'Dogman' paddles the waves
ROGER Saunders is "the Dogman" and he charges hard on his stand-up paddle board.
Stand-up paddle boarding has enjoyed a renaissance since being reinvented by Hawaiian big wave legend and surf innovator Laird Hamilton in the late 1990s.
Since then the sport has attracted an international following.
During the early years of the sport's renaissance, most stand-up paddlers focussed on small, gentle waves that were easier to surf.
In recent years however stand-up paddlers have pushed the sport's limits and now professionals, such as Saunders, are taking on waves that many traditional surfers would shy away from.
"To begin with I was focussed mainly on softer, fuller waves but now my favourite place to SUP (stand-up paddleboard) is Spookies near Angourie," Saunders said.
Spookies is a notoriously shallow and hollow reef break and even on a smaller craft is a test of a surfer's skill and courage.
Saunders has just returned from the Australian Stand-up Paddle Board titles, where he placed fifth for the fourth consecutive year.
The competitive side of the sport is still in some ways in its infancy.
The format used is the same as in traditional professional surfing with 30-45 minute heats and surfers judged on the scores they are given for their two best waves.
Surfers are judged on their general style, how difficult and critical the turns they do are and increasingly on their ability to do aerial manoeuvres.
This year the finals of the national Stand-up Paddle Board Title were held at the New Haven, south of Port Macquarie.
Saunders progressed through the rounds in good clean one- to 1.5-metre conditions but was eliminated in the semi-final when the swell dropped off and wind turned onshore.
"Heavy-footed surfers like myself never do too well when the waves are complete slop," Saunders said.
However, as one door shut another opened, and Saunders is stoked to have been approached by stand-up paddle board manufacturer Surftech and will shortly be taking up a position as their ambassador.