Kayaking Surfing: Learn How To Surf Kayak With These Expert Tips

Kayaking Surfing: Learn How To Surf Kayak

Kayaking surf can transform even the most basic rivers into new playgrounds. Most paddlers can do front surfing quickly, thanks to the grand design of their boats. Notably, a short boat and many rockers allow you to surf any part of the most challenging waves without worrying about upstream pearling.

However, the boat’s design will only take you so far. You will need to master the art of surfing to take advantage of steeper waves.

First, you should surf on the wave’s face. This is where you can maneuver and create other play moves. You can surf on the face of mellow waves without much effort. You can surf on the face with minimal effort if you have rudders and maintain control of your boat.

Kayaking Surfing

It would help if you were more aggressive when surfing on steeper or breaking waves to keep your face above the water. You will need to go back and forth between each ferry angle. It would help if you carved more aggressively the steeper the wave.

The first step in learning how to kayak surf is to understand the terminology. Then, we will move on to the skills that you will need.

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Anatomy and function of the surf zone


Breaking waves often leave the edges greener and more transparent than their middle section. This allows for longer and smoother rides.

Spilling surf

Surfing is best learned from a gently sloping beach, where the waves release their energy slowly.

Dumping surf

At the river mouth or edge of sharp drops like a shoal, steep beach, or shoal, swells can break up quickly.

Although it offers tube rides, dumping surf is the most difficult.


At the end of the surf zone is a quiet area of foamy water.

Current rip

Wave energy can reflect off the beach, creating an offshore current that can be beneficial for launching. However, it can pose a danger to swimmers. Swim perpendicularly to the current to escape a rip current. This will allow you to catch waves that will wash your feet ashore.

Disabling Positioning:

Position of the body

When surfing, it is important to keep your weight as evenly as possible. Standing straight up will give you the best stability and control over your boat.

You can still lean back, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. You can be active with both your forward and reverse leans. As soon as you can, return to a centered body position.

Paddle position

Your kayak’s steering wheel is your paddle, so it should always be acting as a rudder. It will be used to maintain your ferry angle while you cut across the wave’s face. Then you’ll take it back to ferry the other way. Your paddle should be parallel to your kayak.

You should also have your elbows bent and your forearms between your shoulder and your eye. Your active blade will be buried in the water by keeping your front hand up.

Your rudder will not pull you off the waves by keeping your paddle parallel to your kayak. Rotating your upper body to face the paddle will give your rudder maximum power and keep your shoulders safe.

Position on a boat

When front surfing, your boat will be in one or both of the following positions: Your boat will face either directly upstream or at a ferry angle. Your kayak will shoot downwards at 12 o’clock when it is pointed towards the wave.

Essential Surf Zone Skills

1. Paddling out

Duck-diving from a kayak is not an option, so make sure you plan your exit route carefully. You should check the beach for deep-water channels that are less likely to have breaking waves. You can paddle hard to get through breaking waves. Your deck should be free from gear.

2. Catching a wave

You should position yourself well beyond the breakers. Sea kayaks and other faster boats can catch the swells off the coast or at the shoulder of the surf zone. These are safer places to begin. As you paddle with the waves, look over your shoulder.

As the wave lifts your side, stand straight and start paddling forward. Your kayak will accelerate down the wave face if your timing is perfect. You might end up on the crest if you don’t have the speed. You can expect a thrilling ride if you put your weight forward.

3. Ride the face

Riding the Face: As you speed down the wave’s face, lean back a bit and do a stern turn with your paddle. Wait for the wave to pick up. Surf kayaks and sea kayaks with shorter, more rocker sides can make turns on the wave’s face, just like board surfers. Keep your hips in line with your paddle and steer your boat towards the wave. Then, perform a stern rudder (opposite) on the down-wave side.

Surf kayaks are shorter and more rockered than sea kayaks. They can also carve turns in the face of waves, just like board surfers. Most paddlers know that they should tilt their kayaks into every turn as they place their rudders. This works well on smooth, flatter waves and can create some fantastic turns, much like board surfers.

To avoid your kayak from being caught on the downstream edge of steeper waves, tilt your kayak to the left. As you move your bow from one ferry angle, you will need to hold your boat at a downstream tilt. You’ll need to tilt your boat to the other side as your boat approaches 12 o’clock.

4. Side-surfing and broaching

Broaching is when the bow of your kayak digs into the trough, causing the stern to be pushed wide side by the breaking wave’s crest. Broaching is more common for kayaks that are longer. It’s possible to prevent a broach by catching it early.

To do this, lean back to unbury your bow and aggressively edging or ruddering with the paddle blade to re-route. If that fails, you can still side-surf by leaning into the wave and tucking your elbows into your ribcage. You can use a high or low brace, depending on the wave height.

5. Spins

To spin-out from a broach, tilt your brace forward and make a turn into the wave. You shouldn’t expect to spin in a sea-kayak more than 90 degrees. This is just enough to gain your front surf.

Flat-hulled whitewater kayaks and surf kayaks can turn easier, even on the green side of a wave. Alternate between reverse and forward sweeps. Remember to shift your weight from one edge to the other, tilting the boat into the wave.

6. Loops

Sea kayaks can be tossed around by steep waves. To make a loop, you must sit parallel to the wave’s crest and then throw your weight forward. Then, place the bow in the trough. Your stern will be thrown high if the wave is large enough. If so, you’ll find yourself standing on the footpegs above the whitewater.

You can pirouette from this point by placing a sweep stroke into the wave crest. Otherwise, you should be prepared for a high-speed crash landing. Wait for the wave to pass and then roll-up.

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