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Finding the right surfski

Köpguide surfski dietz

Find the right surfski - a guide for beginners

Surfski paddling is a great way to work on your fitness, while enjoying nature from a whole new perspective. You can paddle it in big waves or narrow rivers. Even cities can offer great opportunities to exercise on the water without having to travel far. If you don't want to load your ski on the roof, you can join a canoe club.

If this sounds like it could be for you, read the following guide to find out:

  • What is the advantage of a surfski?
  • What are the types of surfskis?
  • How do I choose a surfski?
  • What should I consider before buying a surfski?
  • What makes a good surfski?


Why buy a surf ski

The great thing about owning a surfski is that you can use it for different types of paddling in different environments and different conditions. The most common use cases are:

  • Exercise on flat water and at sea
  • Downwind paddling
  • Day tour paddling
  • Competitions

A surfski fits all these uses without major compromise. It makes it easy to catch waves while accelerating quickly on flat water. That said, there are differences between different surfskis, both in terms of use, stability and individual factors (such as paddler height and weight).

When compared to a sea kayak, a surf ski simply has a number of advantages:

  • It is lighter
  • It's faster
  • it is safer (you can pick yourself up after capsizing)
  • it allows for more efficient paddling

What are the types of surfskis?

All surfskis have in common that you sit in an open hull and the steering is done with pedals and an underlying rudder. They are mostly divided into stability levels such as entry-level, intermediate and elite.


You can choose between plastic and composite materials. A plastic surfski weighs from 22 kg (Nelo 510) and up to 28 kg if you choose a lighter brand. So you gain a lot in terms of weight if you choose quality. 

Composite surfskis are built either in fiberglass, Kevlar/carbon fiber or pure carbon fiber. The material is layered in several layers with a foam spacer in the middle. This makes the hull rigid without increasing the weight too much. Fiberglass surf skis are still quite heavy, so Nelo only builds their skis in Kevlar/carbon fiber blend or pure carbon fiber. So you can enjoy paddling (or carrying) an extremely stiff surf ski that only weighs 10 - 12,5 kg. 

How do I choose a surfski?

A perfect surfski should provide a balance between:

  • Speed
  • Stability
  • Ease of use

Your reference point: What do you use it for and how much experience do you have?

  • Are you a beginner who wants to learn to surf in waves?
  • Do you want to start paddling as a form of exercise in mainly protected water?
  • Or are you an advanced paddler who is looking for the best possible surfski?

If you spend most of your time at sea, always choose stability over speed. You need to feel confident even in bigger waves in order to develop your skills at sea - to speed up when needed and to be able to link waves. A minimum requirement is that you feel really confident in your skiing on flat water. You should be able to put the paddle down without having to focus on balance - preferably also in waves from e.g. motorboats. 

If you paddle mostly in flat water and want to use your surfski for shorter training sessions, you can choose a slightly narrower ski - as long as you can paddle it without problems in the conditions it will be used in. Keep in mind that waves and dangerous situations can also occur in lakes and other waterways.  

What should I consider before buying?

When you buy a surfski Is it important that you find a model that fits your size and weight. Composite models from Nelo comes in different sizes so that it becomes extra safe to find the right surfski.

Investing in good material and quality of manufacturing is something that makes itself paid in the long run. It improves life expectancy and second -hand value on your investment

Sitting comfort
A comfortable and at the same time upright sitting position makes a big difference, especially when you sit for a long time. You profit on this regardless of the level of knowledge.

Hull design
There are major differences in hull design, even when comparing surfski models of the same stability. Nelo's new hull concept has resulted in significant improvements in speed, although all models have more stability than the previous series. See more about the speed differences in our surf ski test.

Keep in mind that a surf ski will work better the more you can adapt it to your needs, such as changing the rudder for pure flat water paddling. Or is it easy to move the footrest when paddling without thick paddle shoes?



If there are three things to remember when choosing your new surf ski, they are:

  • Don't buy too tippy if you're going to paddle on the ocean
  • Think about where and how you'll be paddling
  • Find a surf ski that is right for your size and weight. 

 To get yourself prepared before your surfski session, checkout our surfski paddles, gear and clothes in the shop.

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Christian Dietz

Christian Dietz



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