Tips to Launch your Inflatable Kayak in Heavy Surf

If you have mostly kayaked on flat calm water with little to no surf then it can be a bit intimidating to try launching your inflatable kayak in white capped swells.

If the surf is heavy you may have visions of yourself and your kayak being swamped with water, toppling over or swept right back up the beach. However with a few easy tips and techniques this is very doable and can be extremely fun.

Below are some proven tricks as well as safety precautions for launching your inflatable kayak in heavy surf.

Safety Precautions First

One thing about launching your kayak in heavy surf is that it takes a little bit of strength and focus. For this reason I would not recommend attempting this without the help of a guide if:

  • you have never kayaked before
  • you are with children
  • you have not checked the weather report – 5 foot swells could mean a heavy storms a brewin’
  • you tire easily
  • you have not built up your kayaking muscles

This is not to say you must be a body-builder to launch in heavy surf… not at all. I simply want to point out that you may want to build yourself up a bit with some flat water kayaking before you go for the gusto and take on this challenge.

Preparing For the Launch

Below are two key steps to prepare for your launch before you get in the water.

  1. First choose your launching spot wisely. Try and get yourself to the highest vantage point where you are able to see the majority of the beach. Look for the area that seems to have the least powerful surf. If you are not able to get up high enough to survey the beach then you may need to walk a bit from one end to the other.

    The shallowness or depth of the water will greatly determine the size of the surf. Therefore you are looking for the deepest end with the least amount of waves. This will be your easiest launching point.
  2. If there is no such point on the beach where the waves are slightly less powerful and you are not comfortable with the strength of the surf, then pack up and try another day. Do not hesitate to turn around if you are feeling uncomfortable. After all there will be many more days to kayak and you want to make sure you are around to enjoy them!

Launching Your Inflatable Kayak

If you are lucky enough to find a decent launch spot for your inflatable kayak the below tips will help you successfully tackle the surf and make sure you get to enjoy a day of paddling.

  • Your success is going to depend on your stability as well as in maintaining a strong forward motion.
  • Avoid the wave at its break. Get yourself in position and when the wave starts to come towards you, paddle as hard as you can to get over the hump before the wave breaks. This is the toughest and most important part and can take some practice. It is recommended to practice this technique on small easy waves first so you get the timing down right.
  • The crest of the swell is not a problem and if you get your timing right you will find yourself punching right through it. What you don’t want is to get caught up in the break as this is where you will lose all control. So the key is to hit the wave before it breaks.
  • However if you get the timing wrong and you realize you are about to be caught in the break then paddle like crazy to try and get yourself over the crest so hopefully you don’t get completely swamped.
  • Kayaking in surf is almost an art in itself and each wave will be a little different. You will find with practice that you will be able to predict the break of the wave and your timing will become intuitive and fluid.
  • Remember to always take the waves head on. If your kayak is turned even slightly left or right there will be more of a chance of getting swamped and toppled.

Once you perfect these techniques you will be able to not only launch your inflatable kayak in heavy surf but also enjoy some kayak surfing which for those who have never tried before is absolutely exhilarating and fun.

If you are having problems, watch what other more experienced paddlers are doing to get their kayak over the crest and if you are still uncomfortable try again another day with smaller waves.

See our Top 5 Inflatable Kayaks for popular models and reviews.