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17 Different Types of Kayaks

A woman riding a kayak.

Nine kayak styles fall into two main categories: whitewater and Flatwater. Whitewater has four types of kayaks while flatwater has five. There are also two modern portable kayaks called modular and folding kayaks. We will tell you about them in-depth.

If you are planning on purchasing a kayak, bear in mind that the water type is significant in determining the right one for you. While some are flexible, please read this entire guide before making a decision.

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What is the Difference Between Whitewater and Flatwater Kayaks?

Whitewater kayaking is far more difficult than flatwater kayaking, which takes place on a calm body of water. You can do whitewater kayaking anywhere that isn’t considered flatwater, including big rivers with strong currents and the ocean.

Before venturing into the wilds of whitewater, you must master the fundamentals of flatwater kayaking. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s highly risky.

Kayaks for Whitewater

A man kayaking on river.

A lot of new kayakers make the mistake of choosing a playboat for flatwater.  Here are the whitewater kayaks:

  • Inflatable
  • Old School
  • Creek boats
  • River runners
  • Playboat

River Runner Kayak

The length of River Runners is typically between 7 and 8 feet. Long flat portions of the river will require this length to allow you some tracking ability while still being short enough to get around tight turns.

A couple of days’ worth of gear may be stored comfortably in these kayaks.

Meanwhile, the low-volume design of river runners allows them to go more quickly through the water. Additionally, their hulls are more defined and flattened, which can help them surf better, even if it means sacrificing some maneuverability.

River runners are a popular choice for whitewater enthusiasts because of their versatility. These kayaks are popular among those who prefer paddling on calm to moderate rivers.

On large bodies of water, however, some highly competent paddlers like them because they are swift and tough.

Pros:

  • An adaptable style
  • Superior to a playboat in terms of tracking
  • Small batch production for faster speeds
  • Surfing skills of a reasonable standard

Cons:

  • As compared to playboats, they are less agile.
  • Avoid performing tricks or aerials with it.

Creeker kayak

A man riding yellow kayak.

There is a lot of volume in creek boats (Creekers) that allow you to resurface. In addition to being incredibly comfy, they’re also usually designed a little more robustly to withstand the shock of a fall. If you’re a novice, proceed with caution.

Displacement hulls are found in some creek boats. Displacement hulls are great for drops, but they can be challenging to handle in holes and while crossing eddy lines when running rivers.

You should use a planing hull if you’re just getting started. More water can be handled by planing hulls. For creeks and large drops, displacement hulls are the best choice. However, I’m sure you’ll come across someone who disagrees with me.

Pros:

  • Submergence is difficult.
  • Large water no problem
  • Improved tracking is possible due to the lengthened length.
  • Diverse designs for a diverse range of circumstances

Cons:

  • Unlike playboats, they aren’t as good at performing tricks.

Playboat Kayak

These kayaks are mostly intended for short trips to secluded coves and bays where you may play in the swells and holes that form. If you intend to travel up and down the river from one point, do not purchase one of these boats.

As a result of the wish to feel in oneness with their kayak, playboats are inherently uncomfortably fitted. The length of these kayaks is often less than six feet. These activities are plenty of fun if you can find a place with waves and holes to do them.

As its name implies, playboats are small, fast, and easy to maneuver in tight spaces. These characteristics make them the ideal kayak for exploring tiny stretches of the river. As a result, the tracking ability of the vehicle is reduced.

As a result, extensive river descents in playboats are not recommended.

In large water, playboats could be hard to operate. These kayaks, on the other hand, are best suited to experienced paddlers who know how to handle them in high-risk scenarios.

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Pros:

  • It’s nimble and quick to react.
  • Because of their short length, they are easily transportable.
  • Playful, though not suitable for novices

Cons:

  • Inadequate ability to keep track
  • Unsuitable for river sluices and drops.

Long Boats(Old School Kayak)

A long boat kayak on a river bank.

There are a lot of Long Boats (Old School Kayaks) to be found on used sites. These are vintage kayaks from the 1980s and 1990s. If you know what you’re looking for, they can be really helpful.

Their length is considerable when compared to modern vessels. Ten to twelve feet is typical.

