Home Kayaks Types of Kayaks: Which Kayak for What Situation

Types of Kayaks: Which Kayak for What Situation

Types of Kayaks

Despite there being many varieties of kayaks, they can be narrowed down to two main categories: Flatwater and Whitewater.

This article will briefly outline different types of kayaks available and their corresponding features.

Types of Flat Water Kayaks

The five well-known types of flat water kayaks are: recreational, sit-on-top, touring, pedaling and inflatables.

Each has their positives and negatives. It’s useful for you to know what water conditions you’ll be kayaking in to know which one is most suitable.

Recreational kayaks

Although having a closed cockpit, recreational kayaks do tend to have a large opening which enables you to put a small child in for company on the water.

The main advantage of these kayaks is the versatility of riding in different weather conditions.

In the summer, the cockpit can be left open for a cool ride whereas in winter you can use a skirt to ensure a dry trip on the water.

While recreational kayaks are significantly cheaper than touring kayaks, they are not as fast. This is thanks to the poor tracking and shorter length. However, if your primary concern is storability and transportability, recreational kayaks are certainly handy at an affordable price.

Sit-on-top kayaks

This type of kayak have an open cockpit which makes it much easier to get in and out of.

They also tend to be wider than other varieties. This can provide you with primary stability on the water. Sit-on-tops are great for fishing! You can store your fishing gear easily in the kayak with plenty of room for maneuvering.

The main disadvantage is that you will more than likely get wide when kayaking in a sit-on-top, due to the open spacious cockpit. Therefore, if you are averse to cold conditions, you may have to be prepared to fend off the cold water.

Touring kayaks

Touring kayaks are often 12 feet or longer, have smaller cockpits and are narrower than other varieties. The smaller cockpit contains braces for thighs which enable to paddler to use their hips and thighs to roll back upright if the kayak rolls over.

These kayaks are very fast because of a narrow and long design. They also tend to be some of the more expensive kayaks on the market. In addition to speed, touring kayaks are well-suited to long trips in differing water conditions because of the rudder which assists in tracking.

Pedaling kayaks

Pedaling kayaks are ideal for those who struggle with either back or should issues. Those muscles are only required when pulling the kayak onto the shore. They are great for longer distances as you’ll find your legs more able to cope with greater distances compared to your arms.

The unfortunate aspect to these kayaks is the price.

Whether because the kayak uses bicycle-pedaled propellers or fish-like flippers, they tend to be placed at the higher end of the markets. Nonetheless, they are ideal for a fun family adventure.

Inflatable Flat Water Kayaks

These kayaks or on the cheaper end of the spectrum. They are probably best considered as toys rather than a serious kayaking option. Nonetheless, they can prove popular with those who want a cheap option to get onto the water in summery conditions.

However, you will be in constant fear of popping your inflatable kayak as just slipping through brush with a branch can be enough to end your kayaking experience. They are also not great at tracking on the water, therefore do not expect to be the fastest in the pack.

Types of Whitewater Kayaks

The five main types of whitewater kayaks are playboats, river runners, creek boats, old school, and inflatable (duckies).


Playboats are short kayaks at approximately 6 feet long. Although perfect for doing tricks and a river-based gym session, they are best-suited to staying at a particular spot in the river rather than being used to run down a river.

Playboats are famously uncomfortable and simply not durable enough to cope with the excessive demands of whitewater kayaking therefore if your primary concern is the comfort when whitewater kayaking, playboats may not be the most suitable choice.

River Runners

These river kayaks offer a great balance of length. They are long enough, at 7-8 feet long, to give sufficient tracking in the water. But they are also short enough to ensure that those sharp turns in the river can be easily navigated.

A bonus is that river runners are roomy kayaks with plenty of room to store your gear especially if you are on the river for many days.

Creekboats (Creekers)

Creekers are heavier kayaks designed to cope with the drops that are often common when whitewater kayaking. They are 8 feet or longer and are large in volume which will assist you in resurfacing in case you encounter any difficulties.

Creekers are best operated by more experienced kayakers. The displacement hull which can be tricky when navigating holes and eddy lines. If you’re a beginner but want to use a creeker, it’s recommended you use a planning hull which is more versatile.

Old School Kayaks (Long Boats)

These kayaks are long compared to modern boats usually measuring at 10-12 feet. This considerable length makes long boats perfect for rivers with flat water between rapids. However, the length does make maneuvering more difficult particularly in tight spaces.

Long boats are available at affordable prices and may be worth it if you are new to whitewater kayaking.

Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks (Duckies)

Inflatable kayaks are great for beginners to whitewater kayaking. Despite having questionable durability and being vulnerable to popping, they are very stable because of their width and can hold a lot of equipment.

The main downside is a performance in rivers where there are many turns, as duckies do not offer great tracking.


There are tons of types of kayaks for both flat and whitewater kayaking. Whether you are an experienced professional, or a beginner wanting to take their family on an adventure, there will be a kayak suited to you.


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