Author Archives: SurfskiNorthwest



We are pleased to announce two upcoming demo days! Come out and demo the full Ocean Paddlesports line-up of Fenn surfskis and see why they are the best surfskis on the market.




Lake Padden, swim beach below bathroom




Bloedel Donavan Park on Lake Whatcom


Please feel free to contact us with specific demo wishes and we look forward to seeing you on the water. Remember to bring a lifejacket and appropriate coldwater paddling clothing. Demos will be rescheduled for high winds (aka nuking), please check this website prior to the demo day if it’s gusty for plan-B options. Please feel free to contact us for alternate demo opportunities at anytime throughout the year.


Hope to see you on the water!



Fenn Surfskis are made with pride in South Africa at the Fenn owned & operated factory, come check-out the quality of these amazing boats!

Vac Glass 31lbs $2500 Performance 34lbs $2795 Performance 34lbs $2695
Vac Hybrid 26 lbs $3100
Ultra 27.5 lbs $3795 ——
Vac Carbon 23 lbs $3900
Elite 24l lbs $5095 Elite 28lbs $3495

Hey Bellingham Surfskiers!


I am very pleased to say that I am coming back to Bellingham (my surfski roots) and I can’t wait to get the chance to paddle alongside the Bellingham crew once more. I will be racing in the Dan Harris Challenge, Lake Whatcom Race, and of course, I will be attending the Wednesday night race (where reputations are forged and shattered and pain is but a pastime).

I also wanted to announce that I will be doing a few paddling clinics for anyone who is interested. I have spent a lot of time, effort, and thought learning from the best and developing my stroke, training, and understanding of the sport.

I know a lot of you may be skeptical about improving flatwater stroke, but it is essential for any significant improvement. Just ask DJ about our whitewater days. In whitewater slalom we, along with the best whitewater racers in the world, would spend the first few months of EVERY year going back to the basics to tweak/improve our stroke (essentially, the foundation upon what your season is built).

The same is true for sprint national teams the world over. Even the best internationals refine and perfect their stroke every season. Therefore, in a sport like Surfski, where you don’t just paddle for 1000 meters in a race, but for tens of 1000s of meters, having the best flatwater stroke possible is paramount!

As for my flatwater stroke, I spent all of January, February, and March after returning from my South African surfski bonanza picking my stroke apart as I gear up for this season. If you are interested in benefiting from my experience, research, and training, then please attend one of my clinics.



Clinic Dates & Times

Saturday April 26th

Morning and Afternoon Session


Sunday April 27th

Afternoon Session – After Dirty Dan race


Friday May 2nd

Morning and Afternoon Sessions


Saturday May 3rd

Afternoon Session – After Lake Whatcom Race


Sessions will be limited to four paddlers. Please email DJ if you are interested in this coaching opportunity. I’m asking for a $30 donation for the coaching to help fund my next trip to South Africa to train and race in Fish Hoek next fall.



Please contact DJ at for more info and to sign-up for this coaching opportunity. He will work with all interested individuals to help arrange groups that will benefit all involved and set times/venue that work best for each clinic.


I look forward to seeing all of you & happy training!

- Austin

Vaikobi Press Release – Designed specifically for Performance Paddling

Picture 4North America- Austin Kieffer (USA) originally joined the Vaikobi Race Team, as one of the best up and coming paddlers in the US and Internationally. Austin loved the Vaikobi products and brand so much, that he wanted to become more involved and his experience and background made him a perfect fit for the Vaikobi Team.

Austin joins Vaikobi as our North American Marketing Representative and will be working hard to build our brand profile in the Paddle Sport market to support the growing number of stockists in North America.

Pat added that “From the first time I met Austin I was extremely impressed with him as an individual who is extremely capable and personable. His paddling & coaching skills on the water need no introduction and his passion for the Vaikobi brand is fantastic.”

Austin also represents Fenn Kayaks through the US based Ocean Paddle Sports.

