Mainly kayaking photographs taken on the Isle of Man and beyond.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Surf Kayaks.

I'm looking for a surf kayak. I've been struggling with this for some time. I know what I'm looking for in a sea kayak for surfing tidal races. But to really make the most of the Manx surf smashing onto our beaches in the familiar and continuous force 8 gales, I need a shorter, more maneuverable boat. I've been looking into it and this is what I've come up with so far.
Surf boats have a curve called the "rocker". It can be seen from side on and extends from stern to bow. A low flat "rocker" creates a fast boat, whereas one which is curved like a banana is slower but more manoeuvrable. You need speed to catch a small wave. Hence a flatter rocker will suite the beginner more, making it easy to catch small "beginner" type waves, sacrificing manoeuvrability (which the beginner may not be able to exploit anyway). On the other hand, the seasoned surfer can handle big waves, which the slower curved rockered boat can catch, allowing the expert to exploit the curved boat's greater agility to it's full potential.
The shape of the tail also seems to be relevant. If you are starting out then it's best to pick a tail shape that suites all conditions. The squash tail is more pivotal with less drag than other tails, ending abruptly. It offers great manoeuvrability in all wave types. Other tails seem to be ideal for particular wave formats and are best left to the experts.
The rails are the carved edges that you dig in whilst carving a wave. My Rockpool sea kayak has very sharp square rails which makes it excellent at carving up tidal race waves. Rails can be low, mid or high. Not surprisingly the mid sized option is the all round solution, the high rails are for beginners, and the low rails are for experts allowing rapid, precise turning in the wave box.
Fins keep you surfing straight, a bit like the skeg on a sea kayak. The bigger they are the more stable that forward drive, preventing side slip. But turning can become difficult. Beginners should choose flexible fins which aid turning. The more rigid they are the more difficult turns can be, although in expert hands they make turns more snappy. Likewise, the longer the fin the better they work, that is, until you try turning which will be more difficult the greater the fin length. Fin positioning is a science in itself. Needless to say you could opt for a finless kayak as I think I will. (I hate skegs anyway).
Various hull shapes are available including vee, concave and convex. Flat bottomed hulls give a smooth ride and high speed in all conditions and are a good all round option.
So in summary, I need a flat bottomed, flat rockered, squash tailed, mid railed, finless surf kayak!!!! Well I think so anyway.

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