a stroke is complex and unnatural - and we go into them in the book. But nearly all faults stem from the catch. Most people do not catch water as a  distinct phase. If you 'catch' water, then you can use your core strength to push your feet past the paddle. If you do not get a good catch, then you move water past your feet with the paddle!'

'Ally As well as technique, what else does the book cover?'

Andy 'We look into various SUP opportunities such as touring, yoga racing and whitewater. We also look at equipment and the differences in boards and paddles. As well as technique and experience, equipment can have a huge influence on improvement. Having the appropriate paddle and board, in particular, can significantly affect enjoyment.'

Ally'What ambitions do you have now the book is out?' 

Andy'I think you always need something to drive you on in whatever you are doing. I compete on the Spanish SUP circuit and race against the current world champion in my age group, Dani Parres. He is a phenomenon and his ability and achievements are an inspiration to me in racing. Next year I might challenge myself with longer distances and even try out the Great Glen. I genuinely take my hat off to everyone who takes part in that race. The physical and mental disciplines involved are massive. On a broader scale, I would like to see more people taking their skills beyond the rudimentary and using them to get more out of SUP.' 

Ally 'Where is your favourite place to SUP in Scotland?'

Andy 'Well, I am waiting for your book to come out Ally to find out more!  Earlier this year I did the Moray Kayak Club downwind from Nairn to Findhorn. It was spectacular in its beauty - as a coastline, with empty remote sandy beaches, pine forests, and bobbing seals cheering me on. It was something I will always remember!' 

Ally 'Andy, thank you for your time. Your book, 'Improving your Stand-up Paddleboarding' is available from Fernhurst books on the link below.'

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