Tag: surf kayak icw

Surf Kayak ICW Savannah Canoe and Kayak

Surf Kayak ICW Savannah Canoe and Kayak


Nigel Law may not be the most famous of Nigel’s. And maybe that’s ok. Kayaking has been a Nigel rich environment since the late 1980s. That said, Nigel Law has been involved in paddle sports in the Southeast for over 15 years. He was one of the original organizers at Sea Kayak Georgia of BCU week. Nigel has found a beautiful niche in the kayaking world of the Southeast and the US. He is one of the sole distributors of Mega Surf Kayaks, he was one of the first dealers of Tiderace Kayaks, and he was also one of the first ACA coaches to get his IT certification in Surf Kayaking. Nigel Law also competed and placed in the 2010 worlds surf kayaking championship in the outerbanks. Nigel developed a surf specific paddle for Saltwood called the double happiness.

Needless to say he has some significant credentials. On top of this he and his wife run a great business running and guiding trips on the coast of Georgia as well as ACA development workshops.

You can see Nigel’s Kayak @ time segment 2:16, which may help you spot him surfing.

The Surf ACA Instructor Certification Workshop I participated in comprised a Level 2, and Level 3. The Level 2 is all sit-on-top surf kayaking, with the final day demonstrating sit-in surf kayaking. We traveled down to Jacksonville Florida to Talbot island to run the course with Nigel.

The Level 2, believe it or not was a riot. I had not spent a ton of time in (on) a sit-on top kayak in the surf, but quickly saw the appeal and the freedom it grants to both the student and the instructor. The students can focus on catching waves and having fun, and the instructor can focus on coaching the students, rather than on helping them swim their kayaks to the beach to dump out and start over. There are still specific safety measures needed for sit-on-top surf kayaks, and a limit to performance, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Day one focused on skills needed for a Level 2 on flatwater, which was a quick recap of some basic skills on a beautiful backwater that was a tidal creek with lots of oysters and diving sea birds. We finished the day doing some surfing out on the ocean side. We had small, but peely waves as the sun went down.

Day two was a crash course in surf zone safety led by Nigel. It seemed like a Navy Seal indoctrination course as I recall spending most of the day in the surf wearing my drysuit, either swimming, or doing rescues from a sit-on-top. We ran through some scenarios and some rescues in the surf zone in a 25 knot on shore wind with manageable 3-4 foot surf. That said there was a 4-5 knot long shore current that made everything a little more challenging, paddling, swimming, rescues. We had a free surf session at the end.


Day three comprised the sit-in kayak session where I was expected to demonstrate the skills from level 2, plus some additional surfing skills demonstrated on certain parts of the wave. The Level 3 & 4 have some specific surfing moves that need to be demonstrated. In the windy onshore breeze on a beach break, certain components were pretty challenging. Nigel had me working on paddle out take-off’s and working the shoulder with cutbacks. He adroitly observed my tendency to take-off in the middle of waves rather than at the shoulder.

The program offered a lot for organizing and simplifying surf coaching. Some of my big take-aways:

  1. Location, Conditions, Location In order to provide an environment to students who are beginner surfers in any craft, the venue and the conditions dictate what you can do. Not the students. 1-2 foot surf on sit-on-tops, or frankly any craft, provides ample conditions for even moderately difficult tasks. Nigel’s coda: “Don’t try to improve people, improve the situation pretty well sums it up.
  2. Give instructions on the beach, set tasks, and allow time for students to try, and then give feedback on the beach. The surf zone doesn’t provide a very good environment for students to hear you, pay attention or focus on feedback. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on the water, but it does mean you shouldn’t be giving complicated instructions while waves are breaking over the kayaks.
  3. Sit on Tops are awesome a sit on top platform allows students with a developing roll and no surfing ability to get out and start learning how to surf pretty quickly without providing the unnecessary task of learning to roll first. This isn’t to say that rolling isn’t important, or that it shouldn’t be a skill focus, but rather that surfing can be fun for a much wider audience without rolling as a fairly steep skill curve at the beginning.


I was very pleased to participate in the program and to be able to spend time working with Nigel Law. We spent an awesome weekend shooting the breeze at the campsite, enjoying the wildlife, and the local culture.

This is standard beach apparel if you are from Southern Florida in February. It was a frigid 75 degrees. I just managed to crop out the polar bear from this shot.

This was a beautiful sunset through the Spanish Moss. You can just make out the marshy area we paddle in during day one.

This was but a fraction of the wildlife Nigel and I enjoyed during our visit. The raccoons, rats, and other small animals may have developed a taste for curry and Bud Light after the weekend. But hangovers aren’t just for people anymore.

