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At first glance most folks see this word and think of a steak and shrimp combo meal for nutrition, but some folks in the outdoor world know this term to be something very satisfying for the mind and body!

Surf-n-Turf: The act of whitewater kayaking and mountain biking in the same day.

Like many weekend warriors, I am often looking to capitalize on the most fun I can have on some given Saturdays when feeling highly motivated and have all day open. Combining my passion for both kayaking and MTB into the same day takes a great deal of logistics, gear preparation and of course highly motivated friends to share in the adventures.

A few weekends ago Ryan Horn, Brian Vermillion and I put together a great surf-n-turf day on West Fork Tuckasegee in Cullowhee, NC and Fire Mountain Trails in Cheerokee, NC. This fun filled day got me pondering about how lucky we are in the southeast to accomplish this act this with many different options and at many different levels with all the great rivers/streams and trail systems we have for combos.

To make a surf-n-turf a success the first obstacle one must overcome is making sure they have the physical and mental skill sets needed to complete each activity safely. Each sport has its own progression set and this must be taken into account when putting together a surf-n-turf with friends to make for a fun day throughout. #safeisisexy


Your river/stream and trail options need to be located close enough that travel between the two activities does not become a major stumbling block. I usually like to keep it within less than an hour between trail and river. I find it more advantageous to knock out the paddling first and leave the biking for the second activity, since it is more aerobic. The couple of times I have biked first and then paddled second I found myself beatering on the river from lack of metal acuteness and being a bit more physically exhausted. Another key for success is picking a dam released river, so you know water flows will be optimal and the weather will still be dry for good riding on the trails.

Over recent years I have found many fun options with friends for surf-n-turf combos:

*Nolichucky Gorge & Pinnacle Mountain Tower Trail
*Nolichucky Gorge & Buffalo Mountain Trails
*Nolichucky Gorge & Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park
*Doe River & Hampton Watershed Trails
*Watauga Gorge & Beech Mountain Bike Park
*Watauga Gorge & Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park
*Wilson Creek Gorge & Hadley’s Trail (truck shuttle DH) – There are a ton of other trails nearby for enduro or XC.
*Green River Narrows & Green River Game Land Trails
*Green River Narrows & Bent Creek Mountain Bike Trails
*Green River Narrows & DuPont State Forest Trails
*French Broad Section 9 or Big Laurel & Bailey Mountain Bike Park
*Gauley & Snowshoe Bike Park (this one is a stretch to pull off in a day without only doing a half day at the bike park)
*Crooked Fork & Windrock Bike Park
*Ocoee & Chilhowee Mountain Bike Trails – Many other trail systems in the area too.
*Nantahala & Tsali Mountain Bike Trails or Fire Mountain Trails
*Cheoah & Tsali Mountain Bike Trails

I’m sure there are many other great combos out there when the stars line up too. I would love to hear about some of your other surf-n-turf combos for future inspiration?

~Gear Preparation~

Both sports use a lot gear and equipment! It is important to make sure you don’t forget something when packing for the adventures, so you don’t become that friend in the parking lot who forgot some essential piece of gear. Keeping a check list handy is an easy way to keep all this organized:

spray skirt
paddling helmet
paddling footwear – closed toe shoes
throw rope
first aid kit
paddling layers – as needed with season
elbow pads
water bottle(s)
bike helmet
bike shoes
protective gear – as needed with MTB discipline
bike jersey
bike shorts
bike socks
snacks & drinks
change of clothes
changing robe
rain jacket

I find it best to pack each sport into a separate bag to keep track of all this gear. You are also going to need a good rack system on your vehicle to be able to carry both your bikes and boats together.

~Highly Motivated Friends~

This is the most important part of the equation for me! Sharing these multi-sport days in the great outdoors with other like minded people is what truly makes a surf-n-turf an amazing experience. Finding friends in this nature creates a bond like no other.

We find it most fun as a whole when we have similar skill sets to one another when on missions together. However, sometimes having varying skill sets among friends in the group aids in progression to encourage one another in our own unique ways.

I also find it fun on occasions to meetup with a group of boating buddies and then another group of biking buddies on a surf-n-turf to hang out with many different friends in one day.

I also find it helpful to keep surf-n-turf groups on the smaller size (5 people or less) for less “drama” or potential mishaps. Making sure you have a solid plan for meet-up, shuttle, etc… and realistic expectations in each activity is key in keeping the group jiving together. The fun and fellowship of the road trip together is always half of the adventure too!

If you enjoy both biking and kayaking I would encourage you to give a surf-n-turf a go one day when you have the time and a friend to tag along. I think you will find at the end the day a well worn sense of accomplishment in having the most fun one can fit into a day! 🙂