In case you hadn’t guessed from the name, surf kayaks are designed for use in the ocean/sea wave.
They’re not quite the same as the traditional surfboards but are often seen as a mixture of surfboards and whitewater kayaks.
However, their aim is still to catch waves and plane across them, but unlike surfboards, they require riders to sit in a traditional surf kayaking position.
Now, you might think kayak surfing doesn’t offer as much of an adrenaline rush as the traditional surfboard does.
But that’s further from the truth.
Surf kayaking is equally an exhilarating experience, and like traditional kayaking, it can also be quite dangerous.
Heavy winds and strong currents are a major challenge for ocean kayakers.
But the good new is surfing on a kayak is generally easier. The reason is that kayakers have a higher level of control over the kayak compared to a surfboard, mainly because they’re seated with a lower center of gravity than standing up with no support.
The benefit of this is that surf kayaking offers a rewarding surfing experience and will allow you to reach some of the most beautiful nooks and crannies of the ocean world.
From the virtually endless horizons, fighting the ocean waves, to enjoying the magnificent seagulls and coral reefs, there’s a lot to like with surf kayaking.
Now, if you’re feeling brave enough to leap into the world of ocean kayaking, you’ll need serious preparation.
Just as with choosing the best surfboard, choosing the right surf kayak is key.
Fortunately, in the guide below, we’ll share some of the best surf kayaks in the market. Later, we’ll also go through what you should look for in a surf kaya.
In A Hurry? Here's Our Choice!
Our winner for the best surfing kayaks is the Ocean Frenzy.
It’s a top-performing hard-shell that stands up to anything you throw at it.
While it’s small and compact, it packs a punch and will provide you with endless hours of fun in the surf.
Plus, it’s an inexpensive option, offering a true value purchase.
Table of Contents
The Best Surf Kayaks For The Money
#1 Ocean Kayak Frenzy - EDITOR'S CHOICE
We start our review of the best surfing kayaks by looking at one of the popular sit-on-top recreational kayaks, the Ocean Frenzy.
It’s a light and easy-to-handle kayak and definitely one of the best 9-inch kayaks we’ve come across.
One of the obvious attributes you’ll notice with the Kayak Frenzy is that it’s very small in size.
But don’t get discouraged.
It still packs a punch as the longer vessels and will provide you with everything you may need from a surf kayak. In fact, from my short stint with the Ocean Frenzy, I can’t really see any improvements with size unless it includes a GPS and maybe a coffee maker.
Features and Benefits
The brand Ocean Kayak stands for quality and affordability.
Kayak Frenzy isn’t any different. It’s well made and is designed with a beautiful look.
All the components and the boat itself are robust and of high quality. It’s for sure you’ll enjoy the Frenzy for a very long time.
Ocean Frenzy is also a hard-top kayak utilizing high-density polyethylene. It’s a nice choice of material as it eliminates rusting and prevents wear and tear.
Of course, it’s important to understand the material has some drawbacks, not on the performance, but convenience.
They’re hard to transport- that’s just it. Unless you own a lake house, you’ll have a hard time mounting and dismounting them.
But you don’t have to worry about that on the Ocean Frenzy.
This is because it’s super light, weighing a measly 44 pounds.
Yes, you read that right.
Want to know the benefit?
You can transport the kayak easily, all by yourself. Storing the Frenzy in your garage is also easy as anyone can do lifting.
Size and Shape
With a 9 feet length of 31″ width, Ocean Frenzy is short and compact, so much that we had doubts if we would lose quite much in terms of maximum speed and performance in the water.
But far from it.
Instead, it’s quite easy to handle if you’re kayak surfing by yourself.
While there’re plenty of compact kayaks, this recreational kayak is easy to maneuver.
The wide deck is instrumental in promoting greater stability on the kayak. Not at any time will you feel that you’re about to flip, even when facing the bigger waves. Beginners will love the Ocean Frenzy.
Along with the wide deck, Frenzy has a Tri-Hull design. It’s probably what makes it such a versatile and practical yak.
While offering a stable ride for beginners, Tri-Hull promotes a spunky ride enough to provide lots of fun for the expert surf kayaker in various water types, including the ocean, surf, flat waters, lakes, to tight rivers.
For such a compact kayak, comfort is definitely a concern.
The good news is you shouldn’t worry much about that because Frenzy is outfitted with an adjustable ComfortPlus seat. Kayakers say the set feels nice and comfy throughout the day.