Austin is based in San Diego, CA and can be contacted at: Ph +1 828 775 8989

For more information on Vaikobi, please visit For International Stockist inquiries, please contact


Europe- Robert Nagy (FRA) has joined Vaikobi as European Sales & Marketing Manager. With over a decade of experience in the watersports apparel industry plus a lifetime of high level racing in Sailboarding, Multihull, Olympic and Offshore Single Handed Sailing disciplines, Robert is well placed to help drive the Vaikobi business in Europe.

Robert is also the French Distributor for Epic Kayaks through his company, Wind Machine and will play a strong role for the Vaikobi brand both in France and throughout Europe.

Pat Langley, from Vaikobi, commented that, “Having worked with Robert over many years, we have developed a strong working relationship that will position us well as we grow in the watersports market in Europe. With our

strong focus on Paddle Sport, Robert will be working hard to support our building European network of stockists.”

Robert is based in Brittany, France and can be contacted at: Ph + 33 668 002 822

SoCal Warm Paddling!

Just spent a highly enjoyable long weekend paddling with the Ocean Paddlesports crew in Costa Mesa.  I brought WAY too much cold weather paddling gear for air temps around 70 (yes, the locals were complaining it was cold) & water temp in the 60’s.  We had great interval sessions, fun off-shore downwinders (had some Hawaii flashbacks as I skipped down the warm waves), and interesting spec-ski workouts.  I highly recommend putting this destination on your ‘A-list’ for a quick & affordable warm weather paddling trip.  DeAnne & Pat seem to have a constant stream of visitors and have a full fleet of new rental boats available.  Be warned though, if you go out with Pat, Rich, Austin & Andy for a morning interval workout, it’s going to hurt!1383718_649240668458389_2054184029_n

1st Container of 2014 Arrives!

1238709_643854365663686_222303461_nThe first Ocean Paddlesports shipment for 2014 just arrived with  all the latest & greatest Fenn surfskis and accessories.  All Fenn designs are now in stock, including the elite Glide & Spark, the proven downwind machine – Fenn Swordfish, and the reliable Blue Fin and XT.  Fenn surfskis are made with pride in South Africa and their quality construction, superior designs, and unbeatable price point make the 2014 Ocean Paddlesports line-up stronger than ever.  Please check out for more info. Feel free to contact me directly for any product info or demo opportunities in the PNW.  Fingers are crossed that 2014 will be an amazing downwind year! Looking forward to seeing you on the water.




Elite GLIDE Surfski

Another incredible elite ski from Fenn. Less rocker to compliment the flatter ocean, but turns out it surfs as good as the other elites.
Length 21′
Width 16.7″
Adjustable carbon foot pedals
Nice narrow catch with extra cut away
Left side surf start handle.
Everything you’d expect from a well made, well tested South African FENN.
$3900 in Carbon Vacum 23.5 lbs
$3200 in Carbon Hybrid Vacum 27 lbs


ELITE Spark Surfski

Awesome advanced paddlers ski specifically designed for 175 pounds or less. Shorter leg length adjustments means no hump to hinder the leg drive. A must try for anyone who is this size. On flat water it feels like a K1, on the bumps its a FENN!
Length 21′
Width 16’7″
Weight in Carbon Vacum 22Lbs.
Carbon Hybrid 26 lbs


Blue-Fin Surf Ski

By far the BEST entry level surfski on the market. Just try it and compare. The Fenn Blue-Fin has it all…… racy look, comfortable seat and Fenn durability.
Length 19’3″
Width 20.9″
Adjustable carbon foot pedals.
Left side handle.
This is a great performance surfski, not a kayak without a cockpit.
Extra stability will have the complete non paddler getting in the ocean on day ONE!!!!!!
$2500 fiberglass vacum 34 lbs
$3200 carbon Hybrid vacum 27 lbs

Want Surfski Training Input/Coaching?

Austin 1

Hey Pacific Northwest Surfski Paddlers!

After my 7-week training camp in South Africa, I am so fired up about the 2014 season and about surfski in general. I’ve been thinking a lot about training and racing over this past year and what it takes to train optimally for a sport like surfski. How do you approach an event, which looks like a strait forward endurance event on paper, but requires speed and accelerations bursts throughout? You need endurance to paddle hard for the whole race, balance, technique, and experience to handle the ocean, and the ability to accelerate during a race to take advantage of waves and drafting opportunities.

