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I have my new surfski and my wing paddle arrives this week--looking for other surfski paddlers to train with or just paddle with--not racing just informal training--does anyone know of groups or others who have surfskis who go out on a regular or weekly basis? Les

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Grab one of the pool slots and bring your new ski and practice remounting it. Until you can get back on (w/o going over the other side) then stay close to shore. Werner and I practiced that last time we were in the pool but Alex was there to give directions. I feel much better about going out now that I know I can get back on in deep water (at least in the pool I can, it might be different in drysuit).

Too busy to go out right now but in a month or so, I will be able to.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, what did you get?


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Hey Leslie- there is not all that large a surfski community around here as yet. Suz and I are starting to informally paddle our skis, not race 2 mornings a week in a few weeks, and you are certainly welcome to join us. I personally go out 1-2 times a week as well in the Portsmouth NH/York Me area.The only surfski group I know that is out regularly is a pretty hardcore one, and they are training for racing pretty seriously. The practice races down on the Charles may already have started, and that would be a good venue, as the pace there varies tremendously, some paddlers are pretty sedate about their "racing".

Hope this helps!


yellow Mako XT surfski

pretty lime Capella 163

some other boats too...

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Thanks Suz and Alex,

Most helpful information--when I tried the boat with John Leonard, I practiced getting in and out of the boat--by putting my butt in the cockpit first as quickly as possible--but then, the water was calm and the water was below my waist--I had no trouble doing the butt- in- first technique--so I am assuming that is what I need to do in deeper water, correct? And I will take Suz helpful advice on staying close to shore until I get the re-entry down first--and practice in a pool session if time and schedule permits--Suz, its John's boat I purchased--Fenn Mako XT--the paddle blemished epic small mid wing for lil' people--

Thank you for the honor of paddling with you two--I am feeling not quite ready to paddle with you both--until I get the rentry down at least--so I am wondering if I can meet Suz or Alex sometime in the next couple of weeks and you can at least show me the rentry then I can practice by myself until I get it down right--Les

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All below comes from - http://www.surfski.info/

Getting on the Water

Paddling for the first time:

Be prepared to swim a lot!


And don't worry about it. All first-time paddlers swim and remember -any paddlers laughing at you have been there before; and non-surfski paddlers don't count!

http://www.surfski.info/images/stories/Dec/wave1.jpg http://www.surfski.info/images/stories/Dec/wave2.jpg

Paddling is easier of course on flat water; you might want to start on a lake or river. Just bear in mind though that waves are FUN and your ultimate goal is to paddle on the sea.

The best way to start is to sit with your legs dangling over the side of the ski.


It doesn't look elegant, but it's a lot easier and you'll stay upright.

Take short strokes and don't pull the paddle back past your body. Keep your head still and keep your eyes on the front of your ski.

When you've mastered the basics:

After a while you can try bringing your feet into the boat; now you'll be able to steer using the foot pedals and you'll go a lot faster. You'll probably fall out a lot too but persist, you're making progress! You'll want to take longer strokes with your paddle by reaching further forward. But don't forget: don't pull the paddle back past your body. You'll lose balance and pull yourself into the water. To improve your stroke still further, as you put the blade into the water your forward arm must be straight, locked at the elbow.

Time to become an expert:

Now you're really making progress and you can start to involve the rest of your body in the paddling stroke. The secret is that your arms don't do the work. Your back and abdominal muscles are the ones to carry the load. The way to achieve this is by rotating your abdomen as you pull the paddle back, using your leg to brace yourself by thrusting your paddle-side foot into the footwell. You should feel your abs and your back muscles working if you're doing it properly.

A word about "bracing"...

"Bracing" means using your paddle to stay upright by pushing it against the surface of the water. A detailed discussion of high and low braces is beyond the scope of this guide, but you need to know that your paddle is your friend when it comes to staying upright. Never let it go!


Pushing the Envelope

To me, Surf Ski is all about wind and waves.

There is nothing like the thrill of a big downwind run, the bumping, crashing, spray-filled rush of surfing down wave after wave... But you'll never get there if you restrict yourself to "fair weather" paddling. You have to push the envelope - go out when there are waves, go out into the wind (never the wind - read the article on safety). Be sensible - but push the envelope; test yourself and your capabilities and the rewards will come in the form of greater proficiency - and much more fun.




Getting Back onto the Ski in Deep Water

There are two ways of getting back onto a surf ski: the "straddle" method and the "side-saddle" method. It's strongly recommended that you practise both.

The Straddle Method

The straddle method is recommended for most situations as it's the quickest and you often want to be paddling again as soon as possible (when for example you find yourself in the middle of the break zone in front of an oncoming set of waves!). It goes something like this:

If the ski is broadside to the waves, turn it so that it's pointing upwind or downwind i.e. into or away from the waves…

Put the paddle across the ski; hold the paddle and the foot strap closest to you with the same hand; the hand closest to the front of the ski.

