what, exactly is

kayak surfing…and how does it differ from simply kayaking in high seas?

[and thanks, to y’all for not laughing ;-), or at least not doing so out loud]

A simple video example

– Last Updated: Dec-04-05 8:22 PM EST –


and some photos .....


and a webpage with more info if you are interested


there is quite a bit of
difference to the real “surf kayak” and using other boats such as whitewater boats for “surf kayaking”.

For the sake of discussion i would say that while a white water kayak will get you out to the surf and back to the beach while riding in front of the wave with a lot of hoop and hollering a real surf kayak is a ride that is truer to the sence of “surfing”. Though i have never been in the real thing, a surf kayak is faster and can ride the face of the wave back up and over the wave to do it all over again. Part of the reason for that is “fins”. White water kayaks don’t have that same capability.

I’ll stop here and let someone more experienced in surf kayaking say something.

not fins but rails…
The rails on a surf kayak (as opposed to chines on a whitewater kayak) are what allow a surf kayak to stay high on the face of a wave (carving) rather than simply butt bouncing to shore on a whitewater boat. Heck, two of my whitewater playboats have fins (Riot Dominatrix and Techno) which help them on waves but really its the rails which make the difference. Of course I’ve never been in a real surf kayak either…

Hey Bask lost MS Bowstern
and I miss her.

From the San Onofre Crew’s Webpage
Differences between whitewater and surf boats…


For my part it’s all good I own four kinds of surf boats. They are all fun, but surf specific and higher performance surf kayaks and waveskis are the best.

Not sure if yer joking schizopath?
Rails are essential, but fins definitely allow for grip on the face, and down the line speed. WW boats as a rule have too much tail rocker, and are too slow to be valid in steep or fast surf relative to a surf kayak. The good news here is that most WW folk I see don’t mind riding in front of the foam pile and throwing ends, spinning etc. In such they aren’t in the way…Unless they drop in on you due to lack of understanding. I’ve been at it now for about a dozen years in HP surf boats. I’m seeing the world shrink, and now only surf weekdays. Unfortunately thw WW crowd has discovered the fun, and it’s starting to get uglier. The stuff I see is embarassing to all of us. 3-4 guys dropping in at once way early…Not good, and it’s causing the boardies to lash out at all kayakers. Definitely a change, and it’s sad. I don’t want to see the sport grow…surfing sucks …keep touring! :slight_smile:

There are great surf boats with fins as well as without. Mine has adjustable swivel fins that allow for fine tuning. By changing toe-in and fin size you can be either very loose and spinny, or have down the line drive. Waves vary, so what works best for a gently spilling wave like the ones in the video clip, may not for a fast rippin face. WW play boats can make you feel like a sitting duck…

not joking
although you may have misunderstood my post. I was responding about the question regarding the primary difference between surf kayaks and whitewater kayaks. Although length and fins are definitely keys to a surf kayak’s performance, what I was saying is that these things also can be found in many whitewater boats. From a differentiation perspective it is the rail which clearly seperates the two categories of kayaks.

In regards to playboaters taking up surfing, yeah it’s a bummer that they don’t know surf etiquette but I’m not sure if there’s any real solution to that. If kayak surfing becomes increasingly popular, there will either be more clashes between the boarders and the kayakers or both groups will grow up and learn to share the waves like reasonable adults.

Got it…thanks

If you ever want to check it out, or get into it, Virginia Beach Surf Kayakers are in your area. They have a nice website and seemingly a good active group going.


You keep your shoes on

– Last Updated: Dec-05-05 1:22 PM EST –

In dimensional water, even if you get tossed out, it's likely your shoes will stay on. In the surf zone it's not uncommon to see one precede you to shore if it's a good sized day. Also, if you dump out of the boat as enthusiastically as I did my first (and so far only day at it), not only the boat but the bulkhead blocks, the velcro strap for attaching things that was around the rear bungie, any bilge sponge even if anchored ...

thanks, everyone!
my primary reason for paddling is relaxation and observation, so i’m drawn to flat water on rivers streams, salt marshes, etc.; and sea kayaking in lagoons, small and large bays, and someday even coastal if things look pretty calm.

the reason i wanted to know about surfing is because that is the one “sportish” or adrenaline thing i thought i might be inclined to try.

i bought my pungo because the price and features were perfect for me as newbie making a first purchase. but, now that i have had it for a season, i find that i enjoy it (paddling and being on the water in general) considerably more than expected. i now know that at some point i will want another boat to complement and expand the capabilities of my “fleet.”

from what you all have posted here, it looks like surf-ability, may, indeed be a consideration in that future purchase…though probably not a dealbreaker if i absolutely fall in love with something :-).

A suggestion

– Last Updated: Dec-05-05 1:50 PM EST –

Although Salty does not want any more surf kayakers out there, I would suggest that if you are interested you contact one of the kayak surfing clubs in your area and ask if there are stores or outfitters that teach surf lessons. Most places will take you out for a session in a sit-on-top in safe predictable waves. Most people who try surf kayaking are either hooked at that point or decide it's not for them. You can pick up a decent surf specific boat used for $300-400 dollars, and a helmet for ~$40 dollars; if you have the immersion clothing and a paddle you are set. Most people find that surfing is really good way to improve their boat handling skills and improve their safety while paddling on the ocean. You don't have to surf monster waves to have a good time. I met some ~50 year old ladies this year that call themselves the Surfaholic Weenie Wahinnees, they only surf one of the calmer breaks in our area but they really have a good time.

This is a serious board eh?
If there’s to be more kayaks out there, let’s have em be surf specific kayaks that can perform. Not fun to drop in at the peak, fire down the line and encounter 2-3 ww kayakers that dropped in early down the line! Common response is “we didn’t think you’d get anywhere near us”. These are not bad people at all, but they are not aware of surf rules, and are in craft that are not ideal for surf.

To be clear and very serious, I think it’s great that people are kayaking out there and having fun in whatever boat they choose. I think kayakers can have fun at areas not conducive to boards. I think kayakers can get along with boardies when they employ common courtesy. You wouldn’t barge up to a pool on a river that someone was casting a fly into!

I think it is uncool to drive up to a break that has only a couple of peaks working, (and has a surf crowd already)and paddle out with half a dozen kayaks and do group drop-ins, early drops, pre-peak take offs etc. Folks I see this a lot more than I used to, and I wonder if kayakers just feel safe in a group?

If I go to a favorite spot and see it’s crowded, I go elsewhere, or work another part of the break. I try to go on weekdays and early and if I see a few surfers I work my way in slowly and politely, and take my turn. This means I pass on a lot of rides that they may miss etc., but that’s OK. Conversely, If I’m first at a peak I welcome boardies to join me. Interestingly, I’ve never had a kayaker ask me if they could join me, but very often have surf boarders approach me graciously to which I reciprocate.

I’m NOT slamming kayakers folks. Most are super nice and cool, but quite a few are clueless. Clueless doesn’t matter on a long beach break situation, but does at the hot spots. Not sure what the answer is, but tension is definitely rising.

Last couple times in California I was shocked at how seperated it’s becoming down there. Stuff that never happened ten years ago where I live is starting to happen now, and that makes me wonder how long I’ll be enjoying surf kayaking.

Twice as crowded, way more angst,…time for a jet ski, rescue sled set up so I can tow my boat to remote breaks. I see this in my future.

Happy holidays.

Paddle a hundred yards down
the coast and surf. There are so many good spots in California, who cares if you get the main peak at the Primo break. The coastline is enormous. There are at most a few hundred surf kayakers in all of California. But I agree on being good surfing citizens, read my post on another forum …


That’s Why…

– Last Updated: Dec-05-05 3:13 PM EST –

We have the Northern NE Surf Kayakers group. We want to bring new folks into the sport but we want them to be aware of the etiquette as well as safety issues. We don't do this by pulling rank, and bashing folks over the head with a boat, or perceived "authority." Rather, it's actually meeting, going out to surf and introducing the elements of etiquette and safety.

Also, because our group is spread out through northern NE, there are local knowledge and connections that can prove useful to other members coming from different "home breaks."

Also, since this group has started, I think we have probably been responsible for getting a number of folks on the merits of surfing a surf specific design boat, rather than butt bouncing through a foam pile (over swimmers and boardies) and creating tensions with a craft that's not optimal for control on the waves (especially big waves).


"Swivel Fins…"
salty, got a pic of that? I’ve read about it. Haven’t seen 'em yet.


Sorry sing
Don’t have a pic. The Swivels are made in Australia, and are no longer useful in a kayak, as they re-tooled the mold for the receptacle, (to make it easier to thread the the bolt into the fin from above). What once was a water tight seal between the bolt and the recptacle counter-sink, is now not! This matters not for surf boards, but does with kayaks, as water fills your boat. I suppose you could epoxy the countersink, then re-drill to make what they have now work, or machine a new receptacle. They have no more of the old parts, so for now swivel fins are out, and I can’t see them re-tooling to make kayak viable fins. A search on google may find the company…not sure even if they are still around? I’ll try.

Shame really, as they are awesome, and really allow you to tweak the handling. Glad I have mine, and not sure what I’d choose now in a new boat?

Somebody Had Raised This
on the waveski.info site. Again, no pic.

Thanks anyway. Was just interested in seeing what this contraption would look like…