If you’re running a river with a lot of flatwater between rapids, this extra length is a boon. If you’re making some tight turns, their length could be a concern.

Another drawback is that the cockpit, which is typically fairly small, isn’t as welcoming as one would expect on a modern boat.

Large kayak cockpits are also necessary for safety reasons. When you’re in a pinch, it’s wonderful to be able to get out of the huge cockpit on newer boats quickly.

Duckies(Inflatable kayaks)

Driftsun Rover 220 Inflatable Tandem Kayak Inflatable White-Water Kayak with High Pressure Floor and EVA Padded Seats, High Back Support, Action Cam Mount, Aluminum Paddles, and Pump

It’s important to note that inflatable whitewater kayaks (Duckies) are the exact opposite of flatwater kayaks, which aren’t that great.

An excellent method to get started on whitewater kayaking is using an inflatable kayak. Because they are so wide, they have a great deal of stability. That much stuff is no problem for them.

Compared to hard-shell whitewater kayaks, these are more pleasant to paddle since you may occasionally adjust your position. Once properly trained, you can run class II and III rivers in it. The only rivers where they don’t work as well are those with a lot of sharp twists.

All of these kayaks have been adapted into hybrids. “Free Running Kayak,” for example, is the name given to the cross between a playboat and a river runner.

They’re long and comfortable enough to get you down the river, but they also allow you to stop and play if you find a great area.

Pros:

  • Great kayak for beginners
  • Designed for portability and ease of use.
  • Sturdy structure with a large footprint
  • Won’t have to worry about learning how to roll

Cons:

  • Not as flexible as its whitewater counterparts

Flat Water Kayaks

  • Pedaling
  • Inflatable
  • Touring (sea and day tour)
  • Recreational (including youth kayak.)
  • Sit on top (including tandem and fishing kayaks)

Sit-on-top kayaks

You can get in and out of sit-on-top kayaks easily because they don’t have a closed cockpit. Their central stability is enhanced by their broad design. For fishing, they’re ideal because all of your equipment is within easy reach.

If you’re careful, you can avoid getting wet, but most of the time you’ll be splashed with water, which is great in the summer but not so great in the winter.

Even if you don’t want to go for a swim, you’re able to enter some of these kayaks while floating in the water with some practice.

Pros:

  • In calm water, remarkably stable.
  • Simple to enter and exit
  • Ample space for the legs and comfort
  • Design that is easy to use

Cons:

  • In choppy water, It’s not the best
  • There is just so much room to maneuver in such scenarios

Tandem Kayak

Lifetime Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak

Any kayak large enough to hold two people is referred to as a tandem kayak. Sea kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks, for example, are available in both tandem and solo configurations.

There aren’t many commonalities among tandem kayaks due to the wide variety of designs.

Due to their heavier weight and higher cost, tandem kayaks are typically less popular with paddlers. However, tandem kayaks are more stable due to their larger and longer design than solo kayaks.

The downside of tandem kayaks is that it can be difficult to competently paddle them with another person in your kayak. – The presence of another person in the kayak might help novice paddlers feel more at ease in the water.

As a result, everything comes down to how you look at it.

Pros:

  • Superior to a solo kayak in terms of stability
  • Paddling with family and friends is more fun when you have a partner to lean on

Cons:

  • Kayaking with another individual might be challenging
  • Compared to solo kayaks, these are typically more cumbersome

Fishing Kayak

If you’re a fisherman, a fishing kayak may be just the ticket. With broad, flat hulls, fishing kayaks offer excellent water steadiness for throwing lines.

Fishing-specific components, such as rod mounts and cooler storage compartments, are common. Fishfinders, GPS gadgets, and more can be attached to the top-of-the-line kayaks with built-in racks.

Fishing kayaks, on the other hand, are more versatile than many of the specialist kayaks in this category. In a calm body of water, they can be used as a sit-on-top kayak with fishing-specific characteristics.

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In comparison to regular sit-on-top kayaks, fishing kayaks are both heavy and more costly. So, if fishing isn’t your scene, then you may be happier off with a recreational kayak rather than a fishing kayak.