The seat offers nice support and will prevent any back pain.
Additionally, the kayak features molded-in footwells, so you’ve plenty of leg positions to choose from. As a result, it increases leg comfort while offering a more stable position for efficient paddling strokes.
The ultimate test of any kayak is how well it handles in the water.
Fortunately, we can report that Ocean Frenzy is a beast.
Of course, for its size, it’s best suited for the relatively calm and flat water, but if things do pick up a bit, you can still depend on this kayak to see you through.
It tracks well for being so short, even when taking the large and long strokes, and goes fast with a little effort.
Ocean Frenzy also has amazing stability and will handle the rough waters with the elegance of a much larger option.
#2 Sun Dolphin Aruba - Versatile Surfing Kayak
Nothing beats riding a kayak that lets you explore different bodies of water. Imagine braving the surf waves, beating the whitewater rapids, and cruising on lakes with ease.
It’s every kayaker’s dream.
But is there a kayak that will allow you to do all these?
Meet the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10.
It’s one of the practical and reliable surf kayaks we’ve on the market, allowing you to handle different waters confidently.
But does its versatility sacrifice Aruba’s surfing abilities?
Let’s find out.
Features and Benefits
First Impressions- Design
Aruba 10 is one of Sun Dolphin’s prized assets.
It’s an all-around option that does well in the ocean as it does in the tight rivers.
This yak also caters to the needs of beginners as well as those of the experienced surf kayaker.
As an Aruba owner, you also won’t have any trouble with this kayak as it’s easy to store, transport, and maintain.
Aruba’s design is also quite attractive and neat.
Plus, it comes with a host of features to enhance the overall performance.
For example, it comes for embossments on the side for speed and a pointy bow and stern for tracking abilities.
I also love that Aruba’s design doesn’t have lots of stickers, so I can customize it as much as I want.
Durability is key for any kayak, and this option doesn’t fail in this department.
Like our best kayak, the Ocean Frenzy, Aruba 10 utilizes high-density polyethylene. It’s a nice material that can withstand occasional rock run-ins hits by ocean waves and other water obstacles.
Size and Shape
If getting a canoe to the water effortlessly or getting it on and off your truck is important to you, you’ll love the Sun Dolphin Aruba.
At only 40 pounds, Aruba is light as sea kayaks can get and will let you carry it to the water with ease from your automobile.
My only concern with Aruba’s shape and size was the length.
Because the craft is 10 feet long, its load capacity is on the smaller side. The vessel has a modest carrying capacity of 250 pounds and no more than that. So while it will accommodate most average-sized adults, it limits what you can bring with you to your surfing adventure.
Sun Dolphin makes up for the low weight capacity with incredible stability.
A wide bottom offers good stability and balance as you paddle on the surf zone. You won’t feel as if you’re about to tip as you face currents and change direction.
It’s a great option for working your way through the choppy waters and currents, though I wouldn’t recommend the large waves if you run into trouble with balance.
Because of the added stability, the Dolphin Aruba is a wonderful choice for beginners still getting a handle on maneuvering and balancing the sea kayak.
Aruba comes with a few features that optimize comfort when paddling on the surf zone.
The first one is the seat with high back support. It keeps you comfortable throughout and will prevent back aches.
Unfortunately, the seats lack padding and can feel quite uncomfortable, especially when sitting for extended periods.
However, it shouldn’t be an issue if you plan to go paddling for three hours or less.
The second is the adjustable foot braces. They provide sufficient room for your feet to stretch and provide the balance and strength needed for power paddling.
Nothing counts more on a surf kayak than its performance on the water.
Fortunately, we can report that Aruba does an incredible job.
First, this canoe has a narrow bow and stern, which helps to keep it on the right track.
Secondly, the kayak can slice through the water instead of pushing out of the way as the blunt designs do.
Considering it’s an extremely light boat, it sits on the water lightly, providing you with the extra tracking ability.
#3 Riot Kayaks Astro 54 - Best for Freestyle and Tricks
The Riot Kayaks 54 is no ordinary kayak.
It’s designed for promoting surfing tricks and freestyles
Featuring a dynamic planing hull, this kayak offers unmatched maneuverability and responsiveness that no other kayaks can match.
And because of this, it happens to be the best surfing kayak for freestyle riding.
