Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

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Gordon Gilzean
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Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Wed Sep 04, 2019 2:06 pm

Hi everyone i thought I'd share my recent experience and ask for some advice on how to improve for my next attempt at sea kayak surfing, i recently had my first ever experience of a kayak surf session, the conditions were atleast force 5 to 6 with a strong on shore wind of 25mph so it was providing lots of waves around 6ft and above with the occasional 10ft plus wave rolling in aswell, because of the strong winds there wasn't much of a gap between waves, roughly 4-5 seconds between each wave so i was finding it very difficult to try and turn my 17ft scorpio in time to set up to catch a wave, all i was doing was turning my boat enough to be side broached and if i was lucky enough managing to stay upright for a few seconds before the force of the wave took control and gave me a white knuckle ride untill capsizing and a wet exit( i can roll but found it very challenging as this is my first time being in these conditions and i didn't have a very reliable roll on that day, i got up a few times but most was a wet exit and a tiring swim to shore, also on the few times i did mange to turn the boat to face the beach it didn't leave me enough time to forward paddle and match the speed of the wave so when the wave caught up to me floating stationary it just crashed me forward uncontrollably, buried the bow and i was half way to capsize before i knew what happened, needless to say i spent more time swimming than i did kayaking but it was tremendous fun nonetheless, can anyone offer some tips and advice for keeping control in conditions like this as i felt a bit like i didn't have the knowledge to know what to do at the time so was very much a try and learn as you go situation which unfortunately wasn't going in my favour, thanks in advance

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Northern Blue » Wed Sep 04, 2019 2:54 pm

Four or five seconds is short. Head out beyond the break where you can turn without risk of a breaking wave broaching you. Get set up and turn hard on the peak of the swell, where there’s less resistance to the turn. The Scorpio is a big heavy lump, so anything you can do to help it turn will benefit.

Try to time your run ins, so that you’re surfing in green water as much as possible, staying ahead of the breaking crest and ready to get off the back of the wave before it all turns white.

This is one of my Scorpio on smaller waves at Tiree over the summer, I’m just about to brace over the back of the break and get off it.


Image

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by rockhopper » Wed Sep 04, 2019 3:03 pm

My thought would be that in conditions like that you would have very little hope of being in control enough to surf a sea kayak. With waves that large and particularly that close together and with a strong onshore breeze the boat (due to its length) will almost invariably dig in at the bow and then as the boats starts to slow (slower than the wave) the back end of the boat will want to overtake the front which will cause the boat to start to skew off to one side. Once this starts to happen, in those conditions, it will be virtually impossible to prevent the boat from going parallel to the waves. Once it does that you then need to stick your paddle into the wave face and lean into the wave. As the face of the wave is rotating upwards then doing that will keep you upright and you can 'bongo slide' towards the beach without capsizing.

The Scorpio will happily surf in much less testing conditions and I would think it would be wise for you to start off in much smaller waves which will enable you to experiment with different movements of the boat, paddle and body in order to understand how that effects how the boat behaves on a wave.

Rog.

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by charleston14 » Wed Sep 04, 2019 8:08 pm

In heavy onshore surf like that I’d be giving the thumbs up to any surfers that made a decent job of it..let alone a sea kayaker, I do both and just don’t think a sea kayak is that great a craft for surfing the big beefy stuff unless it’s very “clean”. Duck dives are not an option for a sea kayak, so it’s either paddle over it, round it, or roll and take it on the hull and then roll up again whilst probably being dragged backwards. I find surfing the small stuff and swell-waves before they are shoaling much and have broken; stuff a surfer couldn’t possibly catch, even on a longboard, actually really pleasant, ..the thrill of the glide..but 6 to 8 foot walls of white mush one rapidly after another is pretty unpleasant, be it in a sea kayak on a surfboard or bodyboard. Fair play, you gave it a go I applaud your courage, I’d have stayed on the beach, maybe waited to see if low tide reduced the wave height and cleaned it up a bit..etc.

Were you being instructed during that session?

