What is Surf Kayaking? Pretty Epic TBH.

From the swell of the sea to the thrilling rush of riding a wave, surf kayaking offers a unique and adrenaline-pumping experience. This hybrid sport combines elements of surfing and kayaking to create an adventure that’s in a league of its own.

The History of Surf Kayaking

Surf kayaking traces its roots back to the 1950s, when kayakers began riding waves in the ocean. The sport gained traction in the 1970s with advancements in kayak design, allowing for more maneuverable and responsive kayaks suited to the waves. Over the years, the sport has grown in popularity, boasting a devoted community and even world championships.

What to do.

Step 1: Paddle Out

  • Start paddling from the shore towards the lineup (the area where waves start breaking).
  • Use “Duck Diving” or “Punching Through” techniques to pass breaking waves.

Step 2: Catch a Wave

  • Once in the lineup, position your kayak to catch an incoming wave. You want to be 10-15m before it breaks facing the beach.
  • Once you can catch waves you want to start to angle your take off slightly in the direction of the break
  • Paddle strongly as the wave approaches to match its speed. It is generally easier to catch a wave than surfing as you have a paddle for speed rather than just your hands.

Step 3: Ride the Wave

  • Once you catch the wave, use your paddle for balance and direction.
  • Try carving and cutbacks, or simply enjoy the glide. Avoid getting turned fully horizontal as that is when you capsize and wipeout.

Step 4: Safety and Etiquette

  • Always yield to surfers or kayakers who are closer to the breaking part of the wave.
  • Keep a safe distance from others in the water.
  • If you capsize, hold onto your paddle and use your leash to retrieve your kayak.

Key Skills Required

The transition from flatwater kayaking to surf kayaking may not be as seamless as you’d expect. Confidence in the water and the ability is a must, obviously. Here are some of the crucial skills:

  1. Wave Reading: Understanding wave patterns is vital for catching the right wave and avoiding dangerous conditions.
  2. Eskimo Roll: This skill is crucial for self-rescue in turbulent waters.
  3. Maneuvering: Quick and sharp turns are required to navigate through waves.
  4. Bracing: This skill helps you maintain balance when riding waves or combating the pull of the undertow.
  5. Fitness: A decent level of fitness will make your sessions more enjoyable

What Equipment Do You Use For Surf Kayaking?

When it comes to surf kayaking, having the right gear can make a world of difference in your experience. Let’s break down the essentials and go into detail about your options.

Surf Kayaks

Surf kayaks are a unique breed, designed specifically for agility and quick turns. Typically, they are shorter, ranging from 7 to 9 feet in length, and have a more curved hull compared to flatwater kayaks and look a bit like a duck bill. Some surf-specific kayaks even have fins or skegs to aid in maneuverability. Brands like Mega, Riot, and Valley are well-known for their surf kayaks.


A lightweight, yet strong paddle made of carbon fiber or fiberglass is generally ideal. Paddles that come with adjustable feather angles can help you fine-tune your strokes. Werner and Aqua-Bound are top-of-the-line brands that offer a variety of designs tailored to surf kayaking.

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

For any kayaking venture, a high-quality PFD (Personal Floatation Device) is non-negotiable. Opt for a PFD that allows maximum arm movement, critical for effective paddling. Popular brands like NRS and Kokatat offer PFDs specifically designed for kayaking activities.


Don’t underestimate the importance of a good helmet. It can literally be a lifesaver when you’re being tossed about by powerful waves. Look for helmets that offer excellent coverage without obstructing your field of view. Sweet Protection and WRSI are known for their durable and comfortable helmets.

Skirt or Spraydeck

A neoprene skirt or spraydeck is essential for keeping water out of your kayak. This piece of equipment forms a watertight seal around your waist and the cockpit of the kayak. Reliable brands like Seals and Snapdragon make skirts that are both functional and comfortable.

Kayak Leash

Especially in the surf, it’s easy to get separated from your kayak. Some people leash their paddle to their kayak and others themselves to their kayak. There are pros and cons of both. Either way, a sturdy leash will ensure that your kayak or paddle doesn’t drift too far away if (when) you wipe out.

Optional: Wetsuit or Drysuit

Depending on the water temperature and your comfort level, you might also consider a wetsuit or drysuit. These suits provide an extra layer of insulation and buoyancy. O’Neill and Patagonia are popular brands offering high-quality wetsuits and drysuits tailored to various water activities.

Kayak Safety: Not to be Overlooked

  1. Never Kayak Alone: Always have someone watching from the shore or join a group.
  2. Check Weather Conditions: Ensure you are going out in safe, manageable conditions.
  3. Know Your Limits: As with any water sport, it’s essential to understand and respect your skill level.
  4. Play nice: Be sure to respect the ettiquette of the waves and avoid surfers and swimmers with your bulkier equipment

Best UK Spots for Surf Kayaking

  1. Porthcawl, Wales: Known for its consistent swells and variety of breaks.
  2. Scarborough, England: Offers a mix of beach and reef breaks.
  3. Portrush, Northern Ireland: Famous for its powerful waves and stunning coastal scenery.


Surf kayaking is a thrilling sport that demands skill, preparation, and a love for the ocean. With the right equipment, safety precautions, and some practice, you can enjoy an unforgettable adventure on the waves. Whether you’re in Porthcawl or Scarborough, the UK offers some excellent locations to ride the surf in your kayak.

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Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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