Kayak Surfing 10 Step Easy Guide


The ocean is beautiful, varied, and relentless. Having the ability to harness the wave power and add your graceful and skillful maneuvers when kayak surfing can be an exhilarating experience. However, you do need skills for your kayaking surf to feel like an enjoyable dance with a dynamic partner who is incredibly more powerful than yourself.

Maybe you are not a kayaking beginner. While the kayak paddling skills you already possess are important, for your kayaking surf to be a success, you do need much more knowledge and skills.

If you have already invested in the best kayak and you are ready to have fun riding on the waves, read on. This article will teach you everything you need to know to get started with kayak surfing.

1. Understand the Strokes You Need

Before strapping your kayak to the roof and driving off to the sea, you must understand how to use your kayak paddle when kayak surfing. There are 3 basic paddle strokes you need to master for your kayaking surf to be both safe and enjoyable. We have explained the paddle strokes below:

Stern Rudder

In kayak surfing, the stern rudder can be equated to steering. Using the stern rudder while padding will allow you to slow your kayak down while on the wave face. This allows the crest to catch up and hence helping you avoid broaching. The stern rudder allows smaller surf kayaks featuring a higher rocker to carve turns across the wave face.

To execute the stern rudder, you need to rotate the upper body to the right and stop only when your paddle and the side of the kayak are parallel. Next, reach back until the right arm is almost straight at your elbow. Ensure that the left hand is a little bit higher than the kayak’s foredeck. Lastly, rotate your right-hand wrist to set the right-hand paddle-blade at an ideal angle and then set it into the water.


Kayaking safety is crucial when kayak surfing. Bracing improves safety by helping you steady your kayak when you feel like you are starting to roll.

Executing the brace involves reaching out and putting the paddle-blade horizontal on the wave top. The wave’s rotational forces are sufficient enough to keep the blade from sinking. If need be, you can even lean on the paddle. To keep the kayak from rolling if the waves shove you sideways, you need to edge the kayak towards the wave.

Recovery Roll

Often, kayak surfers have to deal with being rolled over. If you do understand how to roll properly, you will have the ability to bring the kayak back to its upright position. Similar to ordinary kayaking, it is often necessary to wait for a couple of seconds before rolling back up. This is to give the wave time to release the grip it has on you.

2. Understand the Waves

One of the best ways to stay safe when ocean kayaking is to understand your environment. When compared to other types of kayaking, kayak surfing is very different. Therefore, before sitting in your kayak and hoping to catch a wave, you need to conduct research on different kayaking surf areas and how you can interact with them safely.

A substitute for personal experience doesn’t exist. Hence, when researching different surf zones, talk to kayak surfers who have already been to those areas.

3. Ensure You Have the Right Kayak

It is possible to surf in almost any type of kayak. However, for the best kayaking surf results, you need to invest in a purpose-built surf kayak. Surfing kayaks generally feature low rocker, planing hull, and a short length. These features allow them to glide across the wave surface.

When choosing your kayak, some of the things you need to consider include speed, comfort, and maneuverability. The ideal kayak should respond to changes in direction and also allow practicing safety techniques if you happen to capsize. In terms of speed, the kayak should allow you to launch against the big waves; otherwise, the kayak will restrict you to a weak kayaking surf.

When getting started with kayak surfing, it is always a great idea to consider starting with a 2-person sit-on-top kayak. Having 2 people guarantees you more paddling speed. The reason why most kayak surfers prefer using the sit-on-top kayak over the sit-in kayak is simply that the sit-on-top kayaks are much easier to roll out of in the case of capsizing. After gaining some experience, you can always move on to a single person kayak.

4. Invest in the Right Gear

Kayak surfing does involve the element of risk. For you to be safe, you have to build your own kayak safety kit. Below, we have outlined the essential kayak surfing safety gear that you should have:

  • Personal Floatation Device – The ideal floatation device should fit snugly. It shouldn’t restrict motion when you are kayak surfing.
  • Kayaking Helmet – The ideal kayaking helmet should be white-water rated. Before purchasing a helmet, ensure it is correctly rated.
  • Reinforced Paddle – Often, when kayak surfing, the paddle has to deal with the repeated impact with the surf line. You should only take a paddle with you on your kayaking surf if it can withstand the impact.

5. Survey the Waves


At this point, you already have your gear and you have learned the basic kayak surfing strokes. Before getting into your kayak, you will need to come up with a plan on how you will be kayaking out to the break.

While still on the shore, you should time the waves visually to see if a lull that can allow you to paddle out exists. If a lull does not exist, you may have to paddle through or around the waves.

