Kayak surfing can be a complete blast! It is a dance with a dynamic partner who is infinitely more powerful than oneself. The ocean is staggeringly beautiful, relentless, varied, and dangerous. To be able to harness the power of a wave and add your own skillful and graceful maneuvers is akin to experiencing the joy and freedom of flight.
Unfortunately many first-time surf kayakers head for the most crowded popular surf breaks without any knowledge or understanding of what the sport involves. This has resulted in a great deal of animosity between board surfers and kayakers. Paddlers who can’t control their boats on a wave are a hazard to themselves and everyone else out on the water.
This primer is intended to educate the sea kayaker about the nature of surf kayaking. If you want to go out on the best waves, you need the right equipment (see Surf Kayaks), the right skills (see Instruction), and you need to know about Etiquette and Right-of-Way. Beginners need to practice where they will not bother other surfers. Learning to surf is not appropriate in crowded breaks. Experienced surfers can help mentor beginners by steering them away from crowded breaks and offering to teach them how and where to surf (see Locations).
One of the joys of surfing is that it is a never-ending learning process. To do it seriously you need to learn about the effects of tides, winds, bottom profiles, wave intervals, and direction. You need to recognize changing conditions and adapt accordingly, and you need to keep an eye on the horizon for that “sleeper” set of waves that comes in bigger and breaks farther out than any of the others. It’s about staying attuned to your environment and aware of whatever comes your way.
There is an awful lot more in the world of kayak surfing beyond merely aiming your boat at the beach and hollering “wheeeeeee!” If you take the time to learn and understand the mysteries and intricacies of the surf zone, your experience will be rich and rewarding. Just remember to respect the awesome force of nature and the feelings and safety of your surfing companions—in boats and on boards.