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Different Types of Kayaks: Choosing the Right Kayak for Your Adventure in 2024

Different Types of Kayaks a complete guide for 2024

Whether you're a seasoned kayaker or a beginner looking to embark on your first adventure, understanding the different types of kayaks available (and the intricacies of each) can make all the difference in your overall experience.

By the end of this article, you will have a clearer understanding of the different types of kayaks and be well-equipped to choose the one that suits your adventure style and preferences.

We will breakdown the various types of kayaks available in the market including:

  • Recreational kayaks
  • Fishing kayaks
  • Inflatable kayaks
  • Tandem kayaks
  • Sit-on-top kayaks
  • Sit-in kayaks
  • Pedal Kayaks
  • Hybrid Kayaks/SUPs
  • Touring kayaks
  • Whitewater kayaks

We will discuss factors to consider when choosing a kayak, such as your skill level, intended use, and budget. So grab your paddle as we help you navigate the process of choosing the perfect kayak for your next adventure.

Man standing in the water rigging fishing rodFactors to consider when choosing a kayak

Before diving into the different types of kayaks, it's important to consider a few key factors that will influence your decision-making process. First and foremost, you need to assess your skill level. Are you a beginner who is just starting out or an experienced paddler looking for a new challenge? This will help you determine the level of stability, maneuverability, and performance you require from your kayak.

Next, think about the intended use of your kayak. Will you be paddling on calm lakes and slow-moving rivers, or do you plan to tackle more challenging waters, such as white-water rapids or coastal areas? Different types of kayaks are designed with specific uses in mind, so it's crucial to match your kayak to the environment you'll be exploring.

Lastly, consider your budget. Kayaks come in a wide range of prices, so it's essential to set a budget and stick to it. Keep in mind that while cheaper kayaks may be more affordable, they may lack some of the features you'll need as well as the durability of higher-end models.

Recreational kayaks

Recreational kayaks are a popular choice for beginners and those looking for a leisurely paddling experience. These kayaks are designed for calm waters, such as lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers. They typically have a large open cockpits which provide easy entry and exit, and offer excellent stability, making them ideal for beginners.

Child paddling a recreational kayak

One of the key features of recreational kayaks is their comfortable seating. Many models (especially some in the Advanced Elements range) come with padded seats and adjustable backrests, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience on the water. Recreational kayaks also tend to have ample storage space, allowing you to bring along your essentials for a day out on the water.

While recreational kayaks may not offer the same level of speed and maneuverability as other types, they provide a great introduction to kayaking and are perfect for relaxing outings.

Fishing kayaks

If you're a fishing enthusiast, a fishing kayak may be the perfect choice for you. These kayaks are specifically designed with anglers in mind, offering features and accessories to enhance your fishing experience.

Over-head image of man fishing from Pelican fishing kayak
Image: Man fishing from the Pelican Catch 110 Mode

Fishing kayaks come equipped with fishing rod holders, storage compartments for tackle boxes, and even design features built into the kayak to make mounting things like fish finders a breeze. They are typically wider and more stable than other kayaks, allowing you to stand up and cast your line with ease. Some fishing kayaks also have adjustable seating positions, providing added comfort during long fishing trips.

360 swivel and track seating system on the pelican catch 100 pwr fishing kayak
Image: The comfortable 360 degree swivel and track seating system on the Pelican Catch 100 PWR Fishing Kayak.

Whether you prefer freshwater or saltwater fishing, there are fishing kayaks available to suit your needs. They come in various sizes and designs, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your fishing style and preferences.

Inflatable kayaks

Inflatable kayaks have come a long way in terms of durability and performance, making them a viable option for both beginners and experienced paddlers. These kayaks are made from high-quality materials that are puncture-resistant and provide excellent stability on the water.

 woman paddling the Advanced Frame Sport Elite Inflatable Kayak
Image: Lady paddling the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Sport Elite Inflatable Kayak

One of the main advantages of inflatable kayaks is their portability. They can be easily deflated and packed into a compact carrying bag, making them convenient for camping, travel and storage. It also means that there is no need to purchase expensive roof racks systems so you can put hundreds of dollars back into your pocket. Inflatable kayaks are also lightweight, making them easy to transport to and from the water even for those that may have shoulder, back or knee issues.

