If you’re fishing the open coast, learning how to launch and land in surf will increase your fishing days, boost your confidence and make you a better angler. Here are tips for going it alone or helping a buddy.

Fishing Kayak Surf Launching

1. Scout your spot
Scan the shore for the ideal launch site. Most put-ins have small pockets and coves that are less exposed to the shorebreak or are hit by smaller waves and waves with longer pauses between breaks.

2. Set up
Straddle your kayak in water just deep enough to float it, yet not so deep that you can’t touch bottom with both feet.

3. Be square
Line up your bow so it is square to incoming waves and shorebreak. If you’re not facing the waves at 90 degrees, it doesn’t take a very big wave to shove the bow off to one side, pivoting the kayak parallel to the shorebreak.

4. Time your departure
Using your lower legs to steady your kayak square to the shorebreak, wait for a break between waves. Then sit, lift your feet into the cockpit, and use a burst of short, choppy strokes to power through the shorebreak.

5. Try, try again
Keeping your bow square to incoming waves is more difficult than it seems. If your kayak gets spun parallel to the shorebreak, hop out on the seaward side of your kayak and reposition yourself.

Tip: In surf, always hop out of the kayak on its seaward side. Hop out on the beach side and you risk getting run down by your boat if it gets caught by an incoming wave.

Fishing Kayak Surf Landing

1. Scout your spot
Look for sections of shoreline where the waves are smaller, rise less frequently, or don’t break as violently.

2. Watch and learn
Face the beach from just outside the shorebreak. Watch a few sets and assess how much time passes between waves.

3. Charge!
If the waves are small, paddle in closer. When your bow lowers (your stern is rising on the face of a wave) paddle hard to catch the wave and surf it into shore. Alternatively, if the waves are too large to surf, wait just outside the break zone and paddle hard on the back of a breaking wave to get through the break zone before the next wave comes.

4. Stay square
Keep your bow square to the beach all the way in. If you catch a wave, rudder or steer with your paddle.

5. Get high and dry
The moment you hit the beach, hop out and grab your bow handle to drag your kayak high up on the beach. Move quickly! You want to get your kayak out of the water before the receding wave sucks your kayak back out. Be sure not to get caught between your kayak and the receding wave.

Adam Bolonsky is a kayak fishing guide based in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and a frequent contributor to print and online magazines.


  1. For added safety, time landing and launching in the surf zone with the tides. Land during the last hour of outgoing water, and launch back into the surf during the first hour of incoming water. You’ll land higher than the wave behind you, and get lifted off the beach for launching by the wave behind the one that just receded.


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