While I was in South Africa and throughout the past two years, I have had long conversations with everyone I could. Picking their brains about training, racing, and what surfski requires of them specifically.  I came into this sport with an extensive training background in whitewater slalom and over the past two years of inquiring, exploring, and experimenting, and after this trip to SA, I feel like I have the experience and information needed to develop an ideal training plan and make 2014 my best year yet.

If anyone is interested, I have also started to develop an archetype training program, distilling what I think are the most fundamental element of my training plan. Given the specifics of your goals, your personal training measurements, and regular updates via email, I believe I can help optimize your training and share my training research with you.

I am seriously pursuing surfski racing this year. My big goals are top American at US Surfski Champs in San Fran and return to SA for the Cape Point Challenge and improve on my result from 2013. I am excited about the sport and eager to share my passion and expertise. Please contact me if you are interested in receiving a training program and weekly training check-ins. The programs and coaching will be donation based and all coaching funds will go directly towards training & race expenses.  Please donate if you feel the help you are receiving is worthwhile – I would like to have the opportunity to help improve your ‘A-game’!

If you want a training schedule, please send me a set of information to help me personalize and trailer your training program.
•    What is your next major race you would like to train for
•    How long will this race take you to complete (Ideally)
•    What is your maximum paddling heart rate
•    When is your goal race
•    What will the conditions (or most likely conditions) be for your ideal race
•    How many times will you be able to paddle a week (including erg time, if you have one)
•    What is your main technical focus or element of your paddling that you would like to work on this year.

I would like to personalize every training program and keep up with you weekly via email. If you have time, I would like to hear from you once a week at the end of your training. Updating me on how you felt in your workouts, what went well in your training, and any concerns you may have about the program or workouts specifically.  Also, I plan on making trip to Bellingham throughout the year to paddle and race with the PNW crew & hope to be able run some surfski specific clinics during these trips.

Please feel free to contact me with any training or surfski related questions and hope you are having a blast on the water!

Austin Kieffer

or please contact me through FACEBOOK

For your viewing pleasure -

Picture 1

Below: Example of Training PlanPicture 2Below: Consider these tips for your next structured warm-up

Picture 3

WANT MORE? – Please feel free to contact me!

The ‘Cliff Notes’ from a racing trip of a lifetime!

Austin 2

Austin recently spent nearly two months in South Africa training & racing with some of the best paddlers in the world.  He was able end the trip with an impressive result of finishing ninth overall in the Cape Point Challenge, considered by many in the sport to be the most grueling single day surfski race on the international circuit.  Enjoy his reflections on his amazing trip!

Things I have learned about Surfski in Fish Hoek, by Austin Kieffer

•    Cut in front of people’s line of sight
It’s totally a dirty trick, but if possible cut in front of someone when surfing. I’m not talking about cutting them off or anything, nothing that douche-y, but crossing their line of sight a wave ahead is a surprising rhythm ruiner. Jasper did it a few times to me when doing training intervals and I was shocked at how I totally lost my rhythm and awareness of the waves.

•    Always cheat at the start!
- There are no gentlemen in Surfski racing and if you see an opportunity to get ahead, take it! This is most notable in the start, where you always want to be just in front and sprint off the line one second early.
- I’m a little submissive naturally and training by myself hasn’t allowed me the practice to stay just a beat ahead of the competition, but Japser keeps telling me in racing and in practice that if I’m not pushing the pace I’m just going to get left behind.

•    Be trained and practiced enough to start hard.
- I need to work on my starts. Racing with the SA guys starts fast and guaranteed within the first two minutes there is going to be a “second start” where they take off again.
- The key for me is to incorporate that fast start into my training. Almost all of my training before this has been threshold stuff, but I need the high-end speed to not get dropped right off the start.

