How to Launch Your Kayak in a Surf Zone [Video]

Join kayak expert Ken Whiting as he shows us how to safely launch and land your kayak in a surf zone…

launch kayak in a surf zone

Breaking surf is a challenging obstacle for kayakers. This video gives you some tips to get in and out in mild surf conditions:


Safety First

The two main pieces of safety equipment when kayaking in surf zones are a life jacket and kayak skirt.

Wearing a life jacket (PFD) is always important when you kayak. In harder conditions like breaking surf, it’s even more important. A quality kayak skirt will keep your boat from swamping if you should capsize.

Keys to Launching in a Surf Zone

  1. Choose a gradually-sloping beach. It’ll allow you to walk your kayak out into the water. The waves won’t dump as hard as they do on steeper beaches.
  2. Remember that waves come in sets. Be patient and wait for a bigger set to go through before starting your launch.
  3. Ideally, a friend will be there to help you launch. He/she can help stabilize you and give you a good push when the time is right.
  4. If you’re alone it’s a little trickier. Place your kayak at the edge of the water, pointed directly into the waves. Sit inside and put the skirt on, then wait for a wave to push enough water up to get you floating.
  5. When paddling out, the trick is to keep your boat pointed directly into the oncoming waves.
  6. Pull hard through the waves, especially ones that might break as you go through.

launching kayak in ocean surf

Keys to Landing in a Surf Zone

Landing in waves is just as challenging. It takes a combination of timing and skill to accomplish it smoothly.

  1. Again, take time to wait for the bigger sets to go through before making your move.
  2. Let the waves roll by your kayak and chase them in from behind.
  3. If you get caught in a breaking wave, its tendency is to turn your kayak sideways into it. That can flip you before you know it! If you get caught sideways, lean into the wave and brace yourself with your paddle until the wave moves by.
  4. Once you’re on the beach, you’ll need to jump out quickly and then can drag your kayak up on shore.
  5. If you’re kayaking in a group, the two strongest paddlers should be first and last. The first one can help others land their kayaks, and the last can help out if anyone were to capsize.

landing kayak in surf zone

Paddling in a surf can be really fun—but also is challenging! If this is something you want to learn to do well, we recommend taking a surf kayaking course.

Happy paddling!

Click to get our Free “Paddling Safety Guide”

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