Looking for the best surf kayaks? You’ve come to the right place. Surf kayaking is a seriously fun and exciting sport, and it requires a very specific watercraft. Surf kayaks need to be able to handle waves and white water, while being comfortable enough for long paddling sessions in the ocean.
Follow our guide below for everything you need to know about choosing surf kayaks. We’ve included reviews of the 9 best surf kayaks available for all kinds of paddlers.
What Are Surf Kayaks?
Surf kayaking is a sport where you surf waves in the ocean with a kayak. Much like regular surfing, kayakers paddle into breaking waves, and ride the face of the wave. The advantage of this is that waves are easier to catch with a kayak (as you have more paddle power), and you can easily ride in white water.
A surf kayak is any type of kayak that is suitable for riding waves. These are typically single-person kayaks that are relatively short and compact. The kayak should be easy to maneuver, and able to handle fast moving water.
History Of Surf Kayaks
As long as people have been using kayaks in the ocean, surf kayaking has been around. The original surf kayaks would have been small fishing boats that were able to catch waves on their way back in. As recreational kayaking and surfing started to develop, so did the idea of surf kayaks.
The surf shoe was the first kayak specially designed for riding waves in the ocean. This came about in the mid 70s. It was only after this that surf kayaking, along with dedicated watercraft designed for the sport, started to develop.
Today, surf kayaks are popular, and are available in all kinds of designs. These kayaks can be used specifically for riding waves, or for regular recreational paddling.
What To Look For When Buying A Surf Kayak
There are all kinds of surf kayaks available, so choosing the right one can be a bit of a challenge. Here are some important considerations to make when finding the perfect surf kayak.
Inflatable vs Solid
Surf kayaks can either be inflatable or solid. Both come with their unique advantages and disadvantages.
Solid kayaks, made from some form of plastic, are a lot more rigid and sturdy. Then generally handle fast-moving water better, and perform stronger in currents and waves. Solid kayaks are also a lot more durable and can be used over rocks and reefs without much risk.
Inflatable kayaks are far lighter, which makes them easier to transport and lighter to paddle. This does also mean they might lack performance when placed in waves and fast-moving waters. The major benefit of an inflatable kayak is that they can fold up small, and are easy to carry and transport. The disadvantage to this is that they take time to inflate, and they run the risk of being punctured or torn.
Sit-on or Sit-in
The next major decision with surf kayaks is whether to get a sit-on or sit-in model. This is pretty self-explanatory: sit-on kayaks are flatter with the paddler positioned on top, while sit-in kayaks have a cockpit that the paddler sits inside.
Again, each has its unique pros and cons. Sit-on kayaks are easier to get on and off, which is a big advantage when paddling in the surf. They’re generally easier to paddle and can be more stable. However, they’re more exposed, and the flatter bottom of these kayaks can lack performance.
Sit-in kayaks have more rounded hulls which give them better performance capabilities. The paddler can also stay more dry and protected. These kayaks are often more comfortable and are more suitable for use in rapids and bigger waves.
Generally, beginners prefer sit-on kayaks and more advanced paddlers prefer sit-in kayaks. Of course, this is not always the case, as you get certain wave skis and high-performance sit-on surf kayaks that are better suited for advanced paddlers.
Seat and Accessories
You’ve got to be comfortable while paddling. The best surf kayaks have adjustable seats with a padded backrest. There should also be adjustable footrests to match paddlers of different heights.
In terms of accessories, different kayaks come with various added extras. Some have fishing rod holders, some have dry storage compartments, some include paddles, and most have bungee cords and storage spaces. Consider all of these added features, because they can make a big difference.
Shape and Performance
Surf kayaks come in all shapes and sizes. For serious wave riders, you’ll want something that offers high-performance maneuverability and speed. Beginners will want something a bit more flat and stable.
The performance of the kayak is determined by the shape of the hull, the length and width of the kayak, the skegs, and how streamlined the kayak is in the water.
9 Best Surf Kayaks
Ready to find the perfect surf kayak for your needs? Out of the many watercraft out there, we’ve chosen the absolute best surf kayaks right now for all kinds of paddlers and performance levels.
Pelican Maxim 100X Surf Kayak
- Storage hatch and covered storage platform
- Shallow V Chine hull design
- Padded Ergoform seating system
- Lightweight and easy to carry
Like a Perception Kayak, the Pelican Maxim 100X is absolutely one of the best kayaks in its class. It’s lightweight, easy to handle, and performs really well in the ocean. This is thanks to the shallow V Chine hull design that provides a good level of maneuverability. It’s stable without compromising the kayak’s performance.