•    Race as much as possible.
- The athletes in SA are lucky. They race twice a week. I’m not talking about their workouts, which are all competitive; I’m talking about time trials. Line up, 45min-75min all out race simulation, with a race start.
- You need more than one week to recover from a huge block of training.
- Even if you are doing almost nothing that week. Heavy training should be finished at least two weeks before a big race (better if three) and heavy pre-race training should never be more than you have done in weeks prior during that training year/cycle.

•    Never give up. Charge hard always.
- Mentally bank on people blowing out. It rarely happens, but you will never be able to capitalize on it if you have backed off the pace in defeat. Even if you are dropped off the lead pack.
- Never give ground expecting to make it up later.
- Even if you are feeling horrible, ground lost is almost impossible to gain back, especially in downwind conditions. Gut it out stick together with someone you want to beat. If you lose them you will lose drafting/pacing opportunities and even if they blow distance is hard to reclaim if you are both paddling.

•    Kill yourself in the start of a downwind section
- Get the first possible wave and gain your surfing speed/momentum
- Don’t think of the first wave you catch as the time to catch your breath after a hard upwind/race start. The first few minutes on the waves can really dictate your pacing for the downwind and also a lead gained here is very difficult to make up.
- Scramble for that first wave and really work for about 1km to set a fast surfing pace. Then settle into your rhythm and let the waves do the work.
- I often see the first wave as a chance to rest, but you always want to lead in the surf so rest after about 1km

•    Never lead a race.
- Even if you are feeling great, never take the lead. Stay with the leader, let them pull you or mark them. Only take the lead if you are confident you can make a break/ drop the competition. Any extra energy spent pulling a competitor is energy they will use to beat you.

•    Don’t just surf at one speed
- Make sure to train at different downwind speeds.
- For a practice during a workout, work as little as possible and really feel the waves and let the ocean do the work for you.  This can be good to learn when to push and capitalize when going hard
- For practice during another workout, paddle at long distance race pace. Race like you were in a 3-hour surfing race. By that I mean work hard, make sure you capitalize on every opportunity, but have the mentality of conserving as much energy as possible
- During another downwind workout, kill yourself on the downwind. Borderline on idiocy. Not necessary up and over waves, but if going over a small hump means a better wave, go over that damn hump. Rest on a wave only long enough to see the next opening.  This is a big one that I had never practiced. I had always seen surfing as a skill/using the water paddling. Talking with the Jasper Macoke, he said that when going for a good time on the Millers Run he his gasping for breath and paddling way harder than he would on flat water.

•    The key to downwind racing is to start fast (as already mention – but it’s important!).  Start like you were doing a 3km downwind and then see if you can start holding that pace with more rhythm and waves pushing you for the remainder of your downwind.
- Think about having three speeds for downwind racing (psycho fast sprint, fast, gliding) I think training at all these different speeds will help you learn more than just having one downwind speed.
- For ground swell particularly, wait till your nose is pointed down before you start gunning it.  I started out by always charging the back of waves and getting in the trough, knowing another big one was behind me. As a result, however, I always got some speed, but lost the big wave. I also discovered that I was wasting a huge amount of energy charging the back of waves. Instead, wait for the moment when the ski tips forward (you are on the face of the one behind) then put in an explosive spurt and I was surprised by how fast I surged forward and how that momentum allowed me to stay with the big wave longer.
- Paddle in a sprint and rest fashion when surfing. Avoid steady paddling!
- I have been really surprised to discover that steady paddling, even hard ‘getting after it’ paddling equates to slow surfing – don’t get caught in this rut!
- My best surfing has always come when I SPRINT then absolutely do nothing (paddles down) and surf. The faster I sprint/ the faster I surf, but if I don’t use the surf to rest (aka sprint the whole time) I am inevitably slow.  It’s a fine line, got to have gas in the tank & know when to use it.
- Sprint as soon as I see an opening, as early as possible, and stop as soon as possible.
- Look for openings vigilantly, and as soon as you see one hit the gas full throttle, immediately, and then stop at the first opportunity. Often this means stopping a little before you think you need to. Don’t sprint all the way into a trough, but sprint till you are just past the tipping point of a wave. Sometimes stopping even before that and letting your momentum carry you to your destination.

