Kayak surfing is a unique and exciting way of catching and riding waves in the ocean. It’s intense and incredibly fun but requires a much higher skill level compared to recreational kayaking. In addition to the skillset, you’ll also need the best surf kayak that can conquer the ocean swell.
When looking for specialized surf kayaks, the most important aspects to consider are their shape and volume distribution. To help you choose, we’ve created a detailed buying guide and hand-picked awesome surf kayaks with an impressive performance on the waves. Whether you want to race or perform tricks, the best surf kayaks from our list will give you full control and make every stunt possible.
How To Choose A Surf Kayak – Buying Guide
To overcome the challenges of riding ocean waves, the shape of surf kayaks has to be very different compared to traditional kayaks. When kayak surfing, you want your kayak to ride on top of the water surface instead of cutting through it.
Due to this, the hull of the best kayak for surfing waves is usually flattened to create as little water displacement as possible. A regular kayak will have more of a pointed hull for cutting through the water and smoothly passing through any ripples on a pond or a lake. On the other hand, surf kayaks are designed with the thrill of surf in mind.
Furthermore, much like a regular surfboard, the flat bottom often comes with a few fins or skegs to give you a higher level of maneuverability through the water. While this is the best possible shape for riding ocean waves, it won’t be very good for other types of kayaking.
Unfortunately, a kayak surf model won’t be able to give you the stability when riding on calm water like a lake just like a regular kayak can’t ride the waves. Because of this, we advise that you get a specialized model for kayak ocean surfing and avoid universal models.
Broadly speaking, the volume of ocean surf kayaks represents the amount of water that could theoretically fit inside. The reason why this is important is that it shows you how much air is going to be in a kayak which directly determines how much buoyancy it’s going to have when kayaking surfing.
To give you an example, creek boats usually come with high volume. Because of this, neither end will submerge easily under the water. In addition, the extra volume also means that it will be able to resurface very quickly.
While more volume significantly improves stability, it simultaneously reduces the boat’s maneuverability as well as its ability to cut through the waves. Due to this, a volume that is too high isn’t going to be the best idea for a wave surfing kayak as it’s going to limit the things you can do on the water.
For improved performance on the water, many surf kayaks don’t have an equal volume on all sides. For example, many playboats have tapered front and back which makes them more responsive and allows you to perform tricks easily. When surf kayaking, nearly all the volume will be focused on the center so you can get the highest possible amount of agility.
Due to everything we’ve mentioned, it’s very important to choose the right volume. Generally speaking, a lower volume of wave surfing kayaks requires a higher level of expertise. A regular ocean surf kayak is going to have a good balance, while a playboat is going to be more extreme.
Rocker and Chine
The rocker of the boat is the curve that goes from its ends towards the middle. Every wave kayak has a different curvature which, in turn, has a major impact on how easily you can ride a wave. There are two types of rockers that you’ll come across – continuous and kick.
A continuous rocker is exactly what it sounds like – one continuous curve that goes from the front to the back of your kayak. This shape is popular is because it minimizes the hull area that touches the water. Thanks to this, you can spin kayak in surf more freely with an impressive level of agility.
The alternative is a kick rocker, where only the ends of the kayak kick up while the majority of the hull is flat. This type spreads out the amount of contact that the hull has and glides much better over the water surface. Because of this, a kick rocker is better for building up speed and riding large waves.
If you’re wondering what the ideal shape is, the only thing you have to do is picture a surfboard. While the best kayaks for surfing can’t be completely flat, it’s preferable if the bow and stern kick up to prevent the kayak from sinking too low.
Besides the rocker itself, another important consideration are the chines on your boat. This is seen as the section of your boat’s hull that sits under the waterline and it’s important because it has a big impact on how the kayak handles itself in the water.
A hard chine is very rigid and sharp, designed to give the best kayak for surf a high amount of control and agility. However, this means that the chines are more susceptible to currents and that they can catch on things under the water.
On the other hand, a soft chine is much more rounded to help increase the stability of the kayak. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be as agile as a hard chine, and making tight sharp turns with the kayak in the surf might prove to be a bit harder.
Accessories for Kayak Surfing
Surf kayaking is an intense water sport, so it’s good to think about the equipment and accessories you need when setting out on the water. This could be something as simple as a surf watch for telling time, or a pair of kayaking gloves to protect your hands.
However, the most important equipment is the one that keeps you safe. This usually includes a life jacket/PFD, a good paddle, and a kayak helmet, all of which are essential when surf kayaking.
When talking about PFDs, you want something that is going to keep you afloat but won’t restrict your arm movement. If you’re looking for reliable model, our selection of the best kayaking life jackets will help you stay protected.
Since the waves will often throw you off balance, a helmet is necessary to prevent any head injuries. Keep in mind that kayak helmets use many different designs for different kayaking styles, so make sure that the model you pick can handle the challenges of surf kayaking.
Finally, you’re not going to get very far without a paddle even if you pick the best kayak for ocean waves. Getting the right kayak paddles for surf paddling will allow you to react quickly and move easily on the water without getting too tired. If you plan to hit the water in cold weather, a kayak wetsuit is very important to have as it will keep you warm and protect you from splashing when kayaking in surf.
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Surf kayaking allows those with confidence to enjoy the thrill of riding and tackling ocean waves. However, a standard kayak won’t cut it here because you’ll need something much more specific. Whether you’re looking for the best surf kayak for performing tricks or you want the fastest surf kayaks available, we hope that our product selection helped you find what you were looking for.
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