Paddling through the rough surf for an offshore kayak fishing adventure, more commonly referred to as surf launching, can be challenging depending on your specific location, the weather conditions, and the size of the swells you are battling! Done properly, surf launching can be a painless hurdle on the path to large offshore fish waiting to be caught, photographed, and either cooked up or released to be caught another day! However, there is some inherent danger involved. How do I prevent flipping or “turtling?” How do I keep my balance? What if all my expensive gear falls out?
To help ease your worries about surf launching and get you on those big “beyond the breakers” fish, we have developed these 6 introductory tips for surf launching on your next kayak fishing adventure.
1) Leash All of Your Gear
Yeah, yeah. You get it. The paddle sport accessory company wrote a blog telling me to leash my gear. How cliché! Hang on! All sales pitches aside, everyone knows that the more expensive the pliers, tackle boxes, boga grips, or even reels are…the much faster they sink. Leashing your gear is simply a built in safety net for the rough conditions you are admittedly going to face while beyond the breakers. During a moment of confusion or while you are losing your balance, these leashes allow you to focus 100% on correcting your movements and staying afloat. What if in this same moment you had to reach back for your expensive Penn reel and that new GoPro camera you just got for Christmas? With your focus off of staying balanced and maneuvering through the waves, drinking saltwater is inevitable in your near future.
2) Timing, Timing, Timing!
In general, successful surf launching is heavily dependent on timing. Without getting into the details that are far better explained by your local meteorologist, waves come in sets. This makes the ideal time to launch fall in between the wave sets. These wave sets vary based on many variables, however, typically the last wave in the set is the largest. Once this has passed and you are in between wave sets, there is a lull in the surf. Now its “Go Time!”
3) Be Visible
Large swells can limit your visibility to others. Having some sort of elevated safety flag during the day or 360 degree light after dark is highly recommended to ensure safety. These visibility tools are also very helpful while out beyond the breakers where much larger boats may lose sight of you and your tiny kayak in the swells.
4) Know your Weight Distribution
This is one of the tips that is often forgotten. Paddlers in any boat, paddling any water must always be conscious of how the weight is proportioned on their kayak. Paddling offshore for a kayak fishing trip is usually done on longer, wider kayaks. Having a weight balance in the center of your kayak can cause a nose dive when a wave either a) breaks onto you or b) you hit the peak of a large swell. Try to lean back and keep weight closer to the back of the kayak to maintain optimum balance.
5) Keep your Paddle in the Water!
Always remember, when encountering waves or other turbulent water, you and your boat are always more stable when your paddle is in the water. Having your paddle in the water is crucial to maintaining balance because it acts as an easily controlled fulcrum point. We know what you’re saying, “Oh, well I have Mirage Drive”, “Not me, I have the pedal drive system”, “I’ll just turn on my trolling motor!” We understand. This is why we aren’t advocating that you solely use the paddle for means of propulsion. However, we are recommending that you keep the paddle in the water for added balance. Those pedals can’t correct you from tipping, but your paddle can.
6) Practice Makes Perfect
If you are inexperienced, practice playing in the waves without any gear before you take all the expensive gear out on the water. Some beaches even have lifeguards present to further provide safety while battling this learning curve. While practicing, make sure there are not many people around. Runaway kayaks can be dangerous to surrounding swimmers. Here is a “How To” video showing how not to surf launch from a kayak. Video courtesy of our buddy YakYakker.
We want to know what other tips you have learned from past good and bad surf launching experiences! Tell us what you think! Comment below, reach out to us at [email protected], or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the #YakGear hashtag!