Written by 12:14 am Kayaking, Kayaking Basics • 2 Comments

Types of Kayaks: What are the Differences?

If there is one thing that makes kayaking one of the most loved outdoor activities, it certainly has to be the wide range of activities that really open up for you. From some of the scariest fast water maneuvering to taking that lazy afternoon in lake fishing on your kayak, you could say there is a lot going on with this type of activity.

Because of all that, each activity comes with its own type of kayak. From those short to long sleek kayaks, you can choose one today depending on what you want and what you are really going to do it with. Here are common types of kayaks available today.


One of the biggest features we use to differentiate between different kayaks is whether they are sit-on or sit-in. First, when it comes to sitting on a kayak, this is where you get a sealed hull. As for the sit-in, as the name suggests, your lower part of the body is inside the hull. Both of these designs often come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Plus, you can choose which one to go for depending on the conditions and also where you are going to go kayaking.


  • Advantages

When it comes to its design, when you are paddling, your legs are enclosed within an area commonly referred to as the cockpit. A spray skirt has been included so as to protect water from getting into the kayak from the top. One of the best things about these types of a kayak is that, since your legs are kept in the inside, you can really feel some warmth. So this is the best option for colder water as you will remain warm all throughout the journey.

  • Disadvantages

A sit-in kayak does come with its own share of issues as well. First, compared to sit on kayaks, should it capsize, exiting or even re-entering the kayak for safety can be quite a challenge. For you to pull off the technique of entering and exiting the kayak may require you to attend a few lessons by a qualified instructor. In other cases, should the hull be filled with water, you need to take the kayak to the shore to drain it right before you continue with your trip.



  • Advantages

With these types of kayaks, your legs are not covered. You will be seated on top and exposed to external elements. With this type, your legs are really going to get wet.  Those frequent sprays from waves and also paddle splashes will leave you a bit damp. So taking that into consideration, we could say sit on kayak is the best choice for warmer water.

  • Disadvantages

This option does come with a few advantages. First, since they come with a kind of sit on design, it is incredibly easy to get on and off your kayak, especially when you are boarding. So should it capsize, you won’t have any issue exiting and entering the kayak.



This is basically a bit of a combination of two different types of kayaks such as whitewater and recreational. With this option, you can actually do quite a number of things with it as it can easily handle the different environments. However, it is important to note that; you can’t really combine kayak that is completely different like wave ski and touring kayaks. So when we talk of crossover kayaks, most are actually based on a recreational kayak hull that brings onboard more specific features like pole holders to help you with fishing.

  • Advantages

One of the biggest advantages of this type of kayak is that you get solid and dependable performance in virtually all conditions. People who want to venture in a journey, which will involve a lot of environments and conditions, are always advised to go for crossover kayak.

  • Disadvantages

When it comes to its downsides, we could say compared to those specialized kayaking hulls we have today in the market, crossover kayaks lack that high-end performance and also other features that we see on other all-propose kayaks have. For example, if you are thinking of doing a particular type of kayaking like kayak surfing, it will make a lot of sense if you can invest in a hull that is particularly built for that specific activity.



These kayaks bring together the best parts of kayaking and surfing. They actually allow you to do heavy surfing from the comfort of your boat. These boats can be around 21 feet long. As for the width, we are talking about 16 to 20 inches wide. They come with a very narrow profile to help cut through those broken waves.

  • Advantages

They are a very specific design of kayak and they are really great at what they do. These kayaks allow you to do kayaking while at the same time surf

  • Disadvantages

Because they are specifically designed, that alone makes them useless should you decide to use them in other areas where they are not meant to be used.



These are some of the most stable and easier to steer kayaks you can find today. They often come with an incredibly wide hull, measuring around 12 feet long. These boats also come with a very small area where you can easily stash your essentials. There is also a cockpit that gives you easy access to your boat. As for where they can be used, a recreational kayak is the most suitable option for lakes, flat streams, and areas that are protected from waves and winds.

  • Advantages

Because of an incredibly wide hull, they are the most stable kayaks you could paddle in today. With them, chances of capsizing are really minimal. Additionally, because they are shorter than touring kayaks, that means they come with more and more maneuverability. So if you are a beginner, you will find this option quite comfortable.