Features and Benefits
First Impressions- Design
From the first look, it’s easy to tell that Riot is a friendly playboat.
Riot’s shape has a large central volume; small slicy ends with a wide-scoop top profile.
Simply put, Riot’s shape resembles that of a spud boat.
A notable feature of Riot’s design is the softer chine, a handy feature to make landing the big tricks more reliable.
As a “forgiving” boat, you might think it sacrifices the performance, but that’s far from the truth.
Instead, Riot is a boat with some character and interesting potential. We’ll see that later when we look at its kayak surfing performance.
Size and Shape
The Astro 54 is the smallest and lightest of the surf kayaks on our list.
It’s not a surprise, considering it was built primarily as a playboat.
I find it the ideal pick for surfers looking to use the strength of the surf to perform tricks or if the surf in your area is broken and uneven.
At 38 feet in length and just over 6 feet in length, this sit-on-top kayak is an agile and responsive watercraft. This is not to mention it doesn’t cause any troubles when lifting or moving it to the water.
Overall, the shape and features of this boat make it an ideal option for surf paddlers looking for a boat they can take on the surfing without needing to do too much planning.
Riot may be small but doesn’t have any less stability than the longer water vessels.
When flat, this water vessel feels quite stable, and you won’t feel like the boat is about to tip or capsize even in rowdy conditions.
One stability feature I liked most was the rails. They aren’t so sharp that a capsize is imminent when edged. I found this to be quite a useful attribute, especially for beginners learning to kayak surf.
The Riot is almost perfect.
For example, the molded seat is comfortable and easy to use. This kayak offers the much-needed support for your back and won’t leave you with a backache after a long day in the water.
Additionally, the kayak still uses the adjustable mini cell foot brace that can be modified to accommodate most foot sizes.
Overall, this sit-on kayak is a joy to use and will provide hours of endless fun in the water.
The only drawback I found with this bad boy was the carrying capacity. It can only accommodate up to a max of 150 pounds, so it severely limits who can use the canoe.
Riot Astro allows you to boss around in the ocean waves.
It has a loose and wandery feeling.
The kayak is just plain hoppy and doesn’t take any effort to set it up for a good air blunt.
Expert surfers will manage to throw a few bags of tricks, and this yak is plain fun.
On steeper waves and in planning mode, the boat feels a bit lose and fast.
Making carves against the oncoming current is a breeze, and this outfit is a real triumph, as far as I’m concerned in the freestyle department.
#4 Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-on-top Kayak - Budget Option
If you’re on a budget but still want a reliable and performance-oriented sea kayak, the Sun Dolphin Bali would be a great pick.
It’s an inexpensive model, but it offers true value to board surfers and is quite practical in varied water conditions.
And make no mistake, the cut in price doesn’t compromise the performance. Bali is as reliable as the high-end sit-on-top kayaks and will give you every reason to smile.
Features and Benefits
Like other Sun Dolphin models, Bali’s shell is made of high-density polyethylene reinforced with Fortiflex material.
It’s a unique blend that strengthens the hull and yak against abrasions, collisions and shields it against elements such as saltwater and debris.
The material isn’t only physically tough but also UV-resistant, a characteristic making the Bali the ultimate craft for long trips on sunny days or outside storage in places where shade isn’t available.
Size and Shape
For such a compact kayak (10 ft length), we were pleasantly surprised by the number of useful features it comes with.
It somehow manages to pack a lot in a limited space. Because of this, you get stern compartments, bottles, portable accessory carrier, two-rod holders, paddle holders, footrests and so much more.
While retaining the compact size, most kayakers can agree that almost anyone can pick up this 40 pounds kayak.
It’s one of the lightest watercraft around, which makes transportation a breeze.
Plus, it’s among the shortest yaks in the market, so it’ll probably fit at the back of most pickup trucks.
The boat’s hull is wide and sports a multi-chine design.
Users claim it has incredible primary stability, which is very important when working your way through the choppy waters or the rough waves. It’s also a great feature for those not yet used to paddling.
This is not to mention it makes getting in and out of the kayak easier.
While the kayak has awesome stability, I would advise against standing up or leaning too far on one side because you’re likely to end up in the water.
It’s also a good idea to consider the weight capacity as overloading might cause the boat to sink too low.
Bali comes with a couple of features designed to make your day in the water a little more comfortable.
For example, the adjustable foot braces can easily slide into a position suiting your leg length to help you feel more stable on the water.
