Surf Kayaks, Hybrid Adventure
Surfing meets Kayaking
Surf kayaking is a relatively new sport that blends the best of surfing and kayaking: surf kayaks allow you to catch more waves, paddle back out quickly and get out to those elusive far out breaks.
In comparison to surfing, surf kayaking is in its infancy but the sport is gaining ground all the time and the design of surf kayaks is steadily getting more and more sophisticated. The number of possible moves is also increasing with barrel rolls, aerial moves and total wave releases becoming more common.
What type of surf kayak should I use?
Surf kayaks cover a huge range of craft from traditional kayaks to wave skis and sit on tops, and although almost any kayak can be paddled in the surf, dedicated surf kayaks give the best performance and reliability.
Sit on top surf kayaks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and to start out they’re a good choice as they’re easy to get back onto in deep water. In general longer surf kayaks take off on waves better but shorter kayaks are more manoeuvrable on bigger, steeper wave faces. Choose a model that is 11 foot or shorter for the best manoeuvrability and practice as much as you can before moving on to a more sophisticated kayak design.
Dedicated surf kayaks are usually made from fibreglass rather than plastic and have a flat bottom which makes them good for hydroplaning. Surf kayaks have rocker (curvature) in the nose but are flatter under the seat and into the tail. This design means they can build up higher speeds in the sea and as gravity pulls the kayak down in front of a wave this speed helps to move the kayak laterally across the water.
There is an endless debate over the need for a fin or skeg on the kayak. Skegs add directional stability but limit manoeuvrability, so you need more skill to control a surf kayak without a skeg but you can do more moves with it.
As an alternative to a surf kayak consider a wave ski: a sit on top surfboard with straps for hips, feet and thighs. Wave skis are usually very short and tippy and need a lot of practice to master, however, once you do they offer the highest level of paddle surfing performance.
Make sure you’re proficient in stroke technique, rolling and bracing on flat water before heading anywhere near the surf. Get a dedicated surf paddle, knee straps and back rests and use a paddle leash if you’re using a sit on top. Always wear a life jacket and helmet that won’t get pulled off in the surf, and when you’re waiting to catch a wave always stick to surf etiquette. In order to kayak surf safely you need to make sure you’re out of the way of other surfers and boarders – especially if you’re a beginner.