  • Disadvantages

One of the biggest disadvantages of recreational kayaks is that because they come with high maneuverability, which means you will also have a problem keeping it in a straight line. For that, if you are going to paddle for longer periods of time, this type of kayak will surely tire you. Lastly, because they are specifically designed to be used in calmer waters, you will really struggle with rapids and waves.



As the names suggest, these types of kayaks need to be inflated first before you could take them on that kayaking journey.  Normally, you have to use an electric or a regular pump to inflate them. They are mostly designed for recreational purposes; however, we have some that are built for whitewater. Because they come with a wider hull, that makes them the best option for calm waters. They can also be folded down to a packable size. In fact, we also have some that can be worn as a backpack.

  • Advantages

Most of these inflatable kayaks often come made for hard-wearing material that won’t bend or even dent when you bumped into rock while you are in the water. That means these kayaks can handle any rough weather. They are also incredibly stable and quite easy to maneuver, making them the most suitable option for children or beginners. In other cases; we have also seen other high-end inflatable kayaks that come with internal rubber to provide more stability, making them serious touring kayak you can invest your money on today.

  • Disadvantages

Yes, we agree inflatable kayaks are quite rugged; however, one simple hole can render them useful; that if you are not able to have it patched; a procedure that can also prove to be very difficult. Additionally, since they are quite lightweight, that means it can be really difficult to paddle in rough water or high winds.



Compared to recreational kayaks, these are a bit longer and sleeker. They often come with a hull measuring around 18 feet in length, and that makes them move more efficiently on water. Because of that length, the boat is made to stay on track longer and that will reduce the effort needed to paddle it. These types of kayaks are mostly best for beginners who are looking at a way to kayak for an extended period of time and develop their skills before they can actually move to as sea or even touring kayak.

  • Advantages

These types of boats in a way brings both portability and stability we see on recreational boats, but this time with much better control when it comes to rougher water. In other case, day touring boats come with more storage space than those we see on recreational boats. Last but not least; since they are a bit shorter than serious touring kayak, they are incredibly easy to stow and also transport.

  • Disadvantages

Since these kayaks are specifically designed for a specific purpose, they only excel in that one role. These boats are not meant for long trips like those standard touring kayaks we are all used to. Additionally, compared to recreational kayaks, they are not stable and not easy to use. So if you are looking for something you can use it a wide range of applications, you will be forced to invest your money on another type of kayak.


Touring kayaks


These are long and robust type of kayaks you can get today. They are made for long distances. They measure anything between 12 to 24 feet long. They often come with one or even more internal bulkhead giving you more internal storage. They also come with a rudder or skeg to compensate wind or even tidal movement.

  • Advantages

They can move really quickly through the water. They also maintain a straight line for longer periods of time.

  • Disadvantages

Because they are long and can cut so well through the water that can also make them more difficult to make turns. This makes these boats unsuitable for the narrow watercourse.



As the name suggests, these are meant for sea waters. They often come with a higher rocker that helps them break into oncoming waves with so much ease. They also feature a narrow V-shaped front profile, making them the best when it comes to dealing with rough water.

  • Advantages

They are incredibly easy to control. They also track in a straight line for an extended period. Additionally, we have modern sea kayaks that are designed to carry a lot of equipment all at once.

  • Disadvantages

They are meant for only one purpose only; sea water. Should you decide to take it to other environments, this kayak will lose a lot of its advantages. Its relatively high rocker makes them less maneuverable on flat water. They are also less stable and that is thanks to their narrow profile.



These ones range from 4 to 10 feet long. They are specifically designed for fast-flowing and tricky course. They feature very hard Rotomolded plastics. These boats can be further subdivided into two main typer

Playboats kayaks:

They are the shortest in the group. They feature a scoped bow alongside blunt stern and that makes them highly robust and maneuverable. These kayaks are specifically designed to perform technical tricks commonly referred to as rodeo boating in the sporting world. They are highly agile and are able to resist any damage.  When it comes to disadvantages, they are less stable.

Creek boat kayaks:

They are the longest in the group. They have more volume and specifically meant for narrow and low volume waterways. They are the most stable in the group. They can also be used on larger rivers and because of their large volumes, you can easily negotiate corners. They come with one issue though; they are not built to offer the much-needed comfort, especially when it comes to long journeys. They also do not offer any storage space. So if you put your money on this type, you won’t be forced to keep changing the boat according to change in environment and conditions.

Updated on January 22, 2021 by Ben

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