There are few outdoor sports that challenge your mind, body and intellect, while giving you a sense of freedom and excitement. Many people enjoy the water in different ways, but one activity that is always sure to evoke a sense of delight from within is surf kayaking.
So…. What IS Surf Kayaking?!!
Surf kayaking is exactly what it sounds like! Much like a surfer on a surfboard, you are heading into the waves, except that your weapon of choice is a buoyancy device that you can sit in and control. Unlike surfing, you do not have to go through the trials of having to learn how to balance. This is already an innate part of the activity, which means you get to enjoy the thrills on offer right away, without a laborious and awkward training period.
PS One of our favorite kayak articles is this one!
History of Surf Kayaking
How did surf kayaking begin? It didn’t really start to take off until the mid-50’s to early 60’s, when adjustments were being made to surfboards to allow the user to use a seat pocket and foot wells to ride the waves. Someone then came up with the idea of using a paddle to control this new kind of surfboard.
As this way of surfing became apparent to observers, the idea quickly took hold and other people started to make adjustments to their own surfing equipment. It really was a combined effort of many people in different countries that helped make the sport what it is today…. and thus shaped the sport of surf kayaking!
How To Train For Surf Kayaking
When first starting out, you will need some basic preliminary skills. Even though this activity is fairly easy to pick up, you will still need to be conscious about the water and how to get yourself out of trouble. Before you even think about heading out to the surf, you should have some experience with the water, like being able to swim, identifying hazards and knowing what to do if you get yourself into trouble.
For this reason, before you start (if you don’t have experience already), it would be a good idea to get into a basic water safety class.
A good course will show the fundamentals of what you need to do when out on the sea. Basic techniques include what to do when you capsize, how to stop in an emergency, basic paddling skills, such as forward strokes and reverse paddling, sweep strokes, Eskimo rolls and wet exits. With that out of the way, what do you need to do to begin?
Types of Kayaks
Firstly, you need to understand that surf kayaks are not quite the same as the run of the mill sea kayaks. Because you will be heading into surf, you need a bit of specialization. In order to maneuver the vessel through the waves, you need to ensure your kayak has fins to allow this to happen.
There is no way that you will be able to remain upright without this feature. You will typically find that the number of fins vary, but the most common are two or three finned models.
Most of these kayaks are specially designed to move through the waves, propelling you forward, and a sea kayak will simply not do the job.
There are three basic types of surf kayaks. They are the High Performance, the Waveski, and the International Class. Here is brief rundown of each one:
#1. High Performance Kayaks
These are just what they sound like, made of quality materials and designed for speed and versatility through the waves. They are generally a little bit smaller than other kinds of kayaks, but this is so that they can perform moves and techniques that the other kinds cannot.
#2. International Class Kayaks
These are kayaks that conform to their own standard. These do have fins to help them through the water and are a lot bigger. This allows the kayak to catch waves that are large and not as clean cut, which high performance kayaks are unable to grab.
These kinds of kayaks are reminiscent of the early kinds of kayaks, just as the sport was starting to evolve into a more mainstream activity. Waveskis have fins and lie somewhere between IC kayaks and HP in length. They are a high-performance vessel and are able to perform some nifty moves out on the waves due to their durability and versatile design.
Surf Kayaking Techniques!
When surf kayaking, there are varying techniques to overcome the breaks, which will require practice if you have not done this before. A common technique you can try (and is beginner friendly) is the pre-jump. As you paddle out toward the waves, push the front of the kayak down into the water using your weight. As the wave goes over, lean back so the nose of the kayak raises up above the wave.
As you do this, thrust your paddle through the water to propel you forward over the break. This technique is all about timing, and after a few goes, it will seem quite natural.
Once you are amongst the waves, it is time to start surfing. You will need to position yourself in such a way that you can catch the waves. Below are some brief ideas on what you need to do.
There are a couple of ways to take off when you have the right wave to ride, the first being the straight take off. Your boat should be perpendicular to the wave. As the boat is drawn up, paddle quickly in a tight burst to propel forward while moving your body forward at the same time to encourage movement on the wave.
Once the boat is picked up, stop paddling briefly and let the wave carry you through, returning to a natural position. Once you are moving steadily, start paddling along with the wave.
But what if the waves are too high or difficult to get moving in? That’s when the diagonal take off is needed.
The diagonal take off allows you to move with the shoulder (the breaking part of the wave) right away, especially useful if the wave is too big for a straight take off. Position the boat with the wave so that it is at a 45-degree angle with the wave. You need to get the angle just right, otherwise the boat will just move through the wave rather than with it.
Once the wave begins to break, paddle forward and engage the side rail of the surf. The boat should move down the trough of the wave if done correctly.
Social Events And Competitions For Surf Kayaking
If competition is something that you are setting your sights on, the best thing to do is get to know some of your fellow surfers who can give you the tips and tricks of the surf kayaking trade. In your local area, there may be some regional competition, but the most famous are overseas events that are held in both the United States and Europe.
The most popular worldwide competition is the Santa Cruz Surf Kayak Festival.