Surfing a Sea Kayak – Tips and Tricks

Even the smallest wave can look intimidating from the seat of your kayak and it takes some time before you feel comfortable and confident to know what size you can manage. The key is having a good grounding in the skills you need to stay safe and feel in control and that doesn’t always come easy in a 6 metre long floating missile!

You can break down the techniques you need into five different elements. 1. Launching 2. Positioning 3. Take off 4. Control on the wave 5. Landing

In this article I am going to focus mostly on 3. and 4.

Firstly Take off. This will make or break the ride you can achieve. The idea is to try and match power with power. In that, I mean you want to match the speed you are going with the speed of the wave as it connects with your kayak. If you are going to slow you will just fall off the back or get twisted sideways. If you are going to fast you will outrun the wave and end up just paddling to shore or again spun sideways as the white wash catches up to you. You want to be moving just fast enough so that when the wave rolls under your kayak you can put in those couple of extra strokes to then glide effortlessly along with the wave before it breaks.

Secondly and most critically is Control on the wave. With a sea kayak you can be a lethal weapon in the surf. Being so long and potentially moving very fast you have to be extremely careful about where you are and where others are in the line up and wear a helmet! The main technical skills you need to acquire when surfing is how to edge your kayak. This is using your body to control the lean of the kayak. Then there is bracing. This using your body position and paddle to maintain stability and prevent a capsize. Next is stern rudder. This is using your paddle as a tiller to try and keep the kayak straight on the wave, switching from the left to right side to make adjustments as you glide along the wave. Eventually you will end up sideways and knowing when to move from a stern rudder to a low brace turn is critical to finishing the ride with grace and your dignity intact!

To learn more about these techniques get in touch with me at to have a chat about private lessons or just a conversation on refining your technique.