Surf Kayaking and getting started

Looking for some recommendations on a Surf Kayak. I am a traditional sea kayaker and will be moving to Hawaii this summer. I have surfed my CD Caribou and Extreme, but only as part of touring.

Thanks in Advance


Which island?

As with any paddling activity, there are many options. In paddle surfing there are three basic categories - the roto-mold sit-on-top kayak, the wave ski and the closed deck surf kayak. Where one starts depends to a large extent on their skills and comfort level in the surf zone.

Assuming this will be your introduction to paddle surfing, a good start would be a sit-on-top kayak like the Cobra Strike or the Wilderness Systems Kaos. This is also the least expensive of the three options. If you are comfortable with being “attached” to your paddle craft and you’re OK with a fairly steep learning curve, a wave ski would be the next logical choice. Some of the providers in this category are Island Wave Ski, Wave Master and the custom shaped Infinity Wave Ski. And finally, at a point where you can consistently execute a roll, a closed deck surf kayak is the next step. Some of the providers in this group include Riot, PS Composites and Mega Kayaks.

Unless you possess a solid surfing background, I would strongly recommend starting with the SOT option. It’s the least expensive and most durable of the three wave-riding craft and provides a good platform to learn the basics of paddle surfing.

Just be careful…this sport is seriously addictive!

also beginer
I have paddled kayaks for 4 years and started surfing a year ago. I would recomend starting with plastic surf designed sot. Cobra strike, kaos, pyrahna surf jet, etc…

I started on a surfjet which I liked. It has thigh straps that I got ripped out of and had nasty swim a couple times. I tried my best to stay attached but power of wave pulled boat away from me. Although to become released from boat you just relax. Have recently moved up to a waveski. It has seat belt that must be manually removed so boat won’t become parted from rider without damage to boat. Of course you must release belt to become loose if roll fails.

I have yet to see the advantage of decked surf boat. They are heavier and swamp if you miss roll. As I have said I am only a novice in the surf so there are probably subtles that escape me.

I went to Hawaii on my honey moon and have been telling my 2 year old is purpose in life is to moove to hawaii and have kids so grandpa (me in future will have to move there to watch kids and kayak; yes there is something wrong with me). There are sharp rocks under water there that add element of danger but texture to waves. I paddled when there and remembering thinking if I screw up on this wave the coral will eat me. Other thing to think about is surfski for nonbreaking waves, wind swell and and exploring. They are also a blast but again takes comitment.

you are a lucky dog


Additional Thoughts
A couple of reactions to the above post.

A closed deck kayak does not necessarily have to be heavier then a conventional wave ski. In fact several of the high performance models fashioned in Kevlar / carbon fiber weigh in at less than 25lbs. The hull design of surf kayaks now closely mirrors the design of high-performance wave skis, and even surfboards. As such, the newer boats are able to match the speed and maneuverability of a ski.

As to rolling a kayak…I would say its essential a rider have a near bomb-proof roll with lots of “combat” experience before jumping into a closed deck surf craft. Trying to wrestle a capsized boat full of water ashore, specially on a big day, can be both extremely tiring and dangerous.

The comment about rocky or coral bottoms brings up the need to strongly recommend wearing a helmet. Getting dumped near shore in a nasty shore break can bring one’s noggin dangerously close to the what ever’s below. Not to mention, protection from other above-water hazards. Remember…you’re sitting down, thus, making yourself an easy target for an errantly directed paddle, surfboard or other boats.

And finally, some will argue for wearing a PFD in the surf zone. This is a subject that generates considerable debate. But frankly, a recent boat-to-boat collision resulting in severe injuries to one rider, begs the point. The injury would likely have been averted or at least lessened if a PFD had been worn. In this case, the injured party was knocked unconscious, leaving his surf mates having to try to keep him afloat while getting him to shore for help.