Some Waveriding Between Storms

We had a snow/rain storm come through New England on Friday, and are in the process of getting one this (Sunday) evening. The waves were head plus yesterday and messy. I waited until early this morning and got some clean 3’ swells with light offshore wind. Did feel like first “winter surfing” as the air temps were around 30 degrees and the water temp about 43 degrees. (I usually feel it most with my hands. Thankfully, with mitts, I can ball up my hands to warm up while sitting on the outside of the break zone.)

I’m much more used to and adept with the Euro paddle in surf, while keeping a Greenland paddle as a spare on the back deck. Today, I left the Euro in the car and committed myself to using the Gearlab Aukaneck (Greenland style surf paddle) for the whole surf session. Never fully got the hang of it although I felt a bit more comfortable towards the end with respect to understanding the speed pick up of the sprint and directional control.

Today is Lunar New Year. Was grateful to have some waves to “hop” on in the year of the rabbit.

Largely, my thoughts go out to my extended community in Monterey Park, CA, in what should have been an auspicious start of the year… :pray: :broken_heart:



Looks very clean and glassy. Looks like you are doing OK with the Greenland paddle, it really does feel like a different sport with the skinny stick, it helps me realize how much I use the paddle when waveskiing for turning, trimming, re-entries etc.

I’ve played around a bit riding wind waves and boat wakes and don’t feel like I’ve got a good feel for it. What’s the conventional wisdom for skeg position? I have an NDK Romany if that makes any difference.

Totally! Early in the session, I was able to get up to speed or turn as well because I was not using the whole GP blade. Pretty much treating it like a Euro Paddle but not having the same amount of blade in the water near the ends of the paddle. On the plus side, I never got closed to “tripping up” over the GP. The GP acted long a long low brace on some of the stern rudders.

I think for a paddle surfer, the sign of a more advanced wave riding is in how much s/he uses and leverages the paddle for directional changes. Watching a beginner, one usually see the paddle being held horizontally in front while the boat surfs straight in. If one or the other paddle blade hits the water, it usually for a tepid or panicked brace and not an intentional action for directional control.


The Romany used to be the near “classic” playboat for seakayakers because of more rockered hull profile relative to other sea kayaks at the time. Some kayak designers have taken those attributes to the next level, like my Sterling Progression, with even more rocker and more volume in the bow (to prevent pearling/diving in a wave trough). All to say, your Romany has the design features to play and give you some smiles in waves and rough water conditions.

Regarding skeg deployment, you generally do not want it deployed because it would defeat the purpose of the rocker with is to allow you more ability for directional changes on the wave, especially if you put the boat on edge. When catching waves, I want to sprint straight on, or a very slight diagonal at most, down the waveface. Once I feel the kayak is planing and on the waveface, I will start to use a combinaton of stern rudders or paddle strokes and edging to begin effecting a diagonal run. If you don’t get into a diagonal and head straight down the waveface, you will find your bow digging or diving into the wave trough. This leads to a broach and side surfing, or if the bow dives deep enough, and unintentional ender. If your skeg is deployed while catching waves, you’ll find resistance to effecting a diagonal or direction change and you bow will more likely pearl in the wave trough.

You can try to catch a wave with a diagonal sprint. But, if you are not going fast enough relative to the oncoming wave, the wave will either pass under your boat, or it can send you right into a “side surf” (which from surfer’s viewpoint is NOT surfing). At worse, if the waveface gets critical, and you are not at planing speed, the wave can break over you and send into a windowshade situation.

Play around with the skeg on the waves and see what it does to boat control. Just don’t do it when there is a chance you get surfed into the shallows. This can end up damaging your skeg.


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Thanks. I asked because I’ve seen fins (like skegs) on surfboards and wondered about kayaks. Also, it’s impossible to tell about the skeg from watching kayak surfing videos.

