any tips for landing in surf

This is what I have done Get close to shore and pop spray skirt and then try to exit boat (probably awkwardly) between waves, and on wave side to avoid being run over by now out-of-control boat. I mostly don’t paddle in high energy environments, but when I have, I have had boat get partially filled by a crashing wave and then get slammed towards shore. Not a big problem other than having to empty boat out and make sure that nothing got washed away. Is there a more elegant solution to landing in surf?

I had this problem on Lake Erie after I launched on a beach with big rocks and chunks of concrete on it–in three-foot chop–without having thought out how I’d get back. Lucky me, I was on my Ocean Kayak Scrambler (a SOT). So I found a spot between the LARGE hard things. Hung back and carefully timed the waves. Waited for one to come in behind me and at the instant it started lifting my boat I paddled toward shore for all I was worth, got in right between the rocks, and bailed out just as the boat hit sand. Grabbed the boat and dragged it up before the next wave came in.

Plan ahead, all right?

Yup, it’s all about timing. Ride a wave in, get out of the boat quickly, grab the bow toggle and drag the boat above the high water line. I don’t pop my spray skirt until I hit the shore, as a flooded boat makes the process more cumbersome and dangerous.

Optimal is to paddle straight in right behind a wave, or better yet, ride on its back. This will flush you up the beach, and once the boat hits the sand and stop, you quickly pop skirt and jump out and grab toggle to pull boat up. If you can arrange to ride the last large wave from a set, the wave will hopefully deposit you far enough up beach such that the next smaller wave won’t get you, giving you more time to get out.

A likely outcome of this is not getting timing right and the wave turning your boat sideways and you riding it in that way. Learn to brace on the wave to support yourself and “moon the beach” (edge boat so the bottom is facing toward shore). If you are not edging when you hit shore, the boat will likely flip. If you are still upright whn you hit shore, pop skirt and jump out on ocean side and then grab toggle and drag boat up.

If this is even somewhat common activity, strongly recommend you find a surf zone class to take.

Repeating from launch post: a key safety point to make sure everyone is aware (OP did mention it, so seems aware) - when you are separate from your boat, never get between the boat and the beach (especially when boat is flooded and/or sideways to the wave). A wave grabbing your boat has a huge amount of power and will mow you down if you are in its way. It is headed to shore with a wave, hence the never get between boat and shore rule.

I just want to point out, since we all paddle in different places, that there will be a significant difference in the timing of ocean waves compared with those on the great lakes. Great lakes waves are smaller but the period is most often less than 2-3 seconds or so. This doesn’t give much time between waves to do anything useful or intelligent.

I don’t have a lot of experience landing in big surf, as those conditions on the great lakes usually aren’t conducive to paddling at all because of the short period and nasty dumping surf. That said, the few times I’ve been faced with landing on a beach with large waves my strategy has mostly involved aggressive back-paddling and some tentative surfing. I expect that in the future I’ll become more interested and skilled at surfing in. But perhaps that’s optimistic on my part.

worse yet, landing through splashy surf on the fairly typical cobblestone beach (L Sup.), racing/squirming to get out of the ‘ocean cockpit’ Nordkapp before getting swamped by the next 3 waves (would take about that long to get out) (years ago, before Valley started making the ‘easy to fall out of’ large cockpit Nordkapps)

good point.
I started in the Great Lakes - had to be fast
Later on the West Coast, big waves, but lot of time to get out
Now, east coast (FL), somewhere in between

I just come right up on the beach till the water grounds the boat then roll out and crawl up the beach. Too stiff to walk. Normally grab the boat somewhere in there.

Interesting to hear others’ take on when to pop spray skirt. I guess I pop it while still floating out of fear that landing will go poorly…maybe I’m upside down, scraping face against bottom, with a dislocated shoulder…or something along those lines…and want to do everything possible to make getting out of boat go as quickly and easily as possible. The downside is that boat is prone to partially filled with water by breaking waves (especially if side surfing in) and therefore more dangerous, and difficult to pull up on beach.

@Monkeyhead said:
Interesting to hear others’ take on when to pop spray skirt. I guess I pop it while still floating out of fear that landing will go poorly…

I actually sometimes pop the skirt and pull my legs out (usually with butt still in seat) before crossing the break. Then paddle in on the back of the waves (or sometimes even surf in). Does allow quick exit from boat, Usually feeling cocky when I do this, and sometimes the ocean slaps the cockiness out of my head. Invariably I am in a dry suit, so missing a landing like this generally just means a swamped boat and maybe some sand in the boat,

It’s the steep shoreline with a strong shorebreak that can relegate landings to less than elegant. The situations where you paddle in atop a wave, your bow lands on shore, the water receeds from beneath your stern, and it’s steep enough that your kayak slides backwards into the next short-period break.
My best advice is to try to be quick, but mostly be careful. If you somehow end up turned sideways with the next shorebreak rushing into you, don’t freeze up and sit there upright waiting to be victimized. Lay your kayak and body down towards the next wave. Lay right down with your paddle down towards the wave as well. You will simply drag behind the kayak up the shoreline when the wave hits, and your kayak might not slide back down as easily. At an opportune moment, pop your skirt, roll out down the beach - don’t try to be elegant. Don’t do anything that will cost you a second trying to appear graceful. Clumsy and frightened will be just fine.

Spend 10 or 15 minutes watching the waves from the shore before you paddle out. Let the unbroken waves roll under you. Wait behind the breaking zone for the last of the largest wave to pass under you. Then paddle in on the back of the breaking wave. You need to be decisive. You don’t want to be wallowing in the breaking zone with your feet over the sides. If you get pushed sideways in bulldozer mode brace by leaning into the wave.