Touring in a surfski

I have an opportunity to join the Paddle Florida group for the Key Largo to Key West paddle. My current whip of choice is my Epic V8. As you guys know, while this is a surfski, it’s basically an 18X hull. I have paddled it a ton this summer and really love it. In fact, I love it so much that it is my only boat at this time. Anyway, I am seriously considering joining my friend for this 12 day paddle with my V8. They schlep your gear so this is truly about paddling. Seems like with a drysuit this would be a pretty good time. Any thoughts or opinions from you guys?

Go for it !
that is a fairly easy paddle with not to long mileage days.

As long as no fronts come through you should have a great time.

jack L

I know
little about surf skis, but based on what I’ve learned about them since the recent surf ski death in Minnesota, they would be a poor choice for touring, from a safety standpoint.

My thoughts are that if your gear is being hauled, what’s the problem, as long as you’re comfortable in any conditions that might arise? You can likely fit a decent sized dry bag under the rear bungees to hold a change of clothes, and any amount of safety gear you might require, etc. A drinking system should fit in front of your footplate. I’m with Jack; go for it.

I agree

– Last Updated: Oct-28-11 9:00 PM EST –

As long as someone is lugging the big stuff, it'll be a nice ride. As Mark said, just take along the basic safety and comfort gear. Like driving a speeedy convertible. I'd do it.

Hey Mark, I got this idea......;-) I'll email you!


I’m not going to claim any expertise in surf skis, or Florida for that matter. But one obvious problem with other people hauling all your gear is that other people have all your gear. This might fit well in the minimalist surf ski way of doing things, but it is a major no-no in the sea kayak way of doing things. You need to be able to take care of yourself. Of course it works fine until you find yourself alone without your gear for some unforeseen reason. Several other problems arose in the recent MN death. They aren’t designed with touring in mind, so its not surprising that touring safety isn’t one of their strong suits.

Appreciate the responses
…but, really guys. Likening this trip to the recent MN tragedy is like reading about a German shepherd biting someone and then believing that all German shepherds will bite you. I mean, c’mon, those guys set out on a downwinder in extreme conditions. Hardly like the conditions in the Keys. Thanks for the responses though.

If anyone would like to know how to
put full size, waterproof, flush hatches in any surfski, give me a shout. Its NOT hard to do.

Nor is your idea Andy.

Good karma requested as payment.

ski touring
if your gear is schlepped there’s no issue with surfski safety… as a ski is much easier to remount then a cockpitted kayak. I’d rather capsize in a ski than a sit-in anytime, even though I can roll. Many more deaths up here in WI in sea kayaks and canoes than surfskis… and they’re usually due to not being able to remount. I would use caution bungeeing anything to the back, as it will increase your center of gravity and make the ski more unstable. Obviously wear your pfd and dress for immersion, and then go have yourself a ball.

I paddle surfskis regularly, and have paddled in the keys too. To say that all surfskis are dangerous is silly. Epics V8 really is a new concept in skis. It is way way more stable than the leading race skis. It is a remountable performance sea kayak. I would be much more concerned about heat stroke in a “dry suit” in the keys. Cliff Roach

The V8 is a stable, fast, comfortable sit on top kayak. You can carry any necessary safety gear for day paddling with no problem especially if somebody else is schlepping the camping gear.

no offense but
…how would this have turned out differently in a sea kayak? He was separated from his boat which was lost in the wind.

"no offense but"
I don’t think there is any major safety advatages to either a ski, or a sea kayak. If a ski, you better be good at re-entry, and if a sea kayak, you better be good at rolling. It comes down to paddling abilities, and conditions. Sea kayak type hulls (V8 included), are more stable, and would likely be safer for a given paddling ability in conditions. Having said that, the stability of your boat can only take you so far.

