What is a SURFSKI?
Nelo 550 Surfski
Surfskis are designed for speed on the ocean, although they are well suited to all bodies of water and recreational paddling. They are generally the longer than K1 kayaks, measuring up to 6.5m for a single. They are typically constructed from carbon fibre, kevlar, or some combination of the two.
"I would recommend surfskis over other boats for beginners because you can paddle them in most bodies of water and in a range of weather conditions and sea states. This means you are not limited and can get experience in a range of conditions and locations"
- Danika Mowlem (2020-21 Darcy Price Series Winner)
A surfski uses an open "sit-on-top" cockpit, as opposed to the enclosed cockpit seen on flatwater, slalom, or touring kayaks. This allows them to be remounted if they capsize and also means the hull won’t fill with water. Boats with enclosed cockpits fill with water when submerged, so are only paddled in rivers, lakes or close to shore (capsizing these boats will result in a long swim.)
Many surfski models use a self-bailer which drains away water in the cockpit area as the boat moves. Surfskis are steered by foot-controlled pedals connected to a stern rudder. Their high-performance design and steering system makes it possible to catch and ride waves. Intentionally utilising the wind and swell to improve speed is referred to as a “downwinder”.
How stable is a surfski?
Surfskis are still unstable compared to recreational kayaks. Different models have different levels of stability. However, even the tippiest surfskis are more stable than a K1 kayak. Combined with the easy remount, they are a more-forgiving first boat, suitable for beginners who need stability but still want a bit of speed.
WHAT'S A GOOD SURFSKI FOR MY STAGE OF PADDLING?
Two factors in stability are the width and weight of the boat
The more narrow the surfski, the more unstable it will be.
The lighter the surfski, the higher it will sit in the water and the less stable it will be.
Therefore, a cheaper (and heavier) build of surfski may be more stable than the more expensive (lighter) version. Below is a table of popular surfskis and their stabilities. After paddling for a while, you'll no doubt have the urge to take your surfski into the ocean. It is recommended that you choose a boat which is more stable than what you'd require on flatwater. E.g. if you are intermediate paddler on flatwater, go for a beginner//intermediate boat so you can remain confident and stable in more challenging conditions.
Data from manufacturers and surfskiracing.org