Need advice on SOTs for surfing

Have been trying to research info on SOTs that are good for surfing. Have looked at reviews, mfg. websites,, and of course the archives here on

I would like to hear what people on have to say. I have been touring in my 16 footer for a year now but want to get involved with kayak surfing with my teenage daughter and thus am looking for surf-specific boats. We have VERY different body types! And so we would probablly want different boats. I am 6’2" 250 lbs. She is 5’6" and about 110 lbs.

It is VERY hard to demo surf kayaks even though I know that it is the best way to find the right boat. We will be buying used boats rather than new ones. Have demo’d OK’s Frenzy but that is it so far. Any advice is welcome!!

Jeff and Jen

Some Info

– Last Updated: Oct-17-04 5:55 AM EST –

I think I wrote reviews on both the Cobra Strike and Frenzy here on the reviews. Also at there are reviews and an SOT surfing forum. I wrote quite a big review on the Strike.

For getting started the best choices are probably a Cobra Strike, WS Kaos, or Ocean Kayak Rapido. My son has introduced lots of teenage friends to surfing and the Strike is the favorite fun boat that they use. I also surf a Strike quite a bit. I weigh about 210 wet, with PFD and wetsuit and I think I am pretty close to the weight limit for the boat. The Kaos is the easiest of the three to surf but its heavy and does not rip like a Strike, you may be able to make the weight limit for the Kaos. The Rapido ( not made anymore) is easier to turn. the Strike is the lightest and fastest of the three. Before you decide you are too heavy, try the boats out. You will probably find that it is very hard to take off and drop in on smaller waves if you are over the limit, also as your weight gets over the limit the boat becomes very unstable, this is most noticed when paddling out in big waves and foam and when you paddle for big waves and don't catch them. The hardware on the Strike is cheap and will break easily but its very easy to put on new pad-eyes, the boat itself is very rugged and well designed, it takes a little practice to turn it quickly but its really fun once you get the hang of it. Used Strikes go for about $350 , Kaoses are ususally less durable and are beat up and go cheaper. Rapidos go slightly cheaper too but they are starting to get scarce and have a dedicated following so might be hard to find. I have seen Rapdios that have been modified (increase nose rocker and fins) they surfed great.

The Frenzy is a good fun boat to start surfing and will handle your weight. It's slower to paddle out than the Strike, but is very stable and handle rough water and big waves. I keep mine to introduce less athletic folks to surfing and I enjoy taking it out for cruises up and down the coastline here where I live. A scrambler is also a good choice, it surfs well and goes out through big surf well. The Islander Hula is also fun for small waves. The problem with these boats are they are high-volume boats and they surf OK straight in (old-style longboard surfing) but hard to make bottom turns and stay in the pocket of a wave. Work great for small waves, but take a good bit of effort and experience to surf bigger waves and stay in the pocket without getting Maytagged, and once a wave closes out, very hard to get off of the foam pile. For real surfing you want a small volume kayak , planning bottom, with fins (or fin).

When you learn the basics you might want to move to a surf kayak or wave ski, not alot of good choices for heavier paddlers. Mike Johsons Phat Mako waveski ($750 used) would work for you, maybe a Wavemaster Stabilizer COMP 2.6, ($800 new) or a Dick Wold waveski or a Dick Wold Big Machine surfkayak ( they run $1500 new and hard to find used.) A necky jive 810 might work with your weight but not as fast and fun as surf specific boats but inexpensive and easy to find used cheap.
Here is a album with some action shots of Cobra strike, wavemaster strata, and Frenzy in action in Baja this Summer.
Also go to the website and check out video of Strikes surfing.
(P.S. I used to live in Yardley/Morrisvile area for 4 years and canoed on the Delaware there quite a bit.)

Plumb This Link

– Last Updated: Oct-17-04 5:18 AM EST –

for a lot of good info on surf paddling:

The link on SOT's will give a list of boats and their weight capacities. From there link to the manufacturers and photos.

From what I can tell, only the Cobra Strike and the Wilderness System's Kaos have fin options. Fins really improve the ability of a craft to stick to a steep wave face. They also give more drive in cutbacks and turns (energy wasted in sliding out is directed into the turn). The Strike is the smaller of the two and maybe better for her. The Kaos with longer length may be better for you, though you both can actually paddle the strike. You're a tad bit over the weight capacity listed but generally these are guidelines. When you're over a bit, you'll sit a little deeper in the water and will be a little slower in catching a wave. But once on, you should fine. I've seen a lot of big guys surf what seem to be impossibly small boats.


Surf Boats
Check the kayak reviews on under the surf specific section. I’ve owned both the Cobra Strike and the Wilderness Systems Kaos. Both have good points…and some not so good. Other SOT surf boats are the Perception 5.0 and the Ocean Raaaapido.

You might want to post your question on BoaterTalk…those folks live and breath paddle surfing. Just don’t get talked into a white water kayak for surfing…check the article on http://www.sopsa (The Journal) dealing with the differences between the two types of craft.

