Surf Landings - Success, Yard Sales and Carnage

Came across this old Gales’ Video. Really appreciate that some one filmed and posted it. Glad no one got hurt. Since I mostly paddle surf alone, I don’t get to see, reflect and learn from what others do in the surf zone. Lots to take in and learn from here. :slight_smile:




Wow! Looks like fun if you have the skills, and shear terror if you don’t.

As long as no one gets hurt, it’s as good as it gets!!! :slight_smile:

In that group setting, with coaches providing advice and assist, it’s almost ideal (would have been better with smaller, less dumpy waves) for folks wanting to get more into surf zone dynamics and skills development. In that whole video, only one person was in jeopardy of suffering a serious injury (hazarding a broken leg) because he did two things wrong - attempting a brace on the wrong side and trying to exit on the wrong side without paying attention and having awareness of the oncoming waves.


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that looked like a lot of fun! How do you learn to do that? I guess you live near the sea and practice with smaller waves, right? And coaches!

You attend The Gales Storm Gathering, which is where that video was made. Sadly it was canceled this year, but hoping for the best next year.


That looks like a fun spirited outing. That one moment does make you cringe. He looked like he so wanted to just step onto the shore. It’s great to see folks out gaining that kind of experience.

When I do a surf landing I do similar moves. Even a perfect approach ends up in a swim because I can’t get out fast enough. :roll_eyes:

My first thought with the shore side brace segment was " this is going to end badly" and then the guy in the back ground " that’s not going to work" I’m not sure the paddler knew how close they were to major bad karma doing the windowshade on the beach half out of the kayak. I did that once in my Mike Johnson Mako, half out of the tiny cockpit, and worked on the beach by much bigger wave. I think that was the day I decided to sell it.

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I am with you. I don’t want to be in a surf kayak on my homebreak. At higher tide phase, the waves dump onto cobble stone. Any mistake is costly to body and equipment.

WIth the waveski, I ride in close. Keep an eye out to the oncoming waves, get my seat beat off, pick and time a wave, try to paddle in on the back that wave, immediately hop off and quickly drag the waveski on shore before the suck out/outflow happens. I have had to repair to dings on my waveskis because my timing was off. Thankfully, no body damage from minor mistakes. (Knock on wood!)


Hop off, stand up , walk off, drag boat …sometimes easier said than done.

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The kind of conditions that give most people trouble. Some can surf and some can’t.

I’ve heard that w/ a loaded, as in multi day trips, kayak it’s best to come in sideways in big surf? If this is true l want to start some practice sessions those few times I get near a coast.
My mom’s place is in Florida so I think I’ll need to set time aside every trip there to get in some landing and launching practice.

Yes. If you not sure of your directional control in surf, your best bet is too side surf in. The trick with this particular break is that it is dumping and that there is a suck out almost right after the wave breaks. So you got to make sure to be totally wedged up on the shore line to make a quick exit from the boat ON THE WATER SIDE. And then you grab the boat and drag it farther up the beach, away from breaking waves.

If you find yourself getting sucked back out into the wave break/dump line before being able to exit the kayak, then try to maintain an upright relaxed posture (which allows to brace in either direction) while staying paralleled to the oncoming waves. Basically, you would be waiting for the next side surf opportunity. Look, wait, then lean and brace into the next breaking wave as it drives you and boat up the shore again. Then exit quickly as you can on the water/wave side before the next breaker.

The above can/should be practiced in smaller and less dumpy conditions. If a particular beach break is not dumpy, you can practice back paddling to the beach on the foam while acing out to the waves. This way you can see when the perfect opportunity is to get out of the kayak.

PS - @LowTech Basically take the same approach as the paddler did in the 4:40 frame of the Gales video. Stay patient (and perhaps a tad bit more relaxed) and just keep bracing and side surf each wave until you feel comfortably wedged up on the shore line before exiting.



@sing Any recommendations of instructional videos? I think I’ve watched everyone I can find on launching (not that many) and landing ones seam even rarer. Mostly I find ones about landing fishing kayaks.

I don’t have a video to suggest, but I took seakayaking classes from Jen Kleck, who I believe is one the best instructors in the US. The basics are that you should be picking your landing spot the entire time you are paddling, watching the coastline for the best sheltered spot with the least violent wave action in case you have to cut your paddle short and make an emergency take out. Watch the waves as you paddle parallel to shore and see how high the biggest breaking sets are and how far out they break. Paddle parallel to the biggest sets and well outside where they stand up then start watching the foam line in the water ahead of you, judging from the outline of foam where the biggest breaking waves start. Turn and come in perpendicular to that line, and try to come in on where the shoulders form and not where the biggest sets pitch. Paddle slowly and get the rhythm of the big swells as they ride under you. Stop and breath and relax and look around so you are aware of what is going on. Hover in place, moving back a bit if you need to, until you are ready to commit. Make sure you are breathing with each paddle stroke and staying relaxed and letting your kayak dance with the waves. If you tense up or panic or try grabbing the boat etc it will end badly. You can easily adjust your position forward or back, to stay in position outside of the break zone. If you turn sideways you are committed and most often dead meat if a sneaker set comes in. If you back paddle you can usually avoid a big set wave. Count the seconds between waves, and take enough time to be sure the biggest set has past then pick a wave and as it passes, paddle hard to stay on the back of the wave and ride it in on the back of the wave paddling hard to the beach, popping your skirt as soon as you commit, let the wave dump in front of you and sit up on the back deck and exit in shallow water. No matter what, stay on the ocean side of the kayak in the surf zone. Don’t try to hang onto a boat in heavy surf as a wave is about to hit it, wait for it to stop or get sucked back toward you. Others will have different strategies.


@SeaDart what exactly do you mean by this, timing wise?
"“popping your skirt as soon as you commit”

Spending most of your time in the middle of the desert has it’s drawbacks when it comes to finding good sea kayaking instructors. :joy:

I’m not sure there is one all encompassing answer for when you are “Committed” to landing, I’d call it the point of no return, when you are well on your way in on the back of a wave or surfing straight in charlie, or turning into a bongo slide. A lot of it depends on your boat and your skirt. And you have to have enough paddle dexterity and experience to know when you can take the few seconds to do it.

I think Jen still gives lessons in Lajolla, she sold her store, and owns a business that does sea cave tours now.   If you google for her name she appears on a kayak coaching page.   Sean Morely has quit giving lessons.   If you are ever in Ft. Bragg area Jeff Laxier is an excellent teacher.  I know the kayak connection in Moss landing and Santa Cruz have lessons.  Peter who posts here can probably give you more info on people still doing Sea Kayak coaching.  

You can contact Jen here I think …

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Actually, given you live in the middle of the desert, you SHOULD try to combine an opportunity to be on ocean with taking some training since the latter can be booked in advance.

My love/passion for surfing came from taking several longboat surfing classes in my first couple of years of paddling. I was hooked by the thrill of that first ride in to the beach on a 1.5’ wave. WooHoo!!! :cowboy_hat_face:

Take some classes. Get trained on some of the fundamentals, and then it’s really up to year to practice these whenever you have the opportunity to be on the (ocean) water.