Waveski Riding

-- Last Updated: Aug-10-05 6:54 AM EST --

Got in another session with my waveski yesterday. Combined with sessions from the past weekend, I've been developing a better feel of the waveski. Figure I'd share a bit of what I learned so if any other newbie wants to try, s/he will know what to expect and can minimize the adjustment period.

-First, do start off with a novice to intermediate waveski. For aggressive and fast paced learners, I'll generally lean towards suggesting more advance boats to "grow in." This doesn't work well with a waveski. The learning curve is already high. Getting an advanced waveski will only make it worse and frustrating. Just sitting 2-3" above the waterline on a tippy ski, without falling over, is major challenge. A beginner/intermediate waveski will have a center of gravity lower to the waterline and be longer and wider (say at least 8'x25") for more stability.

-Work on flatwater first before heading into waves. This way you can concentrate on how to paddle and roll the ski before you jump right in the dynamics of surf zone. Personally, I went right into the waves with an advanced ski and was immediately overwhelmed. Constantly flipped because I couldn't even stay upright for more than a few strokes and I swam quite a bit because I couldn't roll the waveski with any proficiency or consistency. In this situation, a session in the waves is anything but fun.

-Rolling. Doesn't matter if you're doing a regular sweep or reverse sweep (backdeck roll), the real trick here is to focus on pulling up strongly on the inboard footstrap. This serves to snap the waveski back over. In a kayak, I think of constant pressure on the inboard knee/thigh as I sweep and hipsnap. The problem with the waveski is that there is no connection at the knees and thigh, only at the waistbelt and footstraps. It is a mental adjustment to focus on pulling up the footstrap with the inboard foot rather than driving up with the inboard knee. But once you make this transition, if you have a good roll in kayak, you will find consistency as well with the waveski.

-Sitting position and riding technique. In a kayak, one sits with the legs splayed and edging is done with the lift of one knee or the other. Again, in a waveski, there is no knee connection. Rather you sit with the legs together in front of you and slightly bent. So to effect edging, think of how you would do turns in downhill skiing. You drive your outside knee into the inboard knee to bring the ski on edge, e.g edging to the left, I would consciously push my right knee against the (more relaxed) left knee to really dig in the left rail/edge of the ski.

-When paddling out, push your knees together on an approaching breaking wave. If you sit with your legs opened or splayed (as in a kayak), you will experience the joy of having a wave break right into your exposed crotch. (Do I hear an "OUCH!?) You can ride/pop over foam pile with minimal hits by leaning back to bring nose up and then quickly leaning forward to get over the hump. This works on smaller waves. I haven't dealt with bigger waves yet. At that point, I expect that I am going to have to learn the fine art of "duck diving." Duck diving means you have better have confidence in your roll unless you like coming out of the ski in the middle of the break zone. (Again, really work that roll in flat water first.)

-Use a paddle leash attached to the ski (by the footwell area). The coil leash works well because it doesn't droop all over the place (entanglement issue) and it stretches well that you don't even notice it when rolling. A loose ski in the break zone is a really speeding missile. Unlike a kayak which fills with water and slows down a bit, a loose ski doesn't take on water to slow it down. It simply planes on a wave and takes off like rocket. (I learn this the hard way!) The loose ski can take out another surfer or a swimmer on the way in. Or, it can run into a rock and break. A waveski is very light and fragile compared to a kayak. A leash will also make remounting the ski in deeper water easier. You can strap your self back in without worrying about the paddle floating away.

-Speaking of fragility, strap in and launch the waveski in only in the water. The layup is very light. Pressure on the fins can drive the fin box right into the foam core. I found out the hard way when I sat on my advance ski when it was laying on boards across two horse. The edge of the boards cracked the bottom layup, requiring some epoxy and glass repairs.

-Fin placement takes time to dial in. Slight changes in placment make huge differences in how the waveski responds on a wave. Much more so, I think, than a surf kayak. A good starting place is to have front edges of the side thruster fins lined up right under the butt cheeks. The front edge of middle fin should be anywhere from a half to a full fin with from the back edges of the side fins. If you find the waveski to stiff in tracking, move the middle fin closer to the other two, or move the set up a little more forward. If the ski is too squirrelly, do the opposite.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the waveski is a very high performing ride on waves. It does take quite a bit more to learn it and to fine tune for performance. But, the time and effort are rewarded with some incredible rides. The ski is fast and highly maneuverable. You often shoot far ahead of the break. Here you'll have to learn the different manuevers that will bring the ski back towards the pocket. How you do it is the stuff of "self expression."