On the other hand, the padded thigh braces add a little more protection between your legs and the side of the vessel, while the molded seat supports you.
The seating area is spacious, and with the width of the yak being 30 inches, you should have plenty of room.
Many kayakers agree that using this excellent kayak is easy, even if your surfing technique isn’t on point.
Bali is a stable, fantastic option for beginners who need to learn the art of paddling step by step.
Its design also makes the kayak fairly versatile, meaning you won’t have any issues taking Bali out in different water conditions from rough seas, coastal waters, oceans, tight rivers to waves in creeks.
#5 Riot Kayaks Boogie 50 Whitewater Surf Kayak - Best Sea Kayak for Carving
If you enjoy carving in your kayak, the Riot Boogie 50 should interest you.
This is because the Boogie is a fast, responsive and stable kayak.
Its unique planing hull shape allows you to gain speed, accelerate fast, and effortlessly put the kayak on its edge.
On top of this, it has a tri-find design that keeps it agile when riding waves. In addition, it helps to refine tracking.
But how good is the Riot Boogie as an ocean surf kayak?
Features and Benefits
Boogie 50 Whitewater Kayak is everything you would want to have in your kayak.
It’s sturdy, reliable, and from the look of this, the polyethylene construction can take on the abrasions, scrapes, and collisions like a champ.
Additionally, the kayak isn’t easily intimidated by the big waves; it doesn’t break and keeps going strong even when hit repeatedly.
Shape and Size
The Boogie Whitewater Surf Kayak is one of the kayaks explicitly designed for surfing waves, letting the paddler capture the waves’ power and navigate rocky coasts.
For example, Boogie’s planning hull is narrow, and combined with a low rocker; it can quickly accelerate and achieve high speeds that you won’t easily get with other whitewater kayaks.
On the other hand, a squashed back end, sharp rails, and a long narrow nose enhance better acceleration and fantastic carving.
Boogie Surf Kayak isn’t any different from our other listed sit-on-top kayaks.
It’s quite stable with a decent width of 9 inches and doesn’t feel like it’s going to tip or topple even when surfing under the huge waves.
But it only maintains stability so much that I wouldn’t advise surfers from standing or leaning too much on one side.
Boogie is a joy to ride on as it feels comfortable and easy to use.
Let’s start with the seat.
Boogie utilizes a surfing “power seat,” which gives you more leverage and control.
On the other hand, the shapeable foam foot-blocks keep the spacious cockpit fit snug, providing the extra control in tighter turns, while the front and rear kayak handles make it easy to haul it in and out of the surf.
Boogie isn’t among the largest ocean surfing kayaks, but the volume distribution gives it a higher weight capacity. Thanks to this, even the heavy paddlers can enjoy surfing a top-performing surf kayak.
Riding performance is also incredible, and I love how the tri-fin design keeps the Boogie running straight while maintaining unmatched stability to keep you upright when the waves break.
Best Surf Kayaks Buying Guide
In the best surf kayak buying guide below, we’ll look at everything you need to know about ocean kayaks.
We’ll also see some of the factors to consider when making a purchase decision.
But first, let’s see why you should get a surf kayak,
Why Should you Get a Surf Kayak?
A surf kayak is a great option as it gives surfers better control compared to traditional surfboards.
The surf kayaks give you the opportunity of controlling the direction of your travel, and this way, you’ll find it easy to move across the front of a wave for a long time by simply adjusting the direction.
Surf kayaks also achieve a larger surf since they offer great stability.
What to Look for When Buying a Surf Kayak
There’re many surf kayaks in the market, and there’s no specific kayak designed for surfing; it makes selecting the best surf kayak challenging.
That’s why you need to consider specific features that make your kayak great for surfing.
In the text below, we’ll share with you some of the key elements to look for when selecting the best kayak for surfing.
A surf kayak’s shape differs from that of a regular kayak, and the reason is simple.
Surf kayaks are designed to handle the big waves and plane across them. On the other hand, normal kayaks are designed to offer a smoother ride on the waves.
To support better riding on waves, surf kayaks have a flat hull for displacing the least amount of water.
In contrast, the traditional kayaks have a pointy shape for cutting through the waves.
Generally, surf kayaks are meant to offer a thrilling experience, so their shape, especially the bottom, resembles that of a surfboard. As a result, it offers high maneuverability over the water.
