Surfing the Mini-Benny at San Onofre
Thursday April 26
By: Duane Strosaker

After work today, I went kayak surfing at San Onofre in my Mini Benny. I was working this morning in San Clemente, and all morning it was cool and cloudy. But by the time I arrived at San O' about noon, it was warm and sunny.

Waves on the outside break were a bit bigger than I was comfortable with, so I surfed the smaller 3-4 foot waves on the inside break. I had a lot of nice rides, and I'm slowly learning how to use the MB's full potential in the surf.

I've had a lot of questions about how the Mini Benny surfs, so here's a review. Again, surfing is only one aspect of the design. But that being said, it surfs awesome.

I've had it in the surf twice now, once in 3-4 foot fast breaking waves that were closing out with no shoulder to ride (Carbrillo Beach, California), and once in 3-4 foot spilling waves with nice shoulders to ride and much more workable (San Onofre, California). Paddling out is great. It has good speed, and it climbs over or punches the waves nicely. When the whitewash is 2-3 feet, it's nice to lean back and let the bow just ride over it as you go out.

It catches waves easily. You can catch them well before they are ready to break and get into a nice location on the wave. With a mild amount of rocker on the kayak, you want to avoid being pointed straight down the wave on a late take-off, or else the bow will dive, but you can still do a late take-off if you're turned diagonally.

This design turns on the waves much better than I anticipated. When I designed the boat, I wasn't sure if it would turn on waves sea kayak style (outside edge) or surf kayak style (inside edge). Amazingly, it does both, and which is best depends on how the kayak is sitting in the water. With the bow out of the water, it turns best surf kayak style, and with the bow in the water, it turns best sea kayak style. Surf kayak style, you lean into the turn and do a stern rudder, and the stern slides out nicely to help turn, so I don't think you'd want a skeg. Sea kayak style turning is like having power steering in a sports car. As you're surfing, you edge to the outside, and you can feel the chine carving the water. The kayak turns well enough that I can slowly cut back and forth on the waves. Still, it's not a surf kayakers boat, but rather a sea kayakers play boat. When the wave closes out, it helps to be down low on the wave, out in front of the wall of whitewash. The whitewash catches up to you, but a lot of times if you lean back far, you can keep the stern from getting lifted too much and sinking the bow. In bigger whitewash, it's best to just get turned sideways and brace into the wave.

With the "maximum low chine," you really do have to watch your edge control. Those chines are grabby, so it's not a real forgiving kayak. While I was still getting used to the kayak in the fast breaking closed-out surf, I got capsized over 10 times (rolled up each time)in 1 1/2 hours. As I got used to the kayak and was on more workable waves, I got capsized only once in 1 1/2 hours. But those grabby chines are also the kayak's best performance feature, not only for surfing, but also for touring. The Mini Benny rolls easily. Although I have excellent combat rolls with a paddle, my hand roll has always been weak. I did a half dozen hand rolls today, either side. If I can hand roll it, anybody can.


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