That’s a good question/observation. While I am not the one to provide the truly accurate technical/scientific explanation, what I would point to are three key differences between surf boards and sea kayaks: nose/bow shape, hull & bottom shape and the length of craft. The fins (skeg) perform differently for a “surf specific” design craft vs a longer seakayak.

Truncated explanation: surfboards, waveskis and surf kayaks are short (no more than 9-10’ generally) rockered low volume hulls (“shapes” may be more accurate term). The bottoms are mainly flat all the way to and through pronounced upturn noses. The intentions is to “ride” over a wave and then to go on a “plane” when moving at higher speeds. The fins, located generally close to a rider’s position on the craft, are intended to help maintain grip of the surf craft on the face of the steep waveface. Changes in direction are effected with aggressive shifts in edging/carving of the “rails” (which are sharper than “chines” in a kayak) The fins help to maintain direction and speed (or drive). Without fins, the short surf planing hull is more likely to slide or spin out on the waveface and result in the loss of directional speed (or “drive”). With boardies, they use very pronounced weigh shifts and/or movement along the board length to change direction. With waveskis and surf kayakers, unable to move from the seated position, they can use their paddle to help shift weigh and to initiate directional change with paddle rudders. SUPers have the “best” of both.

In contrast, with seakayaks, the skeg is intended to lock in the stern to improve tracking, particularly for more rockered and relatively shorter hulls (14-16’). Even though some seakayaks have a flat (planing) section largely in the area under the paddler seating area, these kayaks still largely move by cutting through and displacing water. As such, the bow cuts and digs into the water. When there is a strong wind, without the skeg deployed, the tendency is for the stern to blow downwide of the “locked in” bow (i.e. weathercocking ). Going down a waveface, the seakayak bow wants to cut and dive into the water and the trough, leading to a broach. The “play” oriented seakayaks have increasingly more bow rocker and volume in their design to help minimize this tendency. However, if you have a skeg deployed, then the kayak will still more likely track and lock in, nullifying the benefit of the front rocker. What you want to do instead, is to actually put the seakayak on edge to help unlock the bow. When edging, the kayak effectively has a shorter (and more rockered) waterline. If this kayak has a hard chine, there is more effective carving (and speed) than with a kayak with rounded chines. But, hard chine seakayak will never “carve” and cut horizontally across a wave face like a surf specific craft.

Not to repeat past discusssions, below are two threads that talk about craft designs and how these impact performance:



I have a follow-up question – I have watched surf videos and I believe I’ve seen paddlers sometimes edge the kayak and use a stern rudder on the low side to turn toward the low side, and sometimes use the rudder on the high side to turn as in normal flatwater edging toward the high side. Again, this contrasts surfboard practice where surfers lean toward the inside of the turn, and standard kayak practice where one leans (or at least, leans the boat) toward the outside of the turn. Any thoughts on which way to lean the boat?

Caveate: I am much better surfer with my waveski (and surf kayak) than I am with the long boat. With the waveski, I almost alway lean/edge in on the inside of the turn, with my paddle blade extended out on the same side in a rudder/brace action. This allows the rail and the sidebite fin to carve deep into into the wave. To turn to the other side, I initiate with an outside paddle stroke which helps to release the inside rail and allow the bottom to go briefly flat. That outside stroke turns into a rudder/brace, while the rail and sidebite fin on this side begin to dig/carve into the wave. Stringing these together is what allows for the waveski/surf kayak to do the cutbacks that are characteristic of board surfers.

With the longboat, I have had the most success in doing moderate directional changes (as opposed to full cutbacks) by using outside edge (chine) lean combined with an stern rudder on the inside side of the turn. This is the case for me with the Delphin 150 and now with the Sterling Progression. However, the deep rockered hull of the Sterling Progression allows for greater variations in turning techniques. I’ve seen advanced longboat surfers leaning/edging their Sterlings aggressively on the inside of the turn, with their stern rudder on the same side (similar to waveskiers and surf kayakers). I can do this some times, but mostly I end up capsizing or maytagging. So, honestly, I am still on the early part of my learning curve with the Sterling. But, this is what keeps me wanting to go out there with my Sterling rather than my waveski. I am caught up in the challenge.


