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Helpful links and hints for safe surfing

Dee Hall

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Because a number of people have started to show new interest in surfing, here are a couple of useful links on basics and etiquette. Please note that the etiquette stuff is important for two reasons, it prevents collisions and improves relations with the board surfers.



Within NSPN, we have found it to be most helpful to follow the simple rules of clearing the break zone immediately after your ride and paddling back out around the outside. With long boats, this is extremely important as the boats riding in are not very maneuverable and could skewer a kayaker lounging around in the soup.


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when the line up is long, it's hard to get to the edges to avoid surfers riding in. This is the where collisons are likely to happen among surfers. The thing to remember is that with experienced surfers, you can predict where they will be going. With classical surfing, the rider will always try to maintain the pocket and green face in front of the foam. Technically once a surfer is trapped in the foam pile for more than several seconds, the ride is considered over. You'll see boardies jumping off at that point or surf kayakers pulling back over the foam pile or doing an ender to stop their momentum to get back out.

So when paddling out and you see a rider on the wave, the chance is that person will ride in the direction where the wave is breaking, in the pocket or slightly in front. As the person riding out, the courtesy would be that you head for the foam pile (away from the rider), eat it and hopefully pop over it. Of course, if the rider is a newbie, or can't control their kayak, then all bets are off in the direction s/he will be headed...

When surfing long boats, "bongo riding" (side surfing) happens quite often. This is great practice for sea kayakers. Recognize though that this is the most dangerous manuever on a crowded beach and when other swimmers and boardies are most likely to get plowed over (bongo surfing is detested by boardies and will earn you the title of "kook kayaker" at best and, "kayaker, is already in bad word to them). If you bongo surf alot, stay away from the crowds. Also, when you bongo surf, don't just focus on the brace and the wave. Keep the the edge and the brace into the wave but DO Look shoreward to see if anyone is in the way. If someone is in the way, then flip yourself over. Your body will act as a sea anchor to slow and then stop the bongo ride. This is also a perfect opportunity to practice your combat rolls. If you do come out of the boat, work your way to one end or the other and hang on to the toggle. The kayak will swing around and point towards the beach since your body acts as a sea anchor. This way, you minimize the chance of the kayak continuing on sideways to plow swimmers and surfers over.

Finally, have fun. If you get into it, I would encourage you to get a short boat. The wave moves on the link become accessible to you with practice and experience, whereas most of them will never be while you are in the long boat.


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By short boat, would a white water boat work?

A couple of quick observations - I had a recent surf session with Kevin of Charles River Canoe and Kayak. This was my first introduction to serious surfing. I've surfed before, but not in big ones, nor had I gotten a chance to do combat rolls in surf before. Great fun.

Kevin's wisdom on the etiquette was that the animosity toward kayakers by boarders is two-fold: 1.) we move faster and 2.) many of us present a hazard. If you demonstrate some knowledge of the etiquette and are a bit deferential to the fact that they can't move as fast - e.g. wave a few through, they tend to be a bit kinder.

Because of the clinic, I started looking at the chatter on some surf sites. Boy, these guys can be brutal on each other - accusations of girlie-men when people shy away from 12 ft. breakers (hey, I think I would) etc etc. So, a different way of doing things.

Now there's a whole new vocabulary it looks like I'm going to have to learn. Is there some kind of wave-dictionary for surfer wannabe's out there?

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White water boats definitely give more control than long boats. Some white water boats perform on waves better than others. None really surf as well as dedicated surf boats which are optimized for control riding on waves.

Regarding Kevin's observations, I agree and also think there are more nuances than that. First, for sure out of control kayakers are a hazard in the break zone. But not only to the boardies themselves but to their boards. Surf boards (and waveskis) are ultralight foam core with a thin skin of glass and epoxy. Even if a boardie safely duck dives under, an out of control kayak hitting his board straight on will likely damage it. The boardie then has to spend hundreds to repair or replace his FAVORITE board. Put yourself in his place. However would you feel about someone who can't control his craft, jumps on a waves and crashes into your lovely composite sea kayak and holes it?

Second, with the courtesy consideration, yes, a kayaker can catch waves further out than a boardie. A skilled boardie catches a wave by reading it right, paddling a few strokes, catching the wave right near the crest and dropping right into the power pocket. Wave reading is a skill for all surfers to develop. Just because a kayaker can paddle like heck and catch a wave just about any place doesn't give him any respect, especially if he catches the wave far away from the pocket, or in the foam of the breaking crest (unless the kayaker can manuever quickly and catch up to the pocket).

Okay, so a kayaker can catch a wave before a boardie can (by the power of his paddle vs. the hand paddling of the boardie) and he positions himself behind the boardie lineup. That itself doesn't necessarily engender animosity, if the kayaker can catch a wave with skill and control. This is very important since the kayaker will then have to surf through the boardie line-up. If the kayaker loses control and wipes-out, not did he wasted the wave but he is an danger to those in the line-up. A surf kayaker can be "aggro" (skilled and aggressive) and catch waves behind the line up. He may be able to force some respect from the boardies. But, there is always an outside chance that an equally aggro boardie can wait until the kayaker and wave comes by and "drop in" (a form of aggression and establishing the pecking order of the line-up). On a big wave, the danger quotient of a collison becomes much greater...

From my perspective, even though I can catch waves sooner, I don't position myself behind the boardie lineup. Rather, I am in the line-up (make sure you think you can "hang" skillfully with them first) or on the outside edges of a line-up. If you have to position behind a line up because the break is confined, then do practice common courtesy and let some waves go by. Contrary to what wave hogs think, generally on any given day, there are plenty of rides to go around. Aggro surfers may get some respect for their ability, but they are rarely liked...

Speaking of "aggro" and other surf terms and jargon, here are links to an A-Z surf talk:



Last time I surfed with Kevin and Sean K was last year. Here are some pics from that session:


Hey Sean! Make a deal with the sweetie, take a break from baby duties once in awhile and come out to play. :)


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