This kayak comfortably seats a single person in the spacious cockpit. There is a luxurious Ergoform seating system, complete with a padded backrest and seat cushion. This is all fully adjustable. The cockpit also features a table with a bottle holder, as well as molded footrests for better racing and comfort.
Storage space is plentiful on this kayak, with a front storage hatch and a back storage platform. The front hatch is securely fastened with a bungee cord, while the back platform includes a mesh cover. You can easily carry everything you need for a surf kayak adventure.
Overall, this kayak is comfortable, easy to transport, and performs well in the surf. The ideal single-person ocean kayak.
Aquaglide Navarro 130 Convertible (Best Inflatable Option)
- Inflatable 1 person kayak
- Features zip open dry storage pockets
- Velcro seat and footrest adjustment straps
- Hex shell covered pontoons
If you’re looking for a super durable inflatable surf kayak, then this is a great option. The Navarro 130 by Aquaglide is a fully equipped touring boat built to perform in all kinds of conditions. The kayak may be lightweight and inflatable, but the hex-shell-covered pontoons and drop-stitched floors ensure complete durability for rough waters and heavy use.
Some cool features on this kayak include the quick-release fin, the drain plug, the velcro seat, and footrest adjustment system, and the zip-open dry compartments. There are plenty of straps, molded handles, and D-rings for accessories and convenient use. The kayak also comes with a paddle keeper, although paddles are not included.
The sharp shape and lightweight design make this kayak perform really well in rapids, fast-moving waters, and waves. Being an inflatable kayak it’s easy to travel with and store. The durable storage bag is a great addition to this.
Lifetime Lotus Sit-on-Top Kayak (Best for Beginners)
- Single-person sit-on-top kayak design
- Extra stable hull design
- Multiple footrest positions for different sizes
- Durable high-density polyethylene construction
Any beginners looking for surf kayaks will love the Lotus. This is a super simple, durable, and stable kayak designed for convenient paddling. The kayak is incredibly stable thanks to the multi-chine hull. In fact, the hull has been specially designed to be flip resistant. This makes it a good choice for anyone paddling in the sea for the first time. And although the kayak is so stable, there are twin skegs that provide great tracking abilities.
The top side of the kayak has multiple footrest positions to keep paddlers of all heights comfortable. There is an adjustable backrest on the seat, as well as a back storage area complete with bungee cords.
Lifetime Tioga Sit-on-Top Surf Kayak
- High-density polyethylene construction
- Single-person sit-on-top kayak design
- Stable flat bottom
- Stability chine rails
This is another awesome sit-on-top kayak by Lifetime. Compared to the Lotus model, this kayak is a bit more streamlined for faster moving waters. The deep hull tracking channels and sharper shape offer a good level of performance for longer journeys. However, it’s still perfectly stable thanks to its flat bottom and stable chine rails.
The Lifetime Tioga kayak features a seat with an adjustable backrest for comfortable long paddles. There are multiple footrest positions, and spacious storage areas complete with bungee cords.
Another great thing about this kayak is that it’s pretty easy to carry around and transport. With front and rear T-handles, a lightweight but solid design, and full UV protection, you can easily take this kayak wherever you need to go.
Pelican Recreational Performance
- Deep V chine hull for secondary stability
- Built-in keel extension for better tracking
- Made using a specialized durable polyethylene material
- Includes an adjustable backrest
When it comes to surf kayaks, this model by Pelican is a great choice for anyone seeking a bit more performance. Unlike more stable flat bottomed kayaks, this one has a deep V chine hull to better match sloppy and rough conditions. The shape of the kayak makes it really responsive to any shifts in body weight and position, allowing you to paddle stronger with less effort.
For better tracking abilities, the kayak has a built-in keel extension. The sit-inside design is comfortable but compact, which means the kayak doesn’t take up much space. The short design of the kayak makes it fast and easy to maneuver. And to make sure paddlers are comfortable, there is a padded, fully adjustable seat inside.
There is a stern bulkhead for when you need extra flotation. The entire kayak is made from seriously durable polyethylene, complete with an additional top layer of resin for added durability.
BKC Single Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak
- Single-person sit-on-top kayak design
- Includes 5 fishing rod holders
- Designed for superior stability
- Watertight storage areas
Looking for the best surf kayaks for fishing? This option by BKC is one of the best. The single-person, sit-on-top kayak is specially designed for a stable fishing experience. In fact, the kayak is so stable that you can even do a standing cast on it.