I want one of these for my house.

ACA Surf Kayak Committee Announces IDW for Nov 2009

ACA Surf Kayak Committee Announces IDW for Nov 2009

Surf Kayak ACA Instructor Certification

When I was in Santa Cruz last year, Valley Surf Paddler Sean Morely was undertaking the ACA Surf ICW. It seems that the ACA has created a blog for the Surf Committee. Once I caught wind of my impending visit to the Virginia Beach area I started inquiring about the possibility of doing a Surf ICW.

Michigan native Scott Fairty has already undertaken this ICW and wrote a great post about his experience.

I am thinking of making the trip down to Virginia Beach for the Surf Event this fall, though it would be terrifically convenient if I could squeeze it in this spring when I am in Virginia Beach. We all know that won’t happen.

What is apparent and terrifically convenient is that the ACA is beginning to take Surf Kayaking seriously. I am not one to think that an ACA ICW/IDW…what have you will be a panacea for what ails the paddling word. But it is a signpost on the road that goes in the right direction for surf paddling. This is good for two main reasons.

Accessibility of Surf Specific Equipment

One thing that will continue to plague the development of Surf Kayaking in the US is access to surf specific kayaks. Until this changes there will be a lot of white water boats and sea kayaks being used for surfing. In reality this is a good way to begin, because it gets people in the surf zone and developing skills across disciplines. But in the long run, it short changes the development of really good surf skills. A white water boat really does not surf or carve at all like a surf kayak. They lack sufficient hull speed and are thrown into the white water or pearl out and nose dive on steep take offs. The paddler never really gets the feel for surf specific maneuvers and cannot really surf. Sea kayaks are almost worse in that they can surf anything. But they surf it with complete reckless abandon. They will bongo slide three foot surf anywhere taking out swimmers and boardies like Conan the Barbarian.

Surf kayaking is sort of a new sport. It had a brief run in the late 70s and early 80s and then some dark days. And then it was slowly reborn back into popularity. There are few good surf kayak manufacturers. Valley has launched their surf kayak line with great success. Riot is now stepping into the ring. And there are a few low key west coast providers such as Dick Wold and Vince Shay’s designs at Murky Waters. Also there is the enigma of Mega Surf Kayaks who make a great product, but seem to be unable to land a distributor for their kayaks in the US. Malcolm (bless his heart) I believe has tried but with little success to find the proverbial Great River Outfitters to be his business partner in the US. However unlike Valley and GRO, there is no mass appeal for a sport that holds its greatest lure among those who believe that being cold, wet, and terrified is a good lifestyle choice, (this website is clearly advocating this as a good way to go!). So unless you live either right next to a Valley dealer, or in Northern California, there are few surf specific kayak choices available now. I am hoping Valley and Riot will change all of that. And Riot in particular seems to be making all of the right moves with the launch of their new surf kayak line.

Surf Training & Advocacy

Without those who know the skills to help those who don’t there won’t be new surf paddlers. My first indoctrination into surf specific kayaking was buying a Riot Boogie after hearing about it from a guy on paddling.net. To this date, I know of one other Great Lakes Kayak Surfer. And by this I mean, a guy with a surf kayak that will go out when it is rough out. One other guy in the whole of my west coast. I’ve been trying to get people to try it for almost 4 years now. No takers, except this one guy (Joe Deja). When I went to the west coast, I found I performed adequately, not terrific, but adequately. I managed to catch and ride waves in a surf kayak without shaming myself. But I have to believe that this pursuit of mine could be shared by others.

The complaint that surf paddlers frequently have is based on being treated unfairly, if not with outright hostility in prime surf spots shared with stand up board surfers. And this is mainly due to surf paddlers, who surf like either white water kayakers, or sea kayakers, or nowhere in between. As one of the ACA’s mission statements and goals is to increase advocacy and access for paddlers, this new training and assessment would seem to be a great way to get the message out to paddlers. And this would be especially so for paddlers who frequent areas where multiple use breaks (Stand up surfers and kayak surfers) are prevalent.

I believe that the ACA ICW and ICE could potentially be way to start course correcting on these two issues. If the ACA will teach the rules of the road that surfers are using to paddlers this may go a long way to steering paddlesports back into union with the board surfing community. And if there are more people taking the surf kayaking discipline as an instruction path, then more people may potentially hear about it, and it won’t be me and two other guys in Michigan!

So watch the Surf Committe Blog for when the Surf IDW is finalized. If you are from the Midwest and want to make the trip let me know. I had an e-mail exchange with Ben Lawry who is now the ITE so I may have to make it a date.