How to Launch an Inflatable Kayak in Heavy Surf

How to Launch an Inflatable Kayak in Heavy Surf

Kayaking in a heavy surf can be highly exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, but often the worst part is launching an inflatable kayak in heavy surf. Having kayaked in all kinds of conditions, I’ve experienced both fear and fun, so I wondered if there is a perfect way to launch in heavy surf.

Just a quick bit of research brought up a lot of helpful information. With a few practiced kayaking techniques, launching an inflatable kayak in heavy surf can be great fun!

Always Put Safety First

The number one priority on the water has to be safety. If you don’t feel safe, stop what you are doing, assess the situation, and decide on a plan. Of course, just a little prior planning makes all the difference and can reduce the danger. Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD).

If you have never kayaked before or don’t have much experience, then launching in a heavy surf is probably not a good idea. Part of the safety comes from confidence and knowing how to react, and this comes from building up slowly.

Gaining experience, launching into more testing conditions will build your muscles and stamina. When you are confident in a light swell, move up to slightly more challenging conditions.

Launching into heavy surf with children is not advised. Often they won’t have the required strength or confidence.

With all of that said, you can launch in heavy surf conditions if you have an instructor with you to help and guide you. It’s all a case of assessing the situation.

Getting Ready to Launch

Check out the beach and assess where the smallest waves are breaking. Then, find some high ground if you can to view the whole beach or walk along as much of the beach as possible. The deepest water will give the least surf, while a shallow, gradually sloping beach will produce lots of surf and more challenging conditions. Finally, pick your launch spot where the surf is less demanding.

Using our safety-first principle, if you don’t feel comfortable, go home and try another day. The beach will still be there tomorrow.

Launch an Inflatable Kayak

You’ve checked the beach, you have some experience or a guide to help you, and you’re ready to launch into the surf. What’s next?

The aim here is to break through the surf and get to calmer waters beyond. A few tips will help;

  • Always paddle into a wave, and avoid the wave hitting you side on.
  • Paddle powerfully and straight at the wave
  • Try to get over the wave before it breaks.
  • If the wave breaks before you hit it, all is not lost, but paddle as hard as possible to avoid getting swamped.
  • Practice will improve your abilities, so don’t give up.


Kayaking in a heavy surf is exhilarating and great fun, but it’s also tiring and hazardous if not treated with respect. Our advice is to get plenty of kayaking practice before you try and if you can ask an experienced paddler to help you on your first few heavy surf inflatable kayak launches.

This article was last updated on May 12, 2021 .

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Categorized as Kayaking
Martin Parker

By Martin Parker

Martin Parker is a freelance content writer with a passion for offshore sailing, snowboarding, camping, and motorcycles. He regularly writes articles and reviews about camping and the outdoors to fund his passions.