The kayak is a rotomolded single-piece design, made from high-density polyethylene. It’s been specially designed to handle ocean currents, making it a great watercraft for oceans, lakes, and rivers. Of course, you can catch waves on this thing really well. It’s also light enough put in a kayak hoist.
One of the best things about this kayak is all of the added accessories. There’s a memory foam seat for seriously comfortable fishing sessions, two waterproof hatches for safe storage, two paddle parks, a bungee cargo tie-down, and an adjustable aluminum paddle.
Aquaglide Noyo 90 Inflatable Surf Kayak
- A solo covered inflatable kayak
- Includes zip open dry storage compartments
- Includes a kayak seat and storage bag
- Perfect for beginners
The Noyo 90 inflatable kayak by Aquaglide is an ideal choice for beginners. The inflatable kayak is relatively small, but it’s stable, dry, and easy to paddle. Don’t let the inflatable part of this kayak put you off, it’s got a fully covered bow and stern for complete protection against the elements. The kayak is seriously durable for an inflatable, and can easily handle fast-moving waters, rapids, and oceans.
Some handy features on this inflatable kayak include a quick-release fin, a drain plug, Boston valves, and the zip open dry storage compartments. For easy carrying and transportation, there are molded handles on each end. Bungee cords on top of the kayak allow you to carry all kinds of gear with you.
If you’re after the perfect day tripping kayak, then this is a top choice. It’s easy for all levels of paddlers to handle, it’s comfortable, stable, and very convenient to travel with.
Sea Eagle RazorLite Inflatable Sea Kayak
- An open sit-in inflatable kayak
- Full drop-stitch construction
- Large removable rear skeg
- Front and rear spray skirts
Many inflatable kayaks are designed for easy beginner use, but here’s a high-performance model. The Sea Eagle RazorLite kayak has a really simple design that performs well in the ocean and on lakes.
This inflatable solo touring kayak is not as stable as other flatter models, but it’s fast and has great maneuverability. The kayak is open, giving the paddler plenty of space. There are spray skirts at the front and back of the kayak though. These are complete with carrying handles.
As you would guess from an inflatable kayak, this model is lightweight and easy to transport. It’s fully constructed using drop stitch technology to keep it strong and sturdy. There are two open and close drain valves to keep the kayak dry.
Some accessories that come with this kayak include a four-part performance paddle, a removable rear skeg, a tall adjustable seat with adjustable footrests, and a high-pressure pump. For added convenience, the whole kayak packs up into a backpack – allowing you to easily take it to hard-to-reach beaches.
Driftsun Almanor Inflatable Touring Kayak
- Solo inflatable kayak
- Designed for distance paddling
- EVA padded high back seats
- UV protected 600d polyester hull design
Out of all the inflatable surf kayaks we’ve reviewed, this one has got to be the best for long-distance paddling. The kayak is specially designed with a long waterline to help paddlers pick up speed and maintain long glides with distance paddling. The design is streamlined, but it’s not everyone’s first choice for heavy waves. You can paddle it in the surf but be prepared for some instability.
The kayak will keep you comfortable with its tall adjustable seat, complete with soft EVA foam padding. The hull is strong and sturdy, made from 600d polyester. This should withstand all kinds of rough conditions while offering a long life.
This kayak is a good choice for most solo paddlers looking for something fun and streamlined. It’s lightweight, it glides beautifully, and the cockpit is very comfortable for long excursions.
Surf kayaks are some of the best watercraft for anyone to experience the ocean. You can use them to play in the waves, you can use them for long-distance paddling excursions, and you can even use them for fishing trips.
The 9 surf kayaks listed above offer the best experiences and value for paddlers of all experience levels and requirements. Be sure to consider these when looking for your next surf kayak.
What kind of kayak is best for waves?
A kayak with a more extended waterline and larger displacement is best for riding waves. Most sea or touring kayaks are ideal for use in the surf.
Are surf kayaks stable?
Yes, surf kayaks should be stable to make riding waves easy. Of course, you do get flatter, more stable kayaks for beginners, and less stable performance kayaks for advanced paddlers.
What is the best beginner sea kayak?
The best beginner sea kayak would be a sit-on model that offers loads of stability. We recommend the Lifetime Lotus Sit-on-Top Kayak.