Frenzy May Be A Good Start

– Last Updated: Oct-18-04 1:04 PM EST –

I started on a Frenzy, and still surf it on the rare occaisions I get to surf. It is no performance surf craft, but it will handle big, rough conditions. You should easily find a used one for $300. They sell new for about $400, last time I checked.

I have surfed the Strike and the Kaos on group trips and private lessons at some bigger spots, and I also prefer the Strike. I am also about 200#. For the last couple years I was getting enough time out to make some progress, and learned to appriciate the higher performance, but this year I haven't gotten enough time...Surf season is just starting here, so maybe I can get some time before winter...

The Frenzy is a good starter boat, and maybe the only one that can handle your weight. You may be pushing the capacity too much in the Strike or Kaos.

Also consider the Scrambler. Faster to catch more waves, and not such a total dog on flatwater.

Depending on where you surf, conditions may not really justify a higher performance boat for casual surfing. On most of the east coast, most of the time, you will be lucky to catch a ride. Not much opportunity to catch big clean wave faces.

S-O-T’s for Surfing
I do a lot of kayak surfing and have always used an Ocean Kayak product. Started with a Scrambler, then moved to a Scrambler XT, and also have a YakBoard to play around with.

The Scramber (11 feet long)is a good yak to use for surfing. But I wanted something slightly bigger so I got the XT (12 feet).

I have been using the XT for about 8 years now, and find it to be a great yak for surfing. It is big enough and fast enough to bust through the surf break and handle fairly big waves. I guess I have surfed waves up to about 7 feet.

The XT is fast enough to catch up to and go over the top of the incoming waves so you do not have to wait for a wave to pick up the back of the boat. Coming over the top of the wave enables you to: start your left or right cut, depending on the break, so you are not just riding the front of the wave in, but rather have the ability to surf it; travel across the face of the wave, get some good rides; and if you are lucky enough (or good enough) you will be able to get into the tube.

I surf in the Atlantic off the coast of Monmouth County, NJ where we do get some really good surf when there are storms off the coast, but most of the time get average surf.

When the surf is small, I generally use the YakBoard (8 feet) just to play around.

One more thing, no matter what S-O-T you do get, you should use a good seat and leg straps. This will lock you into the boat and make it easier to control.

Hope this helps.

Got To Have Thigh Straps
I should have mentioned that…

And I also always use a paddle leash. There is some debate about that, but on the west coast we have very crowded breaks and need to keep control of the boat in a wipeout.

Paddle Leash
I used a paddle leash when I started kayak surfing. However, I stopped using it when I dumped in fairly rough surf and my leg got tangled in it the leash, and I got dragged around behind a run-away kayak.

I can appreciate the need for one in crowded conditions as you describe, but in NJ it does not get really packed.

More info
I would actually recommend a coiled paddle leash, Tom Holtey at www.sit-on-top-kayaking sells a good phone cord type leash that is rugged and not dangerous. You are much safer if you can keep your boat close to you, if you use thigh straps to stay with your boat there is very little chance of getting seriously hurt by the leash … keep small appendages like fingers out of the coils. Trust me I get seriously worked on a weekly basis and I won’t go out without my leash ( don’t use on a whitewater boat, it can seriously interfere with wet exits).

Also if you surf on the Jersey Shore a Frenzy or Scrambler might be ideal. Much different surf than

what Jerry surfs in at San Onofre. Allthough I don’t like my Jive as much as waveskis or the Strike, a whitewater boat might be fun for the Jersey Shore, although I did not surf when I lived there I remember lots of cruddy poorly formed waves where having a boat like the jive would be big fun, good foam rides, bouncing, tumbling into shore.

Pros & Cons of a Paddle Leash
Some thoughts on a paddle leash.

Its probably a good thing to have when starting out…although if its primarily to keep a capsized boat from heading shoreward, I would opt for a standard surfboard leash anchored to the kayak and affixed to my ankle. A surfboard leash is made to withstand the force exerted by a runaway boat and less apt to get in the way while paddling.

But the natural progression is to learn to roll…which I’ll admit is pretty challenging in most plastic SOTs. But if the next move up the performance ladder is to a wave ski or closed-deck surf kayak, developing a dependable roll virtually eliminates the need for a leash. Besides, if you capsize in a kayak and have to wet exit, a paddle leash will do you little good since you have to go to shore anyway to empty out your boat.

As to providing some measure of security in crowded conditions…my sense is if you’re surfing close enough to others to need a leash to maintain control…that suggests someone is surfing out of control.

Paddle Leash
I don’t do closed deck boats but, I see lots of pros up here. They never use paddles leashes. It is more of an entrapment hazard in a wet exit.

Once you do a wet exit from a closed deck boat is fills with water and is not so much of an unquided missle like an SOT can be.

I use the paddle leash so the boat does not get away from me, but the boardies up here like to see them on SOTs.

I don’t see too many boardies where I actually surf most. It would be quite a long way for them to go on a short surf board since there is no nearby access from shore.

I never needed the leash to keep from hitting someone with an empty boat, but I like to have the option…