Enjoy the ride – Austin

Goodby 2013…

I owe a quick thank you to the entire paddling community for helping to make 2013 an outstanding year!  The year started out with a bang as Kristen and I welcomed our son, Hank, to the world.  He’s now an energetic eleven month old and it’s been fantastic watching him grow and become incredibly mobile.IMG_0330

Surprisingly, this also has also been my most fulfilling season in a surfski.  I entered the season with the mindset to enjoy the process of training & only selected a couple races to focus on. The depth & strength of our local community and the US Surfski community keeps getting stronger – everyone seems only to be getting faster, so watch out for the pace to bumping up a notch in 2014!

There were many paddling highlights from last year that made the season memorable.  Our Wednesday night drag races are always fun midweek burnouts, the local downwind crew was always eager to hit the bay for mild-to-mild conditions, enjoying a bit of Gorge downwind time & teaming up with Austin again for Wildside has become a summer tradition, and being part of a solid PNW crew at US Champs was good motivation to keep the boat moving throughout the year.  Looking forward to doing it all again and more next year!

The Ocean Paddlesports product line-up only continues to grow stronger and it’s been fun teaming up with them for the past three years.  The Fenn Surfski flotilla only continues to grow stronger with the addition of three new designs.  The Elite Spark & Elite Glide have the top end market nailed and it’s been impressive how these designs shine in all conditions.  Also, the new Blue Fin offers new paddlers the opportunity to hit the water and chase waves on a sleek comfortable ride.  The quality of the Fenn products speaks for itself and continues to goes unmatched.  We kept the boat transport company busy last year making local paddlers happy and look forward to doing it again next year.  Also, check out the new Mocke products that are uniquely designed specifically for surfski performance.  Look for the new Gara wing paddles that have taken over the South African surfski scene, new Jantex blades, and more exciting products to be hitting the water near you soon!

2011-08-12_12-51-37_88Big thank you to all local paddlers who have continued to support Ocean Paddlesports and we look forward to continue to offer quality surfski products & service at the best value on the market.  It’s been rewarding being a part of our paddling community and exciting to watch it continue to grow.  Hope to see you on the water soon!

Happy New Year,


Bellingham vs. Fish Hoek in December


Bellingham in December

Sunny / Wind
Combined Erg Workout and Nap Time during Cold Snap

Combined Erg Workout and Nap Time during Cold Snap

Sunny / Wind

27°F High
at 1:25 pm

15° Low
at 10:05 pm

Fish Hoek in December

Austin Happy

Very Happy Austin

Race Report – Cape Town Surfski Series

Austin is spending eight weeks in South Africa chasing some of the best surfski racers in world.  His plan is to compete in ten races during this trip – enjoy the write up on his SA race #2, way to represent!
Here is a little race update! :)

Today was another amazing race in South Africa. This week’s race in the Cape Town Surfski series was held in Strand, a town just about an hours drive along the coast of False Bay. The two days prior, there had been torrential thunderstorms and rain, but on race day morning, the storm seemed to have departed leaving in its wake all the trappings of a miserable race. The weather was cold, everything was soaking wet after the weekend deluge, the morning was dark and cloudy, and, the biggest nightmare for any good surfski race, there was no wind.

             The racecourse was going to be a quick 13k (8 mile) circuit, starting at the beach. Racers were to line up in the shallows, jump in the boat at the whistle and paddle out through the breakers. The course would then take a turn around a buoy roughly 1km out to sea and then turn upwind and out to sea for 2-3km. Racers were then to turn around a second buoy and surf downwind back to the original buoy near the start, then make another out-and-back lap, finishing on the beach. Boiled down it meant two 3 km grinds up into the wind and two 3km downwinds back to the start. Unfortunately, all the top guys were away in Hong Kong for the Dragon Run, but there were quite a few good locals, and the Fish Hoek guys who had been kicking my butt in the morning K-1 training sessions, so I new it would still be a fun race with good competition!