4m Convertible Elite inflatable kayak in the back of a small car
Image: The 4 meter Advanced Elements Convertible Elite inflatable tandem kayak packed away into the back of a small car. 

Many inflatable kayaks offer the same level of performance as hard-shell kayaks and they are a great option for those who value convenience and portability. They are also a popular choice for those who live in apartments, travel in caravans or have limited storage space.

Tandem kayaks

If you prefer to paddle with a partner or want to bring along a friend or family member, tandem kayaks are a great option. These kayaks are designed to accommodate two paddlers and offer a shared adventure on the water.

4m Convertible Elite Tandem Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements
Image: 4m Convertible Elite Tandem Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements.

Tandem kayaks come in various designs, such as sit-on-top or sit-inside, and offer ample seating space for two people. They are typically longer and wider than single-person kayaks, providing increased stability and weight capacity. The kayak pictured above is a great example and can be converted to both sit-in or sit-on and can carry a whopping 249kgs. 

It's important to note that tandem kayaks may require additional communication and coordination between paddlers, especially when it comes to steering and paddling in sync. However, with practice, tandem kayaking can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both paddlers.

Sit-on-top kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks have gained popularity in recent years due to their versatility and ease of use. As the name suggests, these kayaks have an open-top design, providing a more accessible and comfortable paddling experience. Sit-on-top kayaks are suitable for a wide range of activities, including fishing, snorkeling, and recreational paddling.

Image of the Catch 420 sit-on-top kayak from Mission Kayaks
Image: The Catch 420 sit-on-top kayak from Mission Kayaks

One of the main advantages of sit-on-top kayaks is their self-bailing design. This means that any water that enters the kayak will drain out through scupper holes, keeping you dry and preventing the kayak from becoming swamped. Sit-on-top kayaks are also known for their stability, making them suitable for beginners and those who prefer a more relaxed paddling experience.

These kayaks are available in various sizes and designs, ranging from single-person to tandem options, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your needs and preferences.

Sit-in kayaks

Sit in kayaks provide a more traditional kayaking experience than their sit-on-top counterparts. As the name suggests, sit in kayaks have an enclosed cockpit that paddlers sit inside of, with their legs extending inside the hull of the kayak. This cockpit is sealed off from water, keeping the paddler dry while providing a sense of stability and connection to the kayak.

Man paddling a sit in kayakImage: Man paddling sit-in kayak

Many sit in designs have adjustable foot braces and supportive seat backs catered to comfort on longer paddling adventures. The encased cockpit also provides some protection from the elements, which can be beneficial in cooler conditions. Storage is also often built into a sit in kayak with hatches behind and in front of the cockpit. Sit in kayaks allow for efficient forward paddling strokes catered towards covering longer distances.

They provide great tracking capable of handling ocean swells and rougher conditions while maintaining speed. Their sleek design makes them a popular choice for paddle sports like racing and sea touring.

Pedal Kayaks

Pedal kayaks are changing the kayaking world with their unique propulsion system. As the name suggests, pedal kayaks allow paddlers to pedal with their feet rather than using a traditional paddle stroke. This provides a hands-free kayaking experience that is more efficient, less tiring, and enables better control for fishing or photography.

Woman fishing fishing from the Slayer 10 from Native Watercraft
Image: Fishing from the Slayer 10 Propel from Native Watercraft

The pedal drive system consists of pedals and a propeller or flippers mounted underneath the hull. As you pedal, the fins move back and forth to quietly propel you forward. Pedal kayaks excel at covering long distances with less effort since the efficient pedaling motion provides continuous power and speed. Yet they still maintain exceptional maneuverability, unlike motorised boats.

Pedal kayaks offer anglers and recreational paddlers exciting possibilities. Their stability, comfort and effortless propulsion system allows you to stay out longer while keeping hands free to cast lines or take pictures. As pedal kayaks gain traction across kayaking circles for these conveniences, expect to see more on the water soon. They provide a unique bridge between manual paddling and powerboats.

