Freighter Surfing Kayak Class

Covid-19 Update:  SBP is now open to individual and small groups (4p max).

We’ll maintain a 6′ distance on shore and on-water, recommended mask use on shore. All gear is always cleaned. 

Freighter Surfing Kayak Class – 

Learn to surf on Puget Sound in Seattle in this freighter surfing kayak class! Catch freighter waves generated by fast moving ships. Waves can get 3′-6′ high with rides up to a minute and sessions lasting up to 45 minutes.

Beginner surfers will learn kayak surfing basics in a safe and friendly environment. Experienced surfers will learn new skills, how to surf downwind boards and closer to Seattle.

We discovered these waves in 2002 and have since been honing our ship spotting skills and figuring out the best tides and locations to catch these waves.

This is a rare opportunity to surf good waves more than 100 miles from the ocean.  Once you learn where and when to catch waves, you’ll find regular surf in Seattle.

Don’t need a class? Get my Freighter Wave Surfing Manual to find out where and when to catch epic waves on Puget Sound.

Outrigger canoes and surf skis are welcome to take this class.

*COVID NOTE: SUP Surf Classes on the coast will not happen until Phase 3. Take advantage of Freighter Surfing if you’re local to the Seattle area!!

**All my rental gear is cleaned after each use. Proper social distancing will occur on land and water.

Read More about Freighter Surfing in Stand Up Journal, SUP Magazine and Stand Up Paddle Surf, The Inertia and Evening Magazine.

What’s the Difference Between Freighter and Tug Waves?

Freighter waves originate from fast moving ships in the shipping lane. As the ships pass, their waves head to shore where we’re waiting. Season is Spring to early Fall due to daytime low tides.

Tug waves are large boat wakes vs a beach break. Waves occur in deep water half a mile offshore. Only available Wednesdays and some Fridays all year.  Click Here to Read About Tug Wave Surfing. >>

Core Skills You’ll Gain
(Classes will be customized to your needs)

  • Receive a Freighter Surfing Manual to learn where and when to catch waves on the Sound.
  • Learn how to catch waves, turn, stop, capsize and recover and paddle out over waves.
  • Catch more waves with smarter wave selection, timing and placement
  • Get bomber stability skills in the surf zone which will benefit all types of paddling.
  • Find out how to surf your sea kayak
  • Save energy by learning easy turning techniques before, during and after your ride
  • Avoid collisions and stress with others in the surf zone using Surfer’s Etiquette
  • Catch more waves learning to surf small boat wakes in between freighters
  • How to choose the best equipment and clothing for NW surfing
  • Refine your forward stroke so you can paddle out faster with less effort

Skill Prerequisites: Advanced Beginner

You should be comfortable paddling over boat wakes and in wind waves. You should be in good physical shape as surfing can be exhausting. You know know how to wet-exit and get back on your board. Take my Kayak Level 1 and/or 2 if you’re not comfortable or unsure with the above requirements.

Already a Kayak Surfer? These waves will keep you in shape when you can’t get to the coast. We’ve been stumped at the coast and sometimes have had better success in Seattle! 


I can’t guarantee waves. Freighter waves can be fickle. On no wave days I’ll teach you the strokes we commonly use in surfing or bombproof your current skills. These core strokes will increase your wave count both here and on the coast. I’ll cover self-rescue, water safety and rescues for rough water conditions and where to find and how to forecast tug and freighter waves. I offer one free followup class for students who don’t catch a wave during their first class.

I took a freighter surfing course with Rob and it was amazing! Rob puts safety first every stroke, every pivot turn all the way and opens a whole new world of SUPin for every paddler in the Puget Sound Area.

Margrit Ralph

Rob is fantastic! Had a great time learning to freighter surf and as a bonus feel way more comfortable maneuvering my board.

Anna Larson Newton

Lesson Details:

Covid Notice – SBP is open for classes. A maximum of 4 allowed in each class. Distancing will be followed on land and water. Recommended use of masks on shore. Equipment is regularly cleaned. 

2020 Dates:

Sept 16, 17, 18, 19, 30 / Oct 2, 16, 17. End of Season

Duration: 3 Hours. Class Size: 1 – 4 People

Skill Level: *Intermediate. You should be comfortable paddling in small waves and chop and know how to wet-exit.

Location: Ballard Elks Beach, Shilshole Bay, Seattle.

Instructor to Student Ratio: 1-4

* FREE Follow-up Class for students who don’t catch a wave during their first class.

Not interested in a class? Get my Freighter Wave Surfing Manual which shows you how, where and when to surf waves in Puget Sound.


Private Group Class (3-4 Students): 149 per person with clothing rentals / 170 per person with your gear.

2 Person Rate: 190 per person with clothing rentals / 170 per person with your gear

Individual Rate (1-1): 299 with rentals / 273 with your own gear. *1-1 Classes Bonus – You also get my $77 value online Puget Sound Surfing Guide as part of your class cost! This will save you tons time of trying to figure out where to be and when. 

* Rentals Include:  PFD (life vest), toasty wetsuit, booties, helmet, gloves.

Alumni/Repeat Classes: $10 off per person.

Rates are non-negotiable

Bringing your own gear?  Stable surf style boards and displacement boards to 17 feet hard or inflatable. Leashes and PFDs required (Shilshole Bay is considered a flat water inland waterway by the CG). Wetsuits required Fall – Spring.

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