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by jamesl2play » Wed Sep 04, 2019 9:52 pm

Just asking, is this a serious post ?

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by charleston14 » Wed Sep 04, 2019 10:25 pm

Yes, frankly I find the notion of paddling a sea kayak in big onshore surf terrifying..wouldn’t go near it, but I’d maybe surf it, I’ve had (surfboard) sessions like that..but it would be a grotty session. I mean: if you have wall after wall of 6 to 8 foot broken wave every 5 secs, with winds like that (25mph) ..so probably closing out the bay, how do you even get out back to then turn around? I’d probably spend all my time being dragged backwards I guess ..I’m not experienced in kayaking in big waves, only surfing them. Doesn’t sound like fun to me. Can you actually get a sea kayak to penetrate against a wave that big ? All that happens on a surfboard if you don’t duckdive into the shoulder of the wave or paddle around the broken section, before the whitewater hits you, is the board gets ripped out of your hands and you get thrown or dragged by your leash. ..maybe I’m naive and a sea kayak can do more than I think ? But the description of the seasion sounds like I’d be in my terror zone to be honest. The description also stated the odd 10 footer. In my own experience being caught inside facing a 10ft wall of white water is not a good place to be..you duckdive as deep as you can go, but chances are the rolling power of the wave will drag you up into the wave and rag-doll you, given a 5 sec wave period youd then come up, get half a lung full of air and then boom, the next one would get you. Not a place I’d want to be kayaking.

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Wed Sep 04, 2019 10:55 pm

Thank you all for your tips and encouraging words, i can assure you this is a real post lol it was as crazy as it sounds and I'm glad to hear it's not just me that thinks it was almost unsurfable, i wasn't being instructed as such, there was 5 of us there from my club, 3 of which are very experienced and skilled paddlers, one who is experienced but not had a lot of tine in surf and myself who was having my first taste of shoreline surfing in a kayak, i have managed to surf green waves on day paddles out in the open waters but the waves and time between them that day was a bit too much for me to stand a chance if I'm honest, it's not put me off though and I'm definitely going back to surf zone to improve my skills, as intimidating as it was it was really good fun and the experienced guys were keeping an eye on us so help was on hand if needed

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by rockhopper » Wed Sep 04, 2019 11:35 pm

I wonder about 'experienced guys' letting you attempt to surf in water like that. It does sound like a recipe for serious injury (to you and anyone near you) and I wouldn't fancy attempting a rescue if it went wrong. Putting a 17' heavy boat plus paddler in waves that are 50% taller than an average standing person (and breaking) would seem a foolhardy thing to do and i cannot think of any experienced paddler that would be happy doing that unless it was their only option to get off the water.

Rog.

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by mcgruff » Thu Sep 05, 2019 12:23 am

Maybe ocean swell forecasts (longer wavelengths) could help plan the next surf day - assuming you're near an open stretch of coast. Local knowledge of the way conditions interact with the coastline will be key.

Gordon Gilzean
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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:01 am

I can understand your worry about letting inexperienced kayakers go out in those conditions, all i can say is i had been nagging them to let me get a taste of some real conditions where i could experience what it's like to be thrown around by the sea and begin to learn how to control it and i definitely knew what i was going into was going to be a rough ride, we all had our helmets and ba's on aswell so it did stay fun just wild, thanks for that i will definitely look at the swell forcasts i stay not to far from the shore but it would be good to go and see how it looks through different tide times and wind conditions, ive heard a southern wind on high tide is best for that area but i haven't seen for myself how it is at other times

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:02 am

Image

Hi Gordon this was me the same day you were out, just down the coast a bit where the waves were bigger. A sea kayak is completely the wrong tool for the job. I was ripping the waves to pieces at 25 knots while you were swimming. Get yourself into kite surfing or windsurfing down at Troon if you want to make the most of these conditions.:) :) :)

Best wishes,
Douglas :)

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by MYSSAK » Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:39 am

Hi,
I think 10’ waves are definitely far too big to start learning surfing in any kayak. Good condition would be something around 3-5’ with long period, over ten seconds.
Quite a lot depends on actually conditions and shape of the waves rather then size in numbers but I am not aware if I ever went out in 10 feet waves. I know I would not go to learn in anything that big:)

Few times I went out to try to push my limits when forecast said 6-9 feet, like on the picture below, and I would think twice about trying anything bigger.
Stay safe when learning.