Pros:

  • The design is wide, sturdy, and comfy.
  • Fishing-related elements are included.
  • Construction with a lot of flexibility

Cons:

  • More costly than normal kayaks with a sit-on-top.
  • Weighty as a result of the additional fishing features.

Recreational Kayaks

Pelican - Maxim 100X Recreational Kayak - Sit-in - Lightweight one Person Kayak - 10ft

Closed cockpits are common in recreational kayaks, although the openings tend to be rather large, allowing you to comfortably accommodate a young child. Shorter than touring kayaks, they typically measure less than 10 feet in length.

They’re great because you can keep the cockpit open in the summer for a cool ride, but you can also use a skirt in the winter for a dry and toasty ride.

Because recreational kayaks are shorter, they are more convenient to store and transport than long-distance kayaks. Because of their shorter length, they are slower than touring kayaks and therefore less versatile.

When you don’t want your kayak to turn, you can use tracking to keep it going straight.

When paddling on the left, a kayak that doesn’t track well will turn to the right and vice versa. The longer a kayak is, the more stable it is on the water. Skegs and rudders are optional attachments for some recreational kayaks to improve tracking.

Pros:

  • Cockpit area large enough for simple entry and egress
  • Generally, it’s a solid foundation
  • Paddling and maneuvering this boat is a breeze.
  • A reasonable price

Cons:

  • In choppy water, it struggles
  • Long distances are difficult to track
  • The emphasis is on comfort rather than functionality

Youth Kayak

Youth kayaks, as the name suggests, are made with children in mind. These kayaks look like recreational kayaks for adults, but they’re made for children.

There are a large number of sit-on-top kayaks for children on the market since they are the most convenient for getting in and out of. However, most kayaks for young children are between six and nine feet in length.

In addition to their smaller size, youth kayaks have the advantage of being very inexpensive and easily transported. The cost of most children’s kayaks is a fraction of the cost of comparable models for adults.

In addition, because of their smaller size and lighter weight, youth kayaks are convenient to take to the waterways they frequent.

Youth kayaks, on the other hand, have a severe drawback: a short lifespan. If your child grows out of their youth kayak, you could always sell it.

While these kayaks are great for kids, they’ll only last so long before they need to be replaced with something more appropriate for adults.

Touring Kayaks

BKC SK287 Angler Touring Kayak – 14.75-Foot Solo Distance Sit-in Travel Kayak for Open Water Paddling, Collapsible Paddle Included

Touring kayaks are often longer than 12 feet and feature smaller cockpits, making them ideal for extended paddles.

They are also narrower. When the kayak flips over, the paddlers can use their thighs and hips to roll themselves back to their feet using the thigh bracing in the smaller cockpit. Since they’re so long and skinny, they move quite quickly.

A rudder is a common feature on most touring kayaks. Because of their length, they are difficult to store and move. A sit-on-top kayak or recreational kayak would be more appropriate for a family outing to the lake, where these kayaks are more commonly utilized.

Day Touring Kayak

Day touring kayaks are a good alternative for lengthy day journeys because they are designed to be an intermediate between leisure and expedition-style sea kayaks.

The length of these kayaks ranges from 10 to 14 feet, which makes them more stable than a typical recreational model. Relative to a leisure kayak, they tend to have more slender designs and smaller cockpits.

However, for intermediate paddlers, day-touring kayaks are rather comfy.

In windy situations, a skeg, which is common on several days touring kayaks, can assist with handling and tracking. In turbulent water, these kayaks provide a little more stability, but not enough to make them suitable for ocean paddling.

Pros:

  • Secondary stability has been improved
  • Skegs are commonly used to improve tracking
  • Perfect for paddlers with some experience
  • The cockpit is fairly accessible

Cons:

  • It’s not as good as a sea kayak on turbulent water
  • Compared to a recreational kayak, it is less steady in calm water

Sea Touring Kayaks

People kayaking near the mountain.

These long, slender vessels, sometimes known as expedition kayaks, are built for use on the ocean. Most tandem types are between 14 and 18 feet long, although some have the potential to grow up to 21 feet long.

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Sea kayaks are both lengthier and slimmer than day-tour kayaks. Sea kayaks benefit greatly from having these two features because they can perform better in tough situations. In addition, most sea kayaks feature either a rudder or skeg, which improves their ability to track.

