Sleek and lightweight, surfski kayaks tend to be narrower and longer than your typical kayak, making them faster and slightly less stable. A sit-on-top paddle craft without an internal seating compartment, the surfski is typically equipped with two foot pedals that allow the paddler to control the craft’s momentum with an under-stern rudder.
These rudders are typically fixed and do not fold up, meaning the surfski kayak can only be paddled through water deeper than its rudder is long. However, this design makes them more maneuverable and responsive when navigating open ocean conditions and riding waves. In addition to the rudder, a double-bladed paddle is used for steering and propulsion.
Specifically designed for high-speed ocean paddling, surfskis are a versatile sea craft with many advantages for the open ocean:
- They float when capsized, making them easier to remount
- Can be easily mounted and exited while floating, making launches from the shore unnecessary
- Their length and shape help to punch through large, breaking waves
- Directional stability makes catching waves easier
- A refreshing open cockpit reduces humidity and discomfort for the lower body
When selecting a surfski kayak, many different factors should be taken into account, including:
Stability. Though generally less stable than a kayak, the stability of a surfski varies and is determined by the shape of its hull and the depth of its seat bucket. A flatter, wider hull will provide greater stability than a narrow and round one, while a deeper bucket seat will provide more stability than a shallow one. The right stability will vary based on personal preference, experience and paddling ability.
Leg length. For your perfect leg length in a surfski, you should be able to fit your fist between the deck of the ski and your bent knee while your feet are on the pedals. Leg length is very important—if the ski is too long it will be difficult to reach the pedals, but if it is too short it will be unstable and your knees will get in the way of your paddling. Some skis do come equipped with adjustable rudder pedals, making them easier to adjust for use by different paddlers.
Comfort. Surfski seats come in a wide variety, and comfort will depend on individual preference. Ensuring comfort in the surf ski is important, as it will have an effect on your stability and ability to paddle.