Michal

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by on the rocks » Thu Sep 05, 2019 11:00 am

I think one of the issues here is that it may be difficult to accurately assess wave height and period when in a stressful situation when pushing one's learning curve. Even the swell heights recorded by buoys on Magic Seaweed may not correspond to what is experienced in a surf bay. Taking the numbers too literally may have resulted in some over-reaction?

Speaking as one who is also fairly low down on the surf learning curve the skills to learn/improve seem to include timing, bracing aggressively on or into waves, being able to turn quicker by aggressive use of outside edge/sweep, inside edge/reverse sweep on wave tops, weight fore/aft, fine tuning stern rudders, ideally being able to roll both sides or at least ensuring broach in a direction which favours your good side roll, and a positive mindset which can be helped by shouting YE-HAA occasionally.

Howard Jeffs is aiming to run a sea kayak surfing weekend course (currently under subscribed) in Pembroke later this month, if it goes ahead I guess I'll know a lot more then

Kevin

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:54 pm

Funnily enough the other guys were talking about troon being a good spot for it, that does look like good fun but i think I'll get the hang of kayaking mpre before taking on a new sport, ive tried windsurfing on holiday a few times and found it good fun, I'm sure I'd have been swimming just as much with my skills lol, to be fair the mote experienced guys i was with were managing to catch and ride most of the waves they went for in theyre 17ft rockpool alaw bach and 18ft rockpool taran lol it was pretty impressive to see, i would definitely have preferred if i had been rolled on my favourable side but of course the sea chose other wise and i was forced to roll on my offside, i got a few rolls which i am happy with for my first time in surf but i could definitely have done better so i am getting some instruction tonight to practise re entry rolls on both sides from one of the guys in preparation for the next session

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Daker » Tue Oct 01, 2019 10:10 am

The only reason anyone would CHOOSE to go out in those sort of conditions is for a bit of practice in how to cope, should you find yourself in similar on a trip and have no choice but to land. Any surfing will be a very short, possibly scary 'ride', followed by brutal bongo-sliding and a high chance of getting flipped unless you are very good with your bracing.

I agree it can be a real adrenaline buzz but its extremely physical and if what you are looking for is the opportunity to actually learn how to surf a sea boat, catching and riding waves, work on boat control, edging, ruddering, direction changes, rolling, then you are going to achieve SO much more on a day when its not just survival conditions.

Choose a day when the wind is light or off-shore, a 1-2' wave face is perfectly sufficient for getting to grips with the basics, a 3-4' wave can be really good fun without being too hard a paddle out. Once you get above 4' faces it will be very exciting but if that's what you want I would highly recommend ditching the sea boat and treating yourself to a proper surf kayak which is just SO much more controllable and can actually surf the wave, rather than being largely at its mercy.

(Usual warning about offshore winds applies to make sure you are able to roll / self rescue / have rescue buddies in case you find yourself out the boat 'out back' and drifting but so long as you stay in the surf zone you should be fine.)

Good luck. :-)

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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Chris McDaid » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:43 pm

Keep at it, there's no better way to learn boat handling. Accept the fact that you'll get ragdolled occasionally and enjoy it, its a blast!!! With reference to a previous reply, some of us CHOOSE to do it because its great fun. Wee tip for successful sea kayak surfing, be going slightly faster than the wave or at least the same speed as it. Get tore in, its fantastic

https://scontent-dub4-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/ ... e=5E640C91

Cheers
Chris
NDK Explorer/Dagger Stratos

Gordon Gilzean
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Re: Advice for learning to surf a sea kayak

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:03 pm

I have to agree I thought it was amaxing and I would go back out and take a ragdolling around again and again and again no problem, It can only get better with practise and hopefully I'll stay above water more often

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