Position your other hand on the other side of the seat, holding the other side of the ski.

Launch yourself out of the water so that you're face down with your chest around the area of the foot straps.

Swing one leg over the ski.

Grip either side of the ski with your hands and lift your body up - your backside slips into the seat; your feet are still over the side; your paddle is in your hands and you're ready to get cracking.

The Side-saddle Method

With some skis and in some situations (like a combination of rough seas and strong wind) it can be easier to use the side-saddle method which goes like this:

Let the ski go broadside to the wind.

Get on the windward side of it (i.e. you want to be upwind of the ski).

Holding the sides of the ski, hoist and swivel yourself so that your backside lands in the seat; both your legs are still over the windward side of the cockpit, with the ski sitting tilted over at about 45 degrees. The situation is stable and you can sit there quite happily with the ski "sailing" downwind.

Now lift your leeward (i.e. furthest away from the wind) leg into place on the rudder pedal; your windward leg is still over the side. You can hold the paddle asymmetrically so that most of it is being dragged along the surface on the windward side, aiding stability.

Finally shift your backside so that the ski comes upright, lift your other leg in, and off you go.

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Downwind Techniques - by Dawid Mocke

Written by Dawid Mocke

Friday, 20 January 2006

(First published in SA Paddler Jun/Jul 2005)

Going downwind is not as easy as some might make it look. It takes lots of practice and definitely a fair bit of experience. Here are a couple of tips to get you on your way.

Catching and riding the runs:

There is a rhythm of acceleration and then gliding that you have to get into when catching runs. Basically you paddle really hard for a couple of strokes until you feel that your ski is riding on the wind swell without your assistance; then you sit back and enjoy the ride. After a couple of seconds you’ll start falling off the swell you’re on and you have to catch the next one. It’s a constant state of hard then easy, hard then easy. Paddle hard when you feel the swell pick you up from behind; paddle easy as the swell passes, then pick it up again as the next one comes. Boat speed is very important to catch the swells so you need to be going the same speed as the swell to pick it up.

Photo: Alain Jaques

The tricky bit is how to ride the swells. Basically you want to keep your ski in a nose down, tail up position all the time. What you are looking to do is get your ski to surf into the trough in between the swells. If you miss a run and the swell passes underneath you, the ski’s tail will be down and the nose up. This is called wallowing and it’s not cool. You want to avoid wallowing. The skill level you are aiming at is to try and surf from swell to swell without stopping and with the least amount of effort.

Surfing the swells is not simple. You can’t just paddle straight because the swells are all over the place. You’ll pretty much always have to have your ski at an angle to the swell movement. How much of an angle depends on the conditions, wind direction and where you’re paddling to.


Look in front of you because that is where your next run will be, not behind but in front.

Have safety stuff with you i.e. flare, cell phone (in drybag), leash & lifejacket

Paddle with other guys, not alone

Know what landmarks to look for

Make sure you have enough daylight. If not DON’T DO IT MACHO MAN!

Navigating Points and “Blinders”

Look ahead every couple of minutes or so to make sure you’re on the right line, plus to keep an eye out for points and deep water reefs. Keep watching them to and look for where the waves are breaking, then aim your ski just behind, or where you can see clear water. Decide well before if you’re going around or through AND DON’T CHANGE YOUR MIND JUST BEFORE. That’s asking for trouble.

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Use a paddle leash. Surfskis can easily blow away in the wind once you are off and 21' feet of 25 lbs of air tight boats sails away. Most experienced paddlers never !, ever!, let go of their paddle so this is the key to keeping your boat. A leash also helps during remounts. Attach it in front of the pedals to be out of the way during remounts. Even if you use an ankle leash, never let go of the paddle. You will not usually have a place to carry a spare paddle, other than taped to the back deck and to get the spare you must enter the water.

One thing about remounts, like any re-entry, swim horizontally across the ski, DO NOT come straight up out of the water, stay low all the time, stomach down on the boat till the paddle is in hand and its useful for stability. Get your feet back in the ski AFTER you have the paddle ready to go. In fact start paddling as you place the feet back in.

Its still a good idea to have a tiny VHF or cell phone, a signal smoke or flare and a tiny light on the pfd. Some of this may be in a tiny fanny pack, but not in or on the ski, you need it on your body.

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Hey Ken,

I can't tell you how helpful you have been in passing on this information to me. Many, many thanks to you for your kindness. When I tested John Leonard's boat last summer in Boston Harbor, I did it so I could paddle a surfski in Hawaii. I did not get to paddle one in Hawaii (big regret) but I fell in love with the boat anyways because of its lightness and speed. A surfski is a blast to paddle and reminds me of sailing without the hassle. So when I brought John's boat this winter, I was and am determined to have fun on this boat. I also have a reverence for the power of this boat and WILL take your advice on the safety issues particularly with paddle leash, holding on to the paddle and, practicing both re-entries techniques. Les

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