Kayak Touring | How to Launch in a Surf Zone

Kayak Touring | How to Launch in a Surf Zone


This episode of PaddleTV is brought to you by the ACA — improving the paddlesports experience for over a century. Learn more at AmericanCanoe dot org Breaking surf is one of the most challenging conditions paddlers can face and so in this video we’re going to look at how to safely launch and land your kayak in the surf zone in mild surf conditions. Now first things first, wearing a lifejacket is always important when you’re on the water, but it’s even more important when you head into rough conditions like a surf zone. It’s also critical to use a quality skirt on your kayak to prevent your kayak from swamping. When it comes to launching, you’ll want to choose a gradually sloping beach, because this lets you walk the kayak in to the water and the waves don’t tend to dump as hard. Remember that waves come in sets, and so take your time and wait for a bigger set to go through before going for it. When that time comes position your kayak at the edge of the water facing directly into the oncoming waves. Ideally you’ll have a friend who can stabilize your kayak as you get in and then push you out when the time is
right. If it isn’t an option, you’ll need to position your kayak on the beach so that you can jump in your kayak, put on your skirt and grab your paddle between waves. You’ll then wait for a wave to push enough water up the beach to float your kayak so that you can start paddling out. When paddling out through waves, the trick is keeping your boat pointed directly into the oncoming waves. If a wave that it’s coming at you is breaking, you want to hit that breaking wave with a little extra speed, so take a couple of good hard strokes going into it and then plant a last stroke into the wave as it hits you. This last stroke will not only help pull you through the wave, but it will help keep you balanced. Landing in the surf zone is just challenging and it takes a combination of timing and skill to make happen smoothly. Once again, take the time to watch the waves and wait for a lull in the set before making your move. Once it’s time, to go the ideal scenario involves letting the waves roll by your kayak and then chasing them in from behind right onto the beach where you can quickly hop out and drag your kayak up on shore. Depending on the beach, you might actually have to take some back strokes to stop the waves from picking you up and surfing you into shore. Surfing in to shore is a fast way to get in, but it’s a lot harder to maintain control. In particular, when the wave starts breaking it’ll want to turn your kayak sideways, which can flip you extremely quickly. If you do get caught by a breaking wave and turned sideways, the trick is to tilt your kayak slightly towards the wave and brace against it until the wave peters out, and you can straighten out the kayak. When traveling as a group, the best strategy is to have the two strongest paddlers land first and last. The one on shore can then help other people land, while the last person is out there in case someone capsizes and needs to be rescued in the surf zone. The bottom line is that paddling in a surf zone can be incredibly fun, but challenging. Well I hope you enjoyed this video, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re going to spend a lot of time in the surf, I’d highly recommend taking a surf kayaking course. Thanks for watching, please subscribe to our PaddleTV YouTube Channel if you want more kayaking tips and tricks, and we’ll see you next time.

Antonio Breitenberg

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10 thoughts on “Kayak Touring | How to Launch in a Surf Zone

  1. Scott W. says:

    Excellent information and wise advice. thank you

  2. Chad Hoover says:

    Nice hair! 😜

  3. Kayak Life says:

    Would recommend a low brace while side surfing.

  4. Mitch Mitchell says:

    I would have to agree with Ciaran on this one. Although a low brace is typically preferred because many say it is safer than a high brace. In my experience a low brace only works up to a point. If it is a bigger wave I have found that I can lean way over almost to the point of being upside down so that the wave does not flip me. It is imperative that you keep your elbow locked to your side but is much more supportive than the low brace and allows for a much greater lean into the wave. In this video I screwed up the first smaller wave and thus got caught by a larger more powerful wave that was breaking over me, a low brace would not have allowed me to avoid getting flipped towards the beach. The brace takes place at 3:28 in the video.

  5. Outside TV says:

    What’s up Paddle TV crew? This is an awesome video that would make a great addition to our video of the month contest! Just upload it to http://campfire.outsidetv.com/home and you could have the chance to win a wetsuit, a new surfboard, and be featured on Outside TV! See you on Campfire!

  6. Frank Blangeard says:

    Who stabilizes your friend's kayak and pushes it out when the time is right?

  7. Peter Gerhardsen says:

    From 2:06 to 2:14 : how to break your rudder by not retracting it while surf landing. 🙂
    Otherwise, good vid.

  8. Jeremy Lelea says:

    i’m gonna try it right now, thx for the tips

  9. Shandchem says:

    Excellent tips on how to enjoy surfing in a sea kayak! 🙂

  10. Jim McGettigan says:

    Great information.

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