Waveski choice
So Sing, what I got regarding ski choice was to go with one less advanced. I had been looking at the Futura S1-X (or something like that) as it was listed as being useable by a 'yakker with moderate balance. However, based on your writeup I would suppose it would be better to look at something like the Futura II ski instead, right?

I was also wondering on what the real use of these boats are if you don’t race or use in surf. Just as a workout boat? Unstable, tougher to control and roll, etc makes my regular 'yak look better and better.

Thanks for the writeup though, I think even paddlers with ski experience will benefit from your observations.



Are waveski and surfski the same thing?


Beginner Waveski
Hopefully goign to get a beginner waveski for this fall.

Not so much for performance, but just because it will fit in the van esier than an SOT

Waveski are specifically for surfing the surf zone. Think surf board with a hint of a seat.

I have no experience with surf skis though I know they are much longer, made for open water and can take advantage of waves for getting more speed. That’s the extent of my knowledge. I would suspect the same challenge regarding tippiness, that it is probably better to start off with a more novice/beginner ski to get used to a new seating position and higher center of gravity before moving up.


I Would Suggest One of The
WaveMaster skis because the adjustable footwell/straps will make it easier to resell later on.

I like what I am reading about the Tsunami waveski’s, which are more advance performance and produced Down Under. They have adjustable seat belts and footrests. Again, I think this allows more fine tuning and an easier time when reselling becomes a consideration.

My two skis will have to be ridden until they get destroyed. There will be no way someone else will fit them, especially after by glass/foam modifications to leg lengths.


Divorce Boat
One Austrailan’s misfortune just provided me with a waveski in mint condition. Fortunately the waves are really small here this week for the test flights. I’m wondering if I should make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in advance.

You did get it, eh. :slight_smile: Give it time and you gonna really like the performance. I’m having a blast with the waveski, even on the smaller waves.

Remember – pull up hard on the footstrap when rolling. Made all the difference when I figured it out.


To add to your confusion
The used waveski I just bought (it was brought to the US from Oz, not sold here by the distributor) says “Surfski” on it. In the US Surfskis are not waveskis but sometimes in Aus. and NZ they are.

Not All Wave Skis Are The Same
A “wave ski” is a really a generic term used to identify a wide range of paddle craft designed specifically for surfing ocean waves.

Generally speaking, a wave ski is a craft with a shallow depression in the deck for one’s gludes and a recessed area for the feet. The rider is normally anchored to the deck with a belt that drapes across the lap…usually a broad velcro band or sometimes, a buckled unit similar to one used on a dive weight belt. The feet are held in place under straps of some sort. However, the similarities end there.

The Australian style wave ski is usually much shorter, wider with a full, raised tail section. As a result, this particular design elevates the rider several inches above the water line. While this raised position allows for more radical turns and high performance maneuvers, it is considerably less stable and challenges the rider to stay upright…specially when in a stationary mode. This style of ski can represent a considerable challenge for a first timer.

Another design, emanating out of Infinity Surf in Dana Point, CA, is a wave ski that more closely resembles a surfboard. It tends to be longer, narrower and thinner. The rider sits closer to the waterline with butt and feet resting in depressions shaped into the deck. Again, a lap belt is employed and, according to the preferences of the rider, thigh straps that simulate a connection similar to a closed deck kayak. While maybe not quite as nimble as an Aussie style ski, the upside of this particular design is greater overall stability. The learning curve is normally less demanding, resulting in the new rider facing a less frustrating introduction to paddle surfing. With practice, an accomplished rider on this California style ski can ultimately execute most of the high end performance maneuvers achieved by their Aussie counterparts.

For more specific information about the Infinity ski, check the following site http://www.infinitysurf.com/

Very Interesting Link…
That Infinity waveski looks more like a surf board. The bottom profiles of a triplane and a shallow V profile contrast very differently from my two skis. My high performance ski has a double concave up front meeting to a single concave in back. My intermediate ski has a very slight concave bottom overall. Both serve to really accentuate the rails and are not as forgiving as the triplane (my experience of the Boogie surf kayak vs the Mega Venom) nor the shallow V (I would extrapolate…).