Extreme kayaking – kayak surfing in Åland
The Åland autumn storms create perfect conditions for adrenaline-rush kayak surfing. Bring your own kayak, rent or book a course with the pros.
Friluftsentreprenörerna S.G.U. are Leif Höglund, Jan Kankkonen and Erik Rudels. They are all licensed in NIL (Nordic Instructor License for sea kayak paddling). There are a total of 16 NIL-instructors in Finland and you will find three of them in S.G.U.
S.G.U's Leif Höglund has much experience in paddling. He has canoed for 33 years and kayaked the last 25 years. And he loves wave surfing.
"It is the combination of adrenaline, speed and to spend time in one of nature's playgrounds that appeals to me. It is also technically demanding - there is always room to improve. All that have seen the paddle films in the series 'This is the Sea', realize how fun this is!"
Last winter offered one of the best kayak surfing experiences he has had. So far.
"We were a few friends who were kayak surfing when a giant wave caught me and I dropped backwards for the first time in my life; I tumbled over so that the rear of my five meter long sea kayak did a 180 degree somersault in the air. When the water had stopped swirling around my head it was just to roll back around and continue. It was amazingly cool!
"Another highpoint was the first surf tour with my new Rockpool - a better 'playboat' is yet to be found!"
The winds should come from the south
If you want to go kayak surfing in Åland there are several really good places with car road access. Degersand's Havsbad is one example. "Just drive your car all the way down to the beach, paddle 100 meters out and suddenly you are in the middle of it all", Leif says.
The perfect surf appears immediately after a few days of storm with southern winds. When the wind subsides, the wave height increases and it is easy to paddle through the waves. Your maximum wave height is a personal matter.
"The limit is set by the one in the kayak and that also depends on what kind of kayak you are in. A kayak with a real rocker, for example Rockpool, is a very good kayak for though surfing conditions.
Take a surfing course
Friluftsentreprenörerna also offer courses for anybody interested in kayak surfing. The content of the course depends on the participant's previous experiences.
"It does not matter if you are not so experienced as long as you keep your head above water", Leif says. "In the beginning it is all about paddling with the wind and later we take on tougher waves. In tougher conditions you must be experienced enough to take a roll. Really though conditions demands an experienced paddler.
Leif gives an example of a common course set-up:
"Most who want to try this need to know more about high sea paddling, so a theoretical run-through is in order. Then it is time to learn where the surfing zone is and which safety precautions you need to follow. After that it is just to get out and practice what you have learned ashore. The instructors follow along at sea all the time and give advice whether or not you should catch the wave, how to steer and where you should get out of the wave.
Good advice if you want to go kayak surfing in Åland:
- Use common sense and only go out in weather conditions you can handle
- Bring a friend who you can trust and who can rescue you if something happens
- Bring a First Aid kit and mobile phone
- At many of the best surfing places there are lots of rocks - wear a helmet!
- Use the right gear. A good rocker jacket, wide bladed paddle, spare paddle, a good life jacket, suitable clothes (wet suit or dry suit is recommended), neoprene cover, towing system, pump and helmet. If you need to supplement your gear, you can find it all at S.G.U. - to buy or rent.
- Surfing depends on the weather. There must be southern winds over Åland to get the right conditions.
- Finally - be prepared that it will be wet, sweaty and amazingly fun!