Contributed by Derek Robertson
Scotland has some of the best surf beaches in Europe. Surfing a wave combines the ground speed of the wave with the gravitational pull down the face of the wave. Unfortunately in summer our waves tend to be small. Kayaks can take advantage of this, by being fast enough over flat water to catch the wave. As a result kayaks are great fun to play on the small summer waves, and this builds the basics for the big winter surf.
Any kayak can be used for surfing. Start with a general purpose kayak, this design has good paddle speed for catching small waves, and stable/high volume is good for learning to brace against waves on the bongo run. More advances white water boats, and specialised kayaks or skis are highly manoeuvrable and have planning hulls to reach good top speed when on waves.
Stonehaven beach usually has friendly waves that break gradually down their own face. The exception is on the shingle at the north side, where the wave rear up quickly and dump top to bottom in one move. It is also difficult to land a kayak on shingle, as the kayak tends to slide back into the water before the canoeist can get out. It is best to avoid such dumpy waves.
Other good beaches in the area are Lunan Bay, Cruden Bay, Fraserburgh and Sandend. Aberdeen and Montrose beaches are also often surfed, but tend to have poorer quality waves.
How to surf part one: Straight Surf and Bongo Ride.
Kayaks are most stable in waves, when the wave passes nose to tail. Paddle straight out through the waves, turn round and paddle straight back in. As the wave overtakes you, it lifts you up. If the wave is big enough, gravity will take over and you zoom down in front of the wave. For a beginner, the most difficult thing is keeping the kayak moving in a straight line. Either paddle like a dragon boat or use a stern rudder!
When a wave hits a kayak side on, or when a straight run surf turns side on, the white water will push the kayak towards the beach. Lean in towards the wave, and apply a brace stroke. You are now in a Bongo Ride, bouncing about all over the place. It is great fun but you have little control over the kayak. Tilting your bracing paddle blade to a slight angle allows you to use it like a stern rudder, giving you some control back. Combine this with leaning forwards and back, and you’ll be spinning and surfing right up the beach. Please capsize at some point to get the feel of the Bongo Run upside down, this is the only way you’ll get the sensation of being in a washing machine spin cycle – an opportunity not to be missed.
How to surf part two: spins, loops, cartwheels and more…
Bigger waves lift you higher, and therefore you have more time to play with gravity… This will be explained further once we learn ourselves.