Surf ski is a sport of racing a specialized kayak. It's usually seen in warmer climates and on the white caps of the ocean.
But, Ron Kaiser, of Loyalsock Township, uses the West Branch of the Susquehanna River to practice for competitions in the sport.
"Basically, it is a fairly elongated kayak with a molded seat you sit inside," he said.
"When you are out in the ocean, you are on some big waves and when the waves come up behind the boat they have a rocker tool. It will lift up your boat and you can accelerate on the wave," Kaiser added.
Though surf ski kayaks are made for the ocean, Kaiser and his wife, Kate, competed Aug. 7-12 in several events during the USCA National Canoe and Kayak Championships, which were held in Warren, on the waters of the Kinzua Dam, Allegheny River and Chapman Lake.
The event is sanctioned by the United States Canoe Association and includes category such as sprint, biathlon, canoe/kayak orienteering, and marathon racing. The association also holds a national open championship and age class championships in canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle board.
What's amazing about this type of boat is it can adjust to just about any body of water, Kaiser said.
"It is like a sit-on-top kayak, just on steroids," he said.
The paddles most commonly used are what Kaiser described as wing paddles, similar to what may have been seen in use during the Summer Olympics. Wing paddles are designed to cut the water more efficiently, a practical use because surf skiing is about gaining speed and maintaining it.
Kaiser practices and conditions on the river, mostly just above or below the dam.
"I try to get out every night" to practice during the hardcore part of the season, he said.
He uses wakes from other boats on the river to go through his techniques.
"I like going up when the motorboats are running, just for the practice, for agility, to be able to stay on top of it," he said.
Pontoon boats are his favorite.
"They get a huge wave behind them, and I can literally ride it across the river," Kaiser said.
He prefers to do most of his practice from April through September, but he isn't limited to those months.
"If the water isn't frozen, I try to be on it," he said.
Practice ranges from about an hour to 90 minutes. He tries to reach a high-intensity paddle, which can achieve speeds of 7 mph or better, "and to keep it there. Sounds easy, but it can be hard," he said.
People are very curious about the boats when they see them. Kaiser said they ask more about their weight than anything.
"The one I just got is 21 feet-and-some inches. It weighs 9 pounds. It's just light and fast," he said. "When you pick it up, everyone thinks, 'Wow, that is really heavy.' Then you start explaining how diverse they are."
For those who are older, Kaiser said it might be worth spending a little more money to buy a lighter boat, because taking it on and off a vehicle is much easier. It also is much easier to get in and out of them.
Between marathons and sprints, Kaiser has won national competitions 21 times.
He has competed in the ocean, too. During one race in Nags Head, N.C., the winds were hitting 35 mph.
"It was real rough," Kaiser said.
His boat would rise all the way out of the water and then go all the way under again and again.
"It was pretty fun," he added.
The recent race in Warren proved fun and successful.
"On Sunday, there were probably about 2 1/2-foot standing foot waves to 3 feet. We had to go right down the center of it and the boat literally filled with water," he said. "My wife was paddling and we kept accelerating."
The boat took on a lot of water but, as with surf ski kayaks, it didn't take long for it to drain out.
They competed in the USCA Marathon Nationals in the K2 Unlimited Mixed (Trial) and took first place.
His wife also took first with her partner, Susan Williams, formerly of Montoursville, in the K2W Master J100 event.
Ron placed first with his partner, Gary Ballina, of Elizabethtown, in the K2 Unlimited Men event.
K1 and K2 refer to a kayak category with one and two aboard. J100 is a specific boat number.
Kaiser hit third place in the K1 Man Sprints at the event.
"I got beat out by 4/100th of a second ... so close that me and the other guy had no idea which one won," he said.