Paddle What Everyone Else Is Using
Or you will get bored stopping and waiting for everyone to catch up. Even when you are not trying to go fast, you will. From my personal experience, surfskis don’t mix well with other craft, except with similar fast moving craft. If everyone will be on skis, then go for it.

apples and oranges
Nobody (or next to nobody) tours on surf skis in WI, that’s probably contributes to why there are fewer deaths. Most kayak deaths, at least on the upper Great Lakes, are deaths while touring. I would guess there are also fewer surf skis in use. So you can’t really do a direct comparison in numbers, we’d need more info to calculate the ratios.

a few things
if the paddlers were as (un)prepared in kayaks as they were in skis, it might not have changed the outcome. But to answer your question

-A kayaker would have the option of rolling, and never leaving their boat.

-if the other boats had been sea kayaks they could have carried the victim on deck to keep him out of the water. They could not do that with the skis.

–a sea kayak can be towed if necessary. There are apparently few (if any) suitable tow points on many surf skis. Even if the person who accompanied the victim could have caught up with the wayward ski, he couldn’t have towed it back to the victim. A kayak could have been towed back. The OP’s Epic is one of the rarer skis that does have attachment points/handles.

I don’t know that surf skis are more dangerous, esp in warm waters, but they certainly present a different set of challenges to be aware of. Its not as simple as “yeah, go for it”.

some comments
Just want to clear up mis-conceptions

“”"""-A kayaker would have the option of rolling, and never leaving their boat."""""

A surfskier that either keeps their feet in the straps or doesn’t have a leash break doesn’t loose their boat. Keeping your ski isn’t really any harder than rolling. Losing a ski is like blowing your roll and wet exiting and usually reflects some lack of experience. Someone that loses a ski possibly wouldn’t have had a solid roll either.

“”""-if the other boats had been sea kayaks they could have carried the victim on deck to keep him out of the water. They could not do that with the skis.""""

You can carry people on the back deck of a ski. I’ve watched Dawid Mocke teach this at a clinic in San Francisco.

“”"""–a sea kayak can be towed if necessary. There are apparently few (if any) suitable tow points on many surf skis. “”""""

This is a fair point about most skis. Some people are modifying to address this. As you note, the Epic V8 mentioned in the opening post already has a place to attach a tow. The V8 is as close to a touring ski as you can get really.

“”"“but they certainly present a different set of challenges to be aware of.


Absolutely, it is a matter of being aware. In my opinion, there is nothing more inherently dangerous about the ski than any other kayak if the user is prepared.

been in a few situations myself, hindsight is exactly that. You can prepare for what you think might be a worse case scenario, only to find that things happen very quickly in unexpected ways. Such is the nature of our sport on the water, be it in SINK, surfski, or rowing craft. My heart goes out to Todd, his family, and friends. I can well imagine what those that accompanied him that day must be feeling.

Interestingly, was out on a downwind once-small craft advisory conditions, and it was great fun until it all went bad. The one member of our group in a SINK (and a skilled paddler at that), took on water through his spray skirt to the point where his boat was so imbalanced that he eventually flipped and punched out. Conditions built to the degree where attempting to pump out his closed boat, with his on deck pump was well nigh impossible. The skis had no issues. Rescue was hairy at best even with three assisting-the wind literally rips you away. At different points all of us ended up in the water, and because we practice our remounts, climbed readily back on. Our saving graces that day were strength in numbers, paddling only as fast as the slowest paddler, sticking together, and close proximity to shore. We beach landed, and all was fine…eventually. You can have all the gear in the world, but if conditions are such that you can’t get to it, then it’s a moot point. A ‘bombproof’ roll is exactly that…until it’s not. In that situation, I’d much rather be on a ski. A V-8 is a wonderful remount platform-stable, forgiving, and still able to deliver the goods as far as the fun factor goes.

I do agree with the tow system point; a simple tow belt and carabiner can be easily attached to a pfd, for lack of a better attachment point… If nothing else, this terrible loss of one of our own I know has resulted in many paddlers focusing their lenses more on safety planning and planning for outing on the water. As the winter months are upon so many of us, this becomes paramount.

Easy to Eskimo Roll a Surfski
Add a quick release strap to the cockpit and roll all you want without getting dumped. I’ve personally rescued paddlers out in the ocean with both of us lying on top of the surfski and our paddles, while paddlng surfboard style back to shore.

you’re not getting it
The guy lost his ski. There is nothing in the report to tell me he wouldn’t have lost a sea kayak.