paddling in surf

Hi I did a search, but didn’t find exactly what I was needing. My wife and I are new to paddling. Over the winter Ibought an Acadia tandem. It was basically for me the dog and new baby. We decided to get one for my wife once we figured out what type of boat would work in the situations we would be using it in. I bought her a Perception Koho 11.5 last week. We decided we wanted a "summer type boat that we could toat around. We will be using it primarily on the lake where we live, but also take it to the beach to play on. So far in flat water it’s great. I’m not talking about serious wave surfing just playing around in waves and paddling past breakers. Just wanted to get an idea of do’s and dont’s. I just don’t want to get her or I in trouble. We’re bith newbies.


Don’t bring the dog and baby
in the surf!!!

As a paddler who is learning about surfing, I’ll just say that if you get dumped, regardless of where you are in the surf zone, just stay on the water side of the kayak (not the shore side). Even small waves can cause injury if you’re caught on the wrong side.


not kidding
It is possible to paddle out in mild conditions in a boat such as yours. Coming back in is far more difficult.

Small surf, up to 1foot, say, and without issues such as rips or strong longshore currents, could possible be done by anyone in anything floatable. As the surf size goes up, the challenge, technical demand, and limits on appropriate boat design becomes exponential.

Here is an idea. Swim out. When you start to become uncomfortable with the situation, swim back. That distance is how far you should paddle out, 'cuz swimming in will be a necessary self rescue with your boat type.

When you are going out.
keep the boat heading straight out if a breaker hits, just hold your breath and keep on paddling straight.

Coming in hang on for a bit just out beyond the surf zone and watch/study the sets of waves.

There is usually a series of them with the largest at the end of the series.

Study them and with a little luck and a few “oh sh–s” thrown in , you can occasionally time them so you will only have to surf the smaller ones.

Have fun,



want to be safe?
If you want to play it safe given your experience, you need to stay out of ANY surf. Even small two foot waves can make a paddle float rentry very difficult. Also the ocean is nothing to play with. Conditions can change fast on open water. If the water isnt very calm it would be best to not go out.

Another question
Thanks for the advise. Yeah, I’m not looking to do anything crazy. I’m also a windsurfer so I definetly respect the ocean, I’ve been in some pretty bad situations when I thought things were cool.

This is in Charleston SC, so the waves aren’t very big. Is it ok to paddle out just outside the breakers if the surf is small? I’m not talking about going far. I’m assuming this boat can take some rougher water without much problem.

Thanks to all.

if you have to ask

– Last Updated: Jul-04-06 10:54 AM EST –

don't do it.

red flag #1."I've been in some pretty bad situations when I thought things were cool."

red flag #2." I'm assuming this boat can take some rougher water without much problem."

You're asking about a safety issue. That starts with judgement. Followed by skills/experience. Followed by the environment. Followed by equipment.

No matter the skills or equipment if you have bad judgement you'll be in trouble.
If you rely on the equipment to compensate for skills or judgement you'll find the equipment doesn't think or move for you.

Please do not consider your recreational double for paddling outside the surf zone. Please do take your rec. double down to some sheltered water and capsize it and attempt a self-rescue. Paddling a child in a rec. boat outside the surf zone is a way for someone to become a statistic on the day the water is a bit chilly and the waves "came up out of no where" when "all the other times it was great"

Just to clarify
OK thanks for the warnings, I really appreciate it. I think I have written some things which have caused confusion. I do have a tandem, which is not what I will be bringing. The boat I’ll be bringing is a 11.5 SOT single. As far as the child goes, I understand and never would bring her out in the ocean. (She’s only 6 weeks, I was talking about bringing her on the lake in my double in 3-4 years in a cove or something.) As far as the red flags, anyone who has done anything that is considered water sport for any period of time has found themselves in a bad situation. My point was that I have learned to study the situation carfully before entering it. The point being is to learn from it. Again I thank you for your warnings and thoughts. I just didn’t want to come off as a complete fool. I’m trying to use this board as a basis for what I can do on this boat. I would like to ask though, is there any place at the beach area I can use this boat. I bought it for my Wife and I just to play around in small surf and calm waters. I’ve read all over this board people do this in boats like I have. thanks again for all the replies, and sorry for all the questions.

Reinventing the wheel

– Last Updated: Jul-05-06 10:54 AM EST –

My advice: Get professional instruction in non-surf paddling first. Work up to surf. Instructional videos on paddling in surf exist. Don't reinvent the wheel.

Edit: As I understand it, next to skiing down a hill or jumping out of a plane in a kayak (both just dumb), surfing is about the most dangerous thing in a kayak you can do.

sot in surf
a sot without a baby is great for surf.

two basic rules:

1 don’t go were losing boat will endanger others by washing into them (no one should be shorward of you becasue if you fall off or capsize it can be washed away faster than you can swim)

2 don’t go were losing boat will endanger self. If you can’t swim back without boat don’t go (this is limited to this specific situation of a sot in surf); try swiming in water first to check water temps, learn about rip currents always wear pfd (some will argue against it in surf but if water is warm and you are wearing pfd you may drift around in a rip but you will still be alive)

Helmet is also good idea to protect your noggin from boat and paddle.

Check out Nigel Fosters Surf Kayaking book it is a good introduction.


Great comments. I think there was a dvd that came with the perception boat. I think I have seen it from my last boat purchase. I think it gave some basic instruction. I’ll definetly adhere to all of you all’s advise. I think were also going to take a guided tour as well, I think they give some instruction to.

sorry about the confusion. SOTS are perfect for learning the surf although most rec.SOTs are very stable and not exactly ideal shapes for surf. Get a helmet and stay on the ocean side when you dump it. Make sure your elbow isn’t above your shoulder during a bracing effort.

Thanks LeeG, what is the deal with the elbow above the shoulder? I have dislocated my shoulder before windsurfing, is that what could happen?

It’s a very common kayaking accident.
Elbows need to be kept close to the body and lower than your shoulder at ALL TIMES.

During a practice session on flat water. One paddler dislocated his shoulder, required surgery, and was off the water for 18 months because he tried a paddlefloat roll and let his elbow go high.

Yep the elbow stays low
and in front of the plane you can draw through your shoulder blades and hips.

Having dislocated once you are (I’m afraid) at greater risk of subsequent dislocations in the same shoulder. May it never happen to you again.

thanks for the warnings. I never want that to happen again. I elected not to have the surgery, so i still have tear. And I thought kayaking was going to be a less extreme sport…

thanks again. I’ll report back on how our trip goes.

I know of two people who dislocated
one person self-teaching rolling with bad technique and a propensity to dislocations,he wet excited with a dislocation. Another person with a crappy shoulder from injuries and baseball who dislocated attempting to teach an assisted rescue. Another person torqued their shoulder launching through the surf with an out of condition middle aged body and memories of doing it right,but did it wrong.

Imagine your elbow raised above your shoulder while holding a paddle,then extend a lever another few feet beyond your hand where the paddle blade is. Then apply an upward force a few times more tha your body weight on the paddle. Work that lever back to your shoulder. Pop goes the shoulder.