The kayak surfing tribe - the SeaJunkies - are usually surfing in P&H Delphins. Just noted that one of their members is now in a brand new Sterling Kayaks Reflection:

Will be interesting to see if Sterling Kayaks will start to make in-road as a surfing longboat of perference. (Sterling kayaks used to be the longboat of choice for the apparently defunct tribe - The Hurricane Riders.)


I agree with @sing - when carving a wave (so not traveling perpendicular with the wave) would would edge your boat down on the side facing the wave (much as you would see a surf board do). Your boat will be trying to turn parallel to the ave face, which is not a very controllable ride but more of a slide, so to offset this, you are strongly stern ruddering on the side of your boat opposite from the wave.

The closer the boats design to a surf board, the more you can “carve” the wave. Surf kayaks and wave skis do have every sharp edges and the hulls act much like a surf board. Long boats (sea kayaks) don;t have these edges, so don’t carve well and surfing generally involves going pretty much straight with the wave (so boat perpendicular to wave face). The paddler spends lots of time and effort trying to keep the boat facing into the wave, as once it starts veering off, there is a lot of energy from the ave trying to turn the boat sideways.

Here is a video of some friends surfing long boats on “microwave” at Pillar Point that I took a long time ago. In the last clip, she isn’t able to keep the boat straight, and even with her stern ruddering, you can see how fast the boat turns to be parallel to the wave: Kayak Surfing at Pillar Point - 7/31/09 - YouTube

Nice glassy, fun looking waves. Perfect of longboat surfing! :slight_smile:


If you ever come out to San Francisco, this is one of the places I would take you to.

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Just found this video. Mostly of “The Hurricane Riders” (THR) but I missed it as this video is branded under “Small Craft Culture.” Anyway, I enjoyed the footage of the kayak surfing, outdoor lifestyle, and camaraderie. Appreciated also the perspectives of some of the THR folks about the why, what and how of kayak surfing.

I’ve been videoing my recent outings because the footage allows me to review and figure out my kayaksurfing techniques, since I am mostly solo these days and don’t have other folks providing feedback as I did when there was a crew of us going out regularly as the NE Surf Kayakers. The post-surf beer, burgers and reflections of the session were always appreciated.

Mahalo (to the old crew)!


Great video.

the ‘why’

I think it was the 2nd person that said ‘how am I going to get back home’ as an answer to the ‘why’.
That is my answer as well.
I’m not necessarily a good ‘surfer’, but I can handle just about any surf.
I went on my first ocean trip (multi-month) without any ocean experience. I had a good roll, but no surf experience. I played ‘defence’ when coming back in through the surf for the whole trip (read - lot of broaching).
Soon after returning from the trip, I relocated to the Seattle area and spent a lot of time on the coast ‘learning’ the surf (again, not necessarily ‘how to surf’).
Successive ocean trips went much better (few side-surfing episodes).

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So, in honesty, I enjoy kayak surfing (longboat, surf kayak, waveski) as a form of “sports discipline.” However, if I were doing a landing through surf on a loaded touring trip, I would not be going for a “stylized” run in. I would ride the wave initially, but as soon as I broach, or the wave closes out, I would be looking to surf surf the loaded kayak safely all the way to the beach. No need to make “hero” moves that can lead to disaster with a loaded boat!


We are all on our own journey or progression in developing our skills, ability and knowledge. Very important, especially when taking on challenging conditions. Lots of YouTube videos by “kooks” out there (myself included). Some of the videos are fun to watch. Others are “meh…” Some are informative. With the latter, I appreciate the clear excitement and joy of this GL kook and, more importantly, her spot-on suggestions for other kooks: