How Kayak Surfing Works

By: Sarah Winkler

Kayak Surfing Tips

When first starting out with kayak surfing, you might consider starting with a two-person sit-on-top kayak. Having two people will give you more paddling speed, and sit-on-top kayaks are easier to roll out of in the event of capsizing. Once you get some experience under your belt, you can move on to a single-seater surf kayak.

When choosing a kayak, you'll want to consider maneuverability, speed and comfort. You'll want a kayak that responds to changes in direction and that will allow you to practice safety techniques in the event of capsizing. As far as speed goes, when choosing a kayak for surfing, you'll want a kayak that's not too difficult to launch against big waves; otherwise it will restrict you to small, weak surf. You'll want a kayak that is comfortable. Remember that your legs will be constrained for long periods of time, so you'll want a kayak that suits your own personal comfort standards. Some surfers prefer the sit-on-top style kayak for this reason.


Once you're ready to go with the optimal kayak for your own personal needs, the next item to study up on is the waves themselves. It's a good idea to time the waves before you enter the ocean so that you can have an idea of what to expect once you've launched. Count the intervals between waves. Remember that the smaller the interval, the less time you'll have between waves. In general, long periods of swell usually are accompanied by long periods of reduced waves. Short periods of swell are usually more constant. You should start on small surf, and then work your way up to larger surf gradually as you gain more experience.

One problem with kayaks is that they have so much speed compared with surfboards that they can catch waves farther away from a pocket. So, sometimes board surfers will be in the pocket moving toward the kayak surfer on the same wave. If this happens, the kayak surfer is expected to abandon the wave and give the board surfer the right of way [source: Bay Area Sea Kayakers].

Up next, learn about other safety techniques to prevent collision with fellow surfers and what to do should your kayak suddenly capsize.