From Sea to Surfing Sea

I hope I don't get thrown out of the club for this. I know our club focuses on sea touring. It really is not my fault. It all happened so innocently. You see our family has vacationed at the beach in Avalon, NJ for many years. A few years ago I began taking my Perception Eclipse sea-touring kayak with us on vacation. It is very difficult for me to use the 17 foot 6 inch kayak in the surf. It almost always upsets, and reentry is nearly impossible in the surf.

So last year I sat on the beach with my fancy sea touring kayak watching several others ride the surf with their ocean kayak brand plastic tubby toys. It is so unfair, I have the better boat, and they are having all the fun.

So we went to Schuylkill Kayak Outfitters in North Wildwood to see what was available. They had several surf kayaks for rent. We chose a Pyranha Surfjet 305 and took it down to the beach. It is a short sit on top with thigh straps and movable skeg. Our son and I had a blast riding it in the surf. Definitely thrills and spills, but reentry’s are very easy.

Driving home on Saturday we stopped off at the Jersey Paddler. They did not carry the Pyranha boat, but recommended the Perception Five-O. It is nearly as thin as a sail board, has a very flat bottom and a definite banana curve from front to back. It is 9 feet 9 inches long. Big thigh straps and foot braces hold you securely in the boat. The paddler can easily lean back flat onto the deck because it has no seat back. It has a removable skeg, which I have not yet used.

I took it to the surf kayak beach in Spring Lake a few weekends, put on my helmet, and took on the surf, but did not really get the hang of paddling it. This year we took it with us to Avalon. I was able to use it in the surf twice a day all week long. Definitely intense. The first decision the paddler needs to make is whether to ride over or ride with each wave. The banana shape helps get over the breakers on the way out. Leaning back also helps. If the wave is too big, the boat will endo over backwards. You then get to try the next wave. You can catch a wave straight on, nearly "pearl" (a surfer's term referring to burying the bow in the slow water in front of the breaker) and it will probably turn across the wave. A low brace and lean into the wave stabilizes the boat and it will ride the white water nearly to shore. As the wave subsides, the boat turns back over the wave and cuts back out to sea almost automatically with a little stern rudder.

Smaller waves can be ridden sideways with no trouble. I have, however, capsized and been thrown out of the boat. Reentry in the surf is fun and easy if you move quickly to get stabilized before the next breaker hits. By the end of the week I as able to stay in the thigh braces while up side down. I made a few feeble attempts at rolling, but will need more practice to perfect it.

By Friday my wife (who is not a paddler) was intrigued enough to try it in the calm surf. She really enjoyed the ride.

I believe the boat has excellent potential in the hands of a skilled paddler. I continue to learn and would like to find a teacher skilled in this style of paddling. Several surf kayaks, including the Five-O are reviewed at:

I still look forward to a change of pace with some easy paddles on the Shrewsbury with my 17' long sea-touring kayak. Any idea where I can get a bumper sticker saying, "my other boat is a Five-O"?

Leland R. Beaumont August 4, 2001

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