6. Boarding Your Kayak

After surveying the waves, you will need to board the kayak where the surf hits the shore. This helps keep the kayak from moving along the coastline. Once you are ready to set out for your kayak adventure, simply use your arms to push the kayak into the water.

7. Understanding Where You Should be on the Wave

Often, kayak surfing beginners think that what they need to do when they come across a wave is simply slide down and then ride out. While this is ideal in theory, in practice it is not a good idea. This is because as you go down the wave, you will end up locking your bow and stern. Within no time, the wave will be able to do whatever it wants with you.

The best position to be on a wave is where you have the ability to control both the kayak and its movement. You shouldn’t let the wave dictate where you are going. Staying on top of the wave will help you control the wave much more easily.

8. Controlling Your Speed

Generally, as we had mentioned earlier, surfing kayaks are shorter and have more rocker. This makes them much easier for you to control, even when you are on the face of the wave.

However, the average ocean kayak is generally longer and has a lot less rocker. If you are to use it, you have to avoid being in front of the wave. You have to ride further back. For you to achieve being in a comfortable spot on the wave, you have to control your kayak speed, relative to the wave.

Controlling your speed relative to the wave is actually not too complicated. You only need to use body motion. If you lean back, you will be able to slow down and let the wave pass you by. If you lean forward, you will speed up your kayak, catch the wave, and then slide down.

9. Understanding What Your Paddle Will Be Doing

When playing with the waves, it is essential to ensure that you are maintaining a strong paddle response in front. You should avoid getting your elbows behind your body. Also, avoid leaving the shoulders open for injuries. If you are working from side to side, you need to turn your entire body.

In terms of what your paddle will be doing, you will be combining both bracing and the stern rudder. As we had mentioned earlier, the stern rudder will help you stay upright. It helps you control your movement when turning without losing any momentum.

Instead of just going down the wave, you need to ensure that you are carving your way down. This can be achieved by simply using edging from one side to the other to control your kayak on the wave. Failing to curve down the wave gives the wave power to do whatever it wants with you and your kayak. Obviously, giving the wave control over you and your kayak can be dangerous.

10. Combining Both Speed and Edging

For you to enjoy kayak surfing, you have to learn how to combine both controlling your speed and edging. Initially, you will definitely need to take a couple of kayak strokes. Once you feel like you are gaining some speed, you will have to throw an edge in. For you to throw the edge perfectly, you need to learn how to use the necessary kayaking muscles.

For example, while keeping your paddle in the mix of a stern rudder and bracing, you will also need to keep rotating your torso. With a little bit of practice, you should have the ability to get all this right.

If you notice that you are all the way to the bottom of the wave, you will have to devise a way to get back on top of the wave. In this case, what you will need to do is slow down. Slowing down will let the wave pass you. This will eventually bring you back to the top of the wave.

To make sure that the wave does not hit you, you will need to always edge into the wave. Also, always try to lean into the wave. If you happen to find yourself sideways on a wave, use your paddle as a brace. By “use your paddle as a brace”, we simply mean that you will need to plant it in the wave.

Edging into the wave helps you avoid being hit by the wave from the side. If you edge into the wave, the wave will pass by you, or at least move you down.

Staying Safe During Your Kayaking Surf

There is no doubt that kayak surfing can be an enjoyable sport for outdoor enthusiasts. However, just like any other water sport, kayak surfing can be dangerous if you fail to keep in mind important safety precautions.

The biggest issue with kayak surfing is generally capsizing while you are still attached to your kayak. This is generally a major problem with sit-in kayaks. Since swimming out of the vessel while you are out at sea is not an ideal option, you should roll to get upright again. This will help you avoid being trapped.

Before heading out, it is always a good idea to survey the waves. Depending on your kayak surfing capabilities, you should be able to decide whether you can handle the waves.

Once you are in the sea, chances are, you won’t be alone. It is always a good idea to be mindful of how close you are to the board surfers or other kayak surfers. While board surfers can maneuver their boards more easily to make tight turns, it is a little bit more difficult for surfers to use kayaks to get out of the way.

Globo Surf Overview

If you are considering making a kayaking surf your next outdoor adventure, equipping yourself with knowledge is essential. Knowing what to do and what to expect will help make kayak surfing safer for you.

While kayak surfing may appear too complicated, it usually isn’t. Once you master the basic skills, the activity should be enjoyable for you.

Before heading out to the sea, it is crucial to ensure that you have all the necessary safety gear. Also, ensure that you have mastered the basic kayak surfing safety skills. This will help ensure you return home safe and healthy, after enjoying your kayaking surf.

More Kayak Reviews:


  1. Kayak Surfing Basics, Performancevideo.com
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!