There are numerous places for stuff to be stored in sea kayaks. On longer camping expeditions, they typically include two or three dry hatches and a plethora of deck bungees for storing gear.

The long, thin design of a sea kayak, on the other hand, results in a smaller cockpit. Some people find it difficult to sit in a sea kayak for long periods, but this is a problem that most individuals can overcome with practice.

Pros:

  • Secondary stability in choppy water is improved
  • Numerous ways to store your equipment.
  • Tracking is improved with a longer length as well as rudder/skeg
  • Perfectly suited for extended kayaking journeys

Cons:

  • It’s possible to feel uneasy
  • Costs a lot of money
  • Flatwater is less stable.

Pedaling Kayak

Perception Crank 10 | Sit on Top Pedal Kayak | Adjustable Lawn Chair Seat | 10' | Dapper

The only time your arms are needed is when you’re pushing into shore, which makes pedaling kayaks ideal for anyone with back or shoulder issues.

The “slow-twitch” fibers in your legs and feet are better for a longer duration than your arms’ “fast-twitch” fibers, so you can cover greater distances with them. The most significant drawback of these kayaks is their high cost.

Pedaling a propeller-powered vehicle is similar to pedaling a bicycle. As for the others, they use their fins as a fish does.

Pros:

  • Ideal for those who are unable to move about easily
  • Comfortable and secure
  • In calm weather, it is rather straightforward to maneuver

Cons:

  • Perfect for a few kayak fishing excursions
  • Unsuitable for use in windy or rainy environments

Inflatable Kayaks

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump

If you’re going on paddle trips occasionally across your local lake or pond, and you’d like something simple and inexpensive, an inflatable flatwater kayak is for you. Try for the best quality so you won’t have to be concerned about popping them. They don’t track well.

If you’re not an expert, please do not use it in the sea. Also, aim for the more modern ones that are created to deliver stability and dependable performance similar to the hard-shell versions. A plus for these is that they are easy to carry, inflate, deflate and place in the trunk.

Pros:

  • Oftentimes, it’s a bargain.
  • Conveniently designed
  • Calibrated in calm seas
  • Incredibly portable

Cons:

  • In windy situations, it’s not the best

Portable Kayaks

Modular Kayaks

Modular kayaks, sometimes called snap kayaks, are a relatively new style of kayak. These kayaks, in contrast to folding kayaks, disassemble into two or three pieces for simple storage.

Before you hit the water, you can rapidly assemble these kayaks by snapping their components together like a jigsaw. When it’s time to leave, simply take the components apart, load them into your car, and drive away.

Modular kayaks are far superior to folding kayaks in terms of both durability and adaptability. Some variants of these kayaks are more equipped for sea kayaking than every folding kayak in the industry because they are made from plastic.

To make matters more difficult, modular kayaks do not fold flat like a traditional plastic kayaks. These kayaks are also modern, with only a small number of manufacturers producing them. As a result, the price of a modular kayak is likely to rise.

Pros:

  • Durability is ensured by the use of plastic
  • Can be disassembled for storing in various pieces
  • Variety of styles to choose from, including several that are ideal for sea kayaking

Cons:

  • If you’re taking this on an airplane, don’t fold it flat
  • It’s not cheap

Folding Kayaks

A middle age man fodling a kayak.

Paddling enthusiasts should be aware that folding kayaks are a fair innovation in the sport. A hard-shell kayak with the versatility of an inflatable kayak is what you get here.

Before each paddle, you’ll need to assemble and disassemble these kayaks. Folding down into two or three flat pieces makes them perfect for plane travel or people with limited storage space.

The problem with these kayaks is that they aren’t very good in rough water. Even though most folding kayaks can withstand flatwater paddling, only a few are capable of taking on the ocean.

Oh, and folding kayaks don’t come cheap, so plan to pay a lot of money for one.

Pros:

  • Kayaks that aren’t inflatable are not as versatile as these
  • It is lightweight and folds flat, making it ideal for flight travel

Cons:

  • They can be quite costly
  • This isn’t the best option if the going gets really difficult