Hybrid Kayaks/SUPs

Hybrid kayaks represent a blending of two worlds, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.  They offer a unique and versatile watercraft specifically designed to cater to enthusiasts of both sports combining the stability and seating of a traditional kayak with the upright paddling position of a SUP.

The Cascade Hybrid Kayak from Aqua Marina

Image: The Cascade Hybrid Kayak/SUP from Aqua Marina 

This design allows for a transition between sitting and standing, providing users with the flexibility to switch between a leisurely kayak and the more active stand-up paddling.

Typically wider and more buoyant, hybrid kayaks are ideal for a range of activities, from serene paddles on calm waters to adventurous journeys carrying gear for extended trips. They often come equipped with various features like adjustable seats, footpads for grip and comfort, and storage options, making them a practical choice for both recreational paddlers and adventure seekers. They are usually constructed from advanced materials, ensures durability while maintaining lightness for easy transport. If stand up paddle boarding plays a major role in your goals on the water then a hybrid kayak might be just what you are looking for. 

Touring kayaks

If you're looking to venture further and explore different bodies of water, touring kayaks are worth considering. These kayaks are designed for longer trips and offer increased speed, efficiency, and storage capacity compared to recreational kayaks.

Touring Kayak sitting on standsImage: The Australian made Crusader kayak made to order from the team at Koastal Kayaks

Touring kayaks are typically longer and narrower, allowing for increased speed and better tracking. They also feature a more streamlined design, reducing resistance and making them easier to paddle over longer distances. Many touring kayaks come equipped with bulkheads and hatches, allowing you to store gear, food, and water for extended trips. The one pictured above is also designed for fishing. 

While touring kayaks are not as maneuverable as recreational kayaks, they offer increased performance and efficiency, making them a great choice for paddlers looking to explore larger bodies of water, such as coastal areas and open oceans.

They are also a great choice for those looking to increase their fitness and endurance levels. If this is you, check out the guides below that can help you along your journey:

Whitewater kayaks

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, whitewater kayaking is an exciting and challenging adventure. Whitewater kayaks are designed to handle fast-moving rivers and rapids, providing maneuverability and stability in turbulent waters.

Straitedge Inflatable kayak in white waterImage: A paddler tackling white water in the Straitedge Angler inflatable kayak from Advanced Elements

These kayaks are typically shorter and have a more rounded hull, allowing for quick turns and precise maneuvering. They also feature specialized outfitting, such as thigh braces and adjustable foot pegs, which provide better control and stability in whitewater conditions.

It's important to note that whitewater kayaking requires advanced paddling skills and knowledge of river currents and hazards. If you're new to kayaking or have limited experience, it's advisable to seek proper training and start with easier rapids before progressing to more challenging whitewater environments.


Conclusion: Different types of kayaks and finding the perfect kayak for your adventure

Choosing the right kayak for your adventure is a crucial decision that can greatly impact your overall experience on the water. Now that you have a bit more information under your belt, you can begin by making your way through the steps below 

  1. Firstly, consider your intended use - recreation, fishing, touring, racing etc.
  2. Decide on type - sit-in, sit-on-top, inflatable, folding.
  3. Determine appropriate length and width for your size and needs.
  4. Get properly sized accessories like paddles and life jackets.
  5. Research brands and read reviews of specific models.
  6. Consider practicalities like transport and roof rack costs, storage and ease of use.
  7. Factor in your budget, you definitely get what you pay for!

Recreational kayaks are perfect for beginners and those seeking a leisurely paddling experience on calm waters. Touring kayaks are designed for longer trips and offer increased speed and storage capacity. Sit-on-top kayaks provide versatility and easy accessibility, making them suitable for various activities. Inflatable kayaks offer portability and convenience, while fishing kayaks are tailored specifically for anglers. Whitewater kayaks provide the maneuverability and stability required for tackling fast-moving rivers and rapids. Lastly, tandem kayaks allow for shared adventures and social paddling experiences.

No matter which type of kayak you choose, always prioritize safety and proper training. Remember to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) and familiarize yourself with kayaking techniques and safety guidelines. With the right kayak and the right mindset, you'll be ready to embark on your next kayaking adventure and create unforgettable memories on the water.

So, what's next?

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Browse through our range and feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need help with a recommendation.

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