On the flipside, surf kayaks aren’t the most stable options. So, if you intend to use these kayaks for river kayaking, you might get disappointed. The reverse is true.
Volume for any watercraft is critical as it’s responsible for floatation.
The volume of a kayak determines how buoyant it is. Kayak volume is actually a measure of its capacity to hold water inside a kayak.
High-volume kayaks don’t submerge in water easily and are stable.
But there’s a catch; volume kayaks require a lot of energy to maneuver through the water. This can make it challenging to surf through waves with a high-volume kayak.
Stability Vs. Agility
As we’ve seen, high-volume kayaks are stable, and none of their ends easily submerges under the water. However, if submerged, the ends quickly come back over the water surface.
But they lose on maneuverability.
Now, remember surf kayaking is all about agility and maneuverability. Therefore, most of these high-volume kayas have the whole volume concentrated towards their center, allowing the kayak to have maximum agility with excellent maneuverability.
The best surf kayaks are incredibly durable.
Keep in mind; a surfing kayak undergoes rough usage; it’s hit by water obstacles as well as strong waves.
When choosing a kayak, consider the material used. Go for the most durable construction material.
Also, ensure the construction is sturdy.
Different kayaks have a different variation of hull shape.
The most common shapes in the market are V-shape, flat, and rounded hull.
Its shape has its benefits and flaws.
For example, flat hulls are best for stability, while kayaks with rounded hulls are good for speed and maneuverability.
Kayaks with the V shape are ideal for the fast-flowing waters.
There’re different designs of surf kayaks based on their volumes. You need to select a design based on your skill level.
For example, we would recommend newbies to go for the standard surf kayaks. These give you enough agility while offering decent stability and control.
On the other hand, pro-surf kayakers should choose the extreme watercraft version, offering challenges to control the kayak on a large wave. In addition, these kayaks allow you to use your skills to maneuver in difficult tides.
Rocker is the curve of the surf kayaks from the bow front to the stern.
The kayak’s rocker plays a critical role in determining the ease or difficulty of riding a kayak.
While each surf kayak has a different rocker, there’re two broad categories for rockers.
As its name suggests, this rocker has a continuous curve from the stern to the kayak bow.
It offers minimum contact of the kayak with the water surface.
It’s a great design for free spinning over the kayak center and gives high agility to the kayak.
Kayaks with this rocker are perfect for river running where you need to make quick turns and movements.
Kayaks with kick rocker have their hulls “kicking” up at both ends.
This design offers more contact areas between the water and the kayak.
It’s a nice shape for facing the large waves as the bottom is held well in place on the water surface, while the ends remain clearly out of it.
Chine refers to the joint of the bottom and the sides of the hull immersed in the water.
The rocker also plays an important part in a kayak’s usability and handling in the water.
Hard Chine Vs. Soft Chine
Kayaks with hard chines provide better agility and control to the soft chine.
However, a hard chine is easily affected by the underwater and surface currents and has a high chance of sticking to underwater objects.
On the other hand, a soft chine with a round shape enhances the overall stability.
However, from the agility point of view, soft chine is less agile and is less maneuverable.
Accessories refer to extra items you need for surfing.
Having the right accessories is more than convenient, but it also keeps you safe during surf kayaking.
While some brands require you to purchase accessories, most of the premium options will include the accessories in the purchase.
Going for a kayak with accessories is a good idea as it saves you from the extra cost and hassle of purchasing the accessories separately.
Some of the important accessories include:
Also known as a personal floatation device, a life jacket is a safety essential for surf kayaking.
This safety equipment keeps you floating on the water if you lose the kayak or accidentally fall in the water.
Another important protective gear that will prevent head injuries if a direct collision with a reef or any other hand object.
A reinforced whitewater paddle is more impact-resistant than the normal kayak paddle.
They’re hard-wearing and will stand up to the hard impact, including confronting the wild waves.
Best Surf Kayaking Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What kayaks are best for waves?
A: The best kayaks for waves are durable to stand up against the knocking of the waves and are stable to handle the rough waters. Other important attributes for kayaks for waves are a comfortable cockpit and better surf performance.
Q: How long is a surf kayak?
A: Sur kayaks can get long, but generally, surfing kayaks are between 7 feet to 13 feet.
Q: What is the best sea kayak for beginners?
A: The best kayak for beginners should prioritize stability. It should not feel like it’s going to tip or capsize once hit by the rough waters.