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 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.


  1. Interested in Higher Performance level of Paddle Surfing?

    Check out Waveskis.

    Also youtube “Waveski”

    Great scene, join us!


  2. If Geneva ever wants to consider a surf day in SW Michigan, they should give me a call about coming out to South Haven or Saint Joe. It is far more likely to have good conditions in spring or fall due to prevailing wind directions.


  3. I just spent a week out at Geneva Kayak Center outside Chicago, they have 2 Valley surf boats, a plastic Rush and a composite that I’m not sure of the model.

    One of the problems of trying to run instructional surf programs on the Lakes is having conditions on the day of the course. GKC is going to try something new this year. They’ll maintain a list of folks that want to do a surf workshop and then email them a couple days in advance of anticipated good conditions. I know not everyone can blow off work or weekend plans with a day or 2 notice but hopefuly it will work for most people.

    The other issue, you nailed perfectly–access to proper surf boats. It just doesn’t make financial sense for most stores/schools to inventory surf boats. It’s a bit of a catch 22; stores don’t inventory surf boats because there isn’t enough demand and schools aren’t teaching in surf boats so they aren’t feeding students into the sales channel. It may take someone with a passion for kayak surfing and a good chunk of discretionary income to jump start things with a ‘not for profit’ kayak surfing school.

  4. Hey, we’ve got two now!!

    BTW thanks for stopping in town it was nice to meet Quinn.

    I remember when mine were that little. They were so outgoing, noisy, and curious, which is a dangerous, but fun combo.


  5. OK, I’ll try it.