Anyone have advice concerning a switch from kayaks to surf skis?
Go stable at first.
Even a relatively stable ski will be a handful when you first cross-over from a sea kayaking background. I started with a V10 Sport and required some “butt-time” before it felt stable and comfortable, even in flat water.
Get a wing and learn the technique. Barton and Chalupsky’s “Forward Stroke” video is a good start.
Google surfski remounts and learn how to remount before you start to venture offshore. Get a leash and learn how to use it (to prevent separation from the ski). You will fall off, be conservative and use common-sense regarding necessary immersion protection, PFD use, etc.
Give serious thought to rescue and where you use it, and your companions. Most surfskis have no bow/end loops (for an easy tow), no rope perimiter to grab onto, etc. Trying to deal with an assisted rescue can sometimes feel like trying to catch a greased pig. Assisted rescues can sometimes require different solutions as compared to dealing with (well equipped) sea kayaks. While the ability to remount is nice, personally, I can roll in much bigger conditions than I’d ever want to remount a ski in but a ski avoids the potential for a flooded cockpit should you pop a skirt, blow your roll, etc.
A good book to get you started is “surfski with the pros”. Google it and you will find both hardcopy and download versions available. The stroke information is fairly basic, but the book contains some good information.
Enjoy! It’s a fun progression if you enjoy learning new skills.
This post is not meant to be exhaustive, hopefully others will chime in with points that I have missed.
If You’re Under Thirty
Have the motivation, patience and the gumption to persevere anywhere from a month to six months on an “elite” surfski in order to get up to speed, you’ll be well rewarded.
If you’re over thirty, are a bicycle racer, swimmer, triathlete or other competitive athlete, then do the same as above, but on an "intermediate ski.
All the rest, especially those over 57, I suggest sticking to so called “beginners” skis.
It is a waste of money to buy kids and young adults “beginner” skis because they advance so fast.
If you paddle Olympic K-1 kayaks, then by all means get the low volume elite surfski. You won’t need the higher volume elite surfski unless you’re doing a downwind run in 20+ kt. winds (which requires an entirely different skill).
Don’t tense up. As Greg said, butt time is key! I kayak, canoe and surf ski, First time on a ski, I had the shakes, realized I was too tense, relaxed and off I went. Have fallen off it several times, remount is easy.
I’m a relatively inexperienced paddler (five months paddling an Eddyline rec kayak and seven months paddling an Eddyline touring kayak) who tried a V7 last summer - a “beginner” ski. First demo was about 30 minutes on a quiet Lake Michigan. I loved it because the seat was slippery and allowed full hip rotation. Plus I could make it go fast.
I considered buying one for training purposes, so I signed up to paddle the V7 for a segment of a coastal relay that was going on just to get more seat time. That took place on a not very quiet Lake Huron. The ski was very stable - probably more than you would want given your advanced abilities.
Great self-bailing cockpit once I figured how to make it work. When conditions started to get really interesting, I missed the contact I have with my kayak cockpit. I don’t think there’s anything holding you on a surfski except gravity.
While I loved the hard slippery seat at the start, my opinion changed at the end. Some sort of slippery butt pad would be nice.
I’d never consider replacing my kayak with a surfski, but I wouldn’t mind having one for training.
Not sure if you’re considering used or new, or if you have a particular surfski in mind, but a friend has three of his for sale. I paddled with him this summer while he was in his Nelo. It’s a beautiful boat - all 27 pounds of it.
I like 'em all
Just like kayaks, Skis can be subjective. The most popular idea is to eventually get in the skinniest, fastest boat you can paddle.
But I personally think there is much more to it.
What do you see yourself doing? Do you want to race? Are you in it for fitness? Will you be paddling alone or with a group. If with a group will they primarily be on fast skis or slower sea kayaks? How important is maneuverability to you?
Do you want to do some touring? What's your spending threshold?
It used to be that there were only two choices: intermediate and elite skis. It's a totally new ball game now. There really is a ski for everyone at a wide price range.
So if you had to narrow down what your're looking for; what would it be?
butt time + frequency + technique
Plan to get out frequently at first but for short periods. The increased core strength requirements will have you fatigued fairly quickly. Work on technique and remounting at first. Remounting a modern ski is fairly easy.
fatigue = poor posture = tippy ski = swimming.
I started in a V10Sport elite. Moved to a new V10 after 1 year. I’m 48yrs old and have paddled sea kayaks in rough water since 1989. I get out 2x a week in the winter and 4-5x a week in the summer and race 1x a week.
If at all possible, take a clinic. The sport is super technique oriented. I did a stroke clinic with Greg Barton and a 3 hour technique clinic with Sean Rice through his PaddleLife tour and both helped immensely.
There are lots of older people paddling skis. The Canadian championships last year had an average age of 47. The biggest category was 50-60 which included Greg B and Oscar C.
Surf skis vs. Kayak
here’s a softball
How has it affected your paddling technique in a sea kayak?
I call it “time in the bucket”, but yes, you need to be able to get on the water as much as possible in order to get very comfortable and really enjoy a surfski. Getting on the water is much easier logisticly with a ski rather than a kayak, they are lighter, there’s no sprayskirt and they are easy to rinse if you paddle in salt water. I started with surfskis a couple of years ago and love it.
The other good advice here is “stability before speed”.