            And then, just before the race start, the weather turned our way. The sun broke out from behind the clouds, the wind kicked up and we had a proper surfski race on our hands. Strangely enough no one warmed up, but the pace still started out hard! We all jumped in our boats and sprinted off through the breakers. Nervous about getting left behind in the unfamiliar start conditions, I told myself to stay with the leaders, at whatever pace they dictated. On the first leg, from the break to the buoy, I lined up next to a rabbit that shot off the line, tearing his way to the turn buoy. Little did I know that this guy intended to jackrabbit like he was going to win the race, and then die a mere 10 minutes in. All I knew was “stay with him!” As I fell in behind him, I looked around to see where the other fast guys were. To my surprise, I realized that they were 50 meters behind me. I had gone out much too fast and with no warm up I was hurting.

I slowed down to let the lead pack catch up to me and then I tried to fall into their rhythm. We gobbled up the guy in front a few minutes later and then it was a five boat race. The double led the way and four singles, including myself, fell in behind on the first upwind grind. The leg was brutal. After my fast start and lack of warm-up, I was dying and just trying desperately to stay with the group and not get dropped. Unfortunately, I dropped off the end of the draft train before the turn buoy and as I turned around for the first downwind leg, I was disheartened to see that all three single boats were about 100m ahead of me, surfing on the waves. I was crushed.

I thought that the grind was going to be my strong point and my strategy was to not lose too much ground surfing. Yet here I was, behind on the surf and feeling miserable. I clung to the thought that the race was far from over, as I settled into my downwind. The waves were small, I’m sure pathetic for SA standards, but for me they were perfect runners. Despite the surfing I was surprised to find that I was still feeling miserable and making no ground on the leaders. My only hope was to conserve energy and at the moment I was continually paddling and letting the waves do none of the work. I needed to pause and attack, versus just grinding away. As soon as I changed my mindset, my surfing changed.  Whenever I was riding a wave, I refused to paddle, breathing deeply and trying to recover from that hectic start. And then as soon as I saw an opening I would sprint, get there as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then rest again. With this new strategy I started feeling better and I began to eat away at the distance separating me from the guy in third. I surfed my way right up to him and passed him as we went around the start buoy, marking the halfway point. The guys in first and second were about 50 meters ahead and the guy behind me was right on my tail.

Then a bit of good fortune came my way. Out of the wind chop a couple of bigger waves kicked up as we turned back out to sea. I just managed to sneak over the biggest one right before it crashed and as I dropped down the back face, I could only imagine what it had done to the guy behind me. Looking back, I could see that the wave had given me an extra 15 feet in my lead and filled his boat with water. I knew I had to capitalize and I took off after the leaders. Finally, I was feeling good and the race began to feel more like a tough threshold workout and less like death. After a few minutes of grinding away, I looked back to see that I had put quite a healthy lead on the paddler in fourth. I was able to turn all my attention to catching the leaders. One down, two to go.

I kept hammering away and right before the turn buoy, I managed to catch them and we turned around for the downwind in a pack. Right off the bat, however, they both caught a wave just ahead of me and pulled another little lead on me. I was churning away to trying to catch them again, but they were just opening the gap on me. I realized that after a comfortable upwind grind, I had already forgotten the pause-attack surfing strategy. As soon as my mindset changed again, I began linking runs and closing the gap. With about half a downwind to go, I drew level with the guy in second and then surfed past, connecting another run. That left only one.

As we closed the distance on the finish line, however, I realized that I was gaining, but not fast enough. With the beach drawing in and the finish in sight, I needed to make a move. This was racing after all and if I was going to hurt myself for the win, now was the time. I went for it. I kept the same surfing strategy, but I told myself, “GO FOR EVERY LITTLE OPENING”. The finish flags were closing in, but he was still managing to stay just a wave out of reach. And then with a bit of luck, he chose a bad wave that broke on him, turning him sideways and killing his speed. That was my opening. I took off and gave it everything I had to get the wave just in front of him … and I made it! The wave built up behind me and I skirted off ahead. I managed to link one more run and had a little extra juice in the tank at the thought of coming in first and I hit the beach, running my boat in for the win!





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