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Guide To Surfing With Your Kayak

Mark Armstrong
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If you’re thinking about getting involved in surf kayaking, you’re probably wondering how to choose a surf kayak. Will you need any specific features or can you surf with your regular kayak?

To give you a better understanding of what surf kayaking is we’ve put together some information that you might find useful.

Plus, we’ll give you an idea of what you may need to look out for when you’re ready to choose your surf yak.

Guide To Surfing With Your Kayak - Pinterest ImagePin

What Is Surf Kayaking?

Surf kayaking is similar to board surfing in that you are out there catching and riding waves in the ocean. But instead of standing on a surfboard you are seated in a kayak with a paddle.

Surf kayaking can take place wherever there are waves. Board surfers can often be found in the same locations. One advantage of surf kayaking is that you can paddle further along the shore or to areas where traditional surfers might not be able to easily access.

Video: Surf Kayaking In Cornwall, England

Just like with other kayak sports, surf kayaking has been growing in popularity over the last few years and there are competitions held all over the world, similar to traditional surfing. 

It’s not just a summer sport either, people can surf kayak at any time of the year and in any locations where there are waves, as long as you’re wearing a suitable wetsuit (and PFD of course).

A helmet can also be an essential safety item because of the extra risk involved.

What Features Should A Kayak Have For Surfing?

Hydrodynamic Hull Design

The best types of hulls for surf kayaking will usually be planing hulls, as these can help to improve performance on waves, particularly when turning quickly. Often with dedicated surf kayaks the bottom of the hull is shaped much like a traditional surfboard, usually with sharper edges and a lower profile.

The hulls will also tend to have a little more rocker than flatwater vessels, which is usually more pronounced at the bow, as this can make it easier to cut through the waves.


Some of the vessels that are designed for surfing will have fins on the bottom of the hull close to the stern. These fins can help with tracking and control when you’re riding a wave, similar to how a skeg works on a traditional kayak.

The tri-fin configuration, which can also be known as thrusters, features three fins. One fin towards the end of the stern and two a little closer to the middle. This configuration can also help with stability.


When you’re choosing a paddle for surf kayaking, it can be a good idea to opt for one that is durable. Surfing will most likely subject your paddle to harsher conditions than general recreational paddling.

A whitewater paddle can be a good idea because of the blade size. But a shorter paddle can also work well. You may find that longer paddles can get caught in waves, which can make it more difficult to surf.

Kayaks That Surf

Whitewater Kayaks

A whitewater kayak can be for surfing ocean waves. However, because it’s designed for whitewater on rivers, it may not have the performance that a dedicated surf kayak might have. This is because they may tend to have a more rounded hull for maneuverability on rivers rather than a planing one.

However, there are some whitewater kayaks that can work well for surfing, especially if they have a bit of rocker and a flat, planing hull.

Dagger Axiom

  • Length: 8 foot
  • Width: 24.5 inches
  • Depth: 12 inches
  • Weight: 36 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 150 pounds (paddler)

The Dagger Axiom is an 8 foot whitewater yak with a sit-inside hull designed for small to medium sized paddlers. It has a adequate rocker and smooth edging, which can make it ideal for surfing waves as well as running rivers. The low volume stern can help it cut through the water more easily.

This could offer good versatility if you like the idea of surfing waves at the beach but also want the option of whitewater paddling on your local river.

Recreational Kayaks

A recreational kayak tends to be very stable and designed more for flatwater than surfing or whitewater. Therefore these types of yaks often have more primary stability than secondary, which can make them more likely to tip in waves or harder to control.

However, there are some recreational yaks that are designed for versatility and can be ideal for surfing, as long as they don’t have channels along the bottom of the hull.

Ocean Kayak Frenzy (A Budget ‘Basic’)

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak YellowPin
  • Length: 9 foot
  • Width: 31 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

While it may not look like much of a surfer, the Ocean Kayak Frenzy is designed to handle a range of conditions, including the surf, if the waves aren’t too big. It can be an affordable choice if you’re looking for versatility, especially if you also want to have a stable vessel for flatwater too.

Video: Ocean Kayak Frenzy Surfing

Sea Kayaks

Sea kayaks are traditionally not intended to be used for surfing, as they are often longer and narrower than recreational or whitewater vessels. They also usually have plenty of storage options so you can load up your gear for several days away.

But, depending on your sea kayak, it may be possible to use it for surfing. Because of the long and narrow design of a sea kayak, this could be a benefit when it comes to speed, particularly on smaller waves.

Dagger Stratos 14.5 S

Dagger Stratos 14.5 SPin
  • Length: 14 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 23 inches
  • Weight: 54.5 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 275 pounds

The Dagger Stratos is a 14 foot 6 inch sea kayak designed to work well in a range of conditions, from flatwater and rivers to surf. It has enough rocker to allow you to surf the waves and sharp edges to carve, as well as a low profile padded seat for added comfort and movement.

As well as its bow and stern storage hatches for touring, there’s also a drop down skeg for better tracking on flatwater. So it could be a good choice if you want a craft you can surf with and head out on multi-day adventures.

Video: Dagger Kayaks, Stratos 14.5 S In The Surf

Surf Kayaks

Surf kayaks are designed for surf kayaking (duh!) and have dedicated features that can maximize performance on the water. Many of them have hulls that are similar in design to a surfboard, such as with a low profile bow and stern and sharp edges to make it easier to carve and ride the wave.

There are various designs of surf kayaks, including International Competition Class (IC) and High Performance Class (HP). While both types have a surfboard-like hull, with rocker in the bow, the IC class yak has a slightly longer bow and a lower profile design.

The HP class has a little more volume in the stern and also features fins to boost control and help with tracking.

Riot Boogie 50

Riot Boogie 50Pin
  • Length: 7 foot 9 inches
  • Width: 24.2 inches
  • Depth: 11.5 inches
  • Weight: 36.4 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 200 pounds

The Riot Boogie 50 is a sit-inside yak that’s built for surf kayaking. It features a planing hull with a surfboard-like bow designed to provide more buoyancy over waves, as well as more speed and carving power. It also features fins for improved tracking and stability.

Surf Skis

Surf skis are generally long and narrow and are designed for both racing and saving lives. Their long, narrow hulls, sometimes twice the length of surf kayaks, mean that they can deliver faster speed on the water.

Because of their hull design, they may not feel stable at first but they should have the stability for paddlers to ride through waves and ride them back to shore.

Video: Surf Ski Surfing

Epic SLS10

  • Length: 19 foot
  • Width: 18.9 inches
  • Weight: 39.6 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 310 pounds

The Epic SLS10 is designed for surfing and saving lives in the surf zone. It features a lifted bow and stern to maximize performance when traveling through waves. This can also help you to maintain your speed, as less water should hit you while you’re paddling.

Closing Thoughts

Now that you know a little more about surf kayaking you’ll probably want to head out to your nearest beach with your own surf yak. But while it can be an exciting sport at any time of the year, remember to stay safe and always wear a PFD and helmet.

If you’ve enjoyed learning about this fun sport, share this with your followers. And if you have any experience of surf kayaking or a favorite surf yak let us know! 

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