Point 5 Micro - Kids Surf Ski

Saturday, 18 February 2006 19:03 | Written by 
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The .5 Micro
2006 will see at least five new surf skis on the market in South Africa (a single and a double from Fenn Kayaks; a double from Custom Kayaks and two new singles from Epic). But all of these, and indeed all the existing models, are designed for adults. In K1, there are various "guppy" kayaks - where are the surf skis for kids?

Answer: there aren't any. [It's been pointed out to me that Stealth Performance Products in Durban, South Africa sell a kid's ski called a "Stealth Junya". To see their product range, click here.]

Stephen Winning, from New Jersey, USA wanted a surf ski for his son Duncan, aged 8. There being nothing available, he decided to build one. He'd previously built two Greenland style kayaks, but wanted something more stable so that could give young Duncan "the excitement of catching a wave, train his balance skills, but have enough secondary stability that his confidence level could remain high." 

The Greenland kayaks had clearly given Duncan some scary experiences: And, "once afraid, it could be a month before he wanted to give it another try."

Paddler Specifications 

Duncan is 8 years old and weighs 65lb (30kg).

Ski Specifications 

The ski measures 12' x 14" (3.66m x 36cm) and is adjustable to about 54" (1.37m)

The hull is hard chined and Swede form; it has substantial rocker aft - about 3" (7.6cm) and about 1.5" (3.8cm) at the bow. The aft section is slightly hog-backed with a drop in the sheer line into the stern with the stern chopped off.
The intent of the hull design above the waterline aft were a) to add enough volume to keep the bow down and b) to reduce the volume far aft to help keep the bow from digging in.

The bow and fore deck are high in volume for a kid-size ski. "This was intentional as I could not expect water conditions to be proportionately smaller when trying to catch a wave," said Stephen.

The gunwale height is 4.75" (12.1cm) at beam, with flare in the seating area slightly decreasing aft. The rocker, flare and width were all designed to increase secondary stability.

The bow height is about 11" (28cm).


  • .25" plywood (thick veneer)
  • 6oz cloth
  • System three epoxy.

Building and testing

Method:  stitch and glue approach. 

...stitch and glue

Working from half breadths of sections ,.5" (1.3cm) plywood was routed to the form shape and the centre was cut out to make a light weight frame.

Once the hull was built and glassed the proposed deck shape was covered in plastic and Stephen (and Duncan) carried out trim tests in a variety of conditions.

Performance so far: 

Keep those arms straight!

...that's it!

The ski has been a success. Stephen said, "So far I am happy that my son is very comfortable. We have had some great fun catching boat wakes in the river. This past summer we found a great sand bar in some ocean soup. He had a great time riding the froth in and I had a better one watching." 


...eager to give it a try

Whenever they take the ski to the river beach, there are always other children eager to give it a try, the stability of the ski making it ideal for first-timers.

Any downsides? "The ski turned out heavier than I expected it to be," said Stephen, "and I am going to redesign the rudder for better tracking when starting out on a wave." 

And the paddle?

Also built by Stephen. "The paddle in the pictures I did in an afternoon," he said. "I made a non-feathered hybrid wing from a piece of quarter sawn western red cedar. My son has only known narrow non-feathered Inuit style blades so I tried to minimize too much of a change." 

Makes you wonder what Stephen does for a living! And the answer?

He's worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker and finisher for about 15 years. "My first kayak was a skin boat built about 12 years ago," he said, "Currently, I'm building a full size ski in cedar strip with the intentions of making a mould if it handles the way I want it to. This past season my paddling partner and I busted up our skis pretty good and SA is a long way to go for a ski. I have built patterns/plugs and moulds before, it takes a lot of work and thought." 

Stephen can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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