Paddle Board vs Kayak: Which One Is Better?

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Dylan Perkins

Stand up paddleboards and kayaks – two titans of the water sports world. Both offer unique experiences and cater to different goals. But which one reigns supreme? 🏆

For years, kayaking has been a beloved pastime, allowing adventurers to explore rivers, lakes, and oceans from a seated position. But the rise of standup paddling has shaken things up, providing a unique perspective from a standing position.

As a former paddle board enthusiast turned kayak convert, I’ve experienced the best of both worlds. And let me tell you, the better choice isn’t so clear-cut. 🤔

In Short: Main Differences Between Kayaking and Standup Paddling

Kayaks and SUPs (stand-up paddleboards) are water sports titans, each with its own unique perspective. But how do they stack up?

Kayaks Offer:

  • Long distances covered with ease

  • Safety in cold weather and adverse conditions

  • More storage space for gear and camping gear

  • Stability from a seated position with lower center of gravity

SUPs Bring To The Table:

  • Full body workout from standing position, offering a more comprehensive workout compared to the primarily upper body focus of kayaking. Standup paddle boarding engages the core, legs, and arms, providing a full body workout that enhances balance, strength, and endurance.

  • Cost-effective option for water adventures

  • Versatility for quick dips and ease of paddle boarding

  • Portability and transport convenience

So whether you crave an intense upper body burn or the ability to carry rod holders and dry bags, the choice comes down to your needs. But one thing’s certain – both offer a refreshing unique perspective on the water.

PADDLE BOARDS ARE PORTABLE AND EASY TO TRANSPORT

When it comes to portability and ease of transport, paddle boards reign supreme over kayaks, including inflatable kayaks.

Here’s why paddle boards, especially inflatable ones, take the cake:

  • Lightweight: Despite their size, SUPs are generally light and easy to grab.

  • Compact Packing: They deflate into a much smaller packing size than most inflatable kayaks, making them more convenient for transport.

  • Quick Assembly: Inflatable paddleboards can be set up faster than inflatable kayaks, thanks to technology like dropstitching that allows for higher inflation pressure.

  • Superior Handling: Their design makes them easier to maneuver and carry, offering better performance due to their simpler hull shape.

In contrast, inflatable kayaks, while offering their own set of advantages, tend to be heavier and more cumbersome to transport compared to inflatable paddleboards. Getting them from Point A to Point B, especially for two people, can be a real hassle due to their larger packed size and longer assembly time.

So if you value mobility and ease of transport, paddle boards are the undisputed champions. Their compact nature and lightweight construction, coupled with the convenience of quicker assembly and smaller packing size, make them the clear winners for adventurers on the go.

Difficulty (tie)

When it comes to the difficulty level, both paddle boarding and kayaking offer unique challenges that even out the playing field.

On one hand, the act of standup paddling itself can be trickier to master. Maintaining your balance on that standing position takes some practice, especially for beginners. A simple slip could send you tumbling into the water. Standup paddling delivers a low-impact, full-body workout, engaging everything from your legs and glutes to your arms, chest, and back.

However, kayaking comes with its own set of hurdles. While you’re seated, a full capsize poses more problems than a fall from a paddleboard.

Plus, executing an Eskimo roll (the maneuver to right an overturned kayak) requires dedicated training. Kayak paddling, in contrast, provides an isolated workout focusing on the upper body, including the shoulders, back, arms, chest, and core, making it ideal for those looking to strengthen these areas specifically.

That said, kayaks tend to be more forgiving when re-entering from the water. Climbing back onto the paddle board after a spill can be a bit trickier.

So in terms of difficulty, it’s a draw. Both water sports demand their own skillsets, making them approachable yet challenging in their own ways. The key is finding the one that suits your abilities and preferences best.

A PADDLE BOARD IS THE BEST FOR SIGHTSEEING

When it comes to soaking in the natural beauty of your surroundings, a paddle board outshines a kayak – making it the ultimate sightseeing companion for your vacation.

Unlike kayaks, where you’re confined to a seated position for most of the journey, SUPs offer the flexibility to sit or stand as per your preference. And it’s this standing position that provides the real advantage.

With an elevated vantage point, the world unveils itself in a breathtaking new way. You can take in the landscapes, spot wildlife, and truly immerse yourself in the environment you’re paddling through – all with an unrestricted perspective.

Don’t forget, you’re also treated to an unobstructed view of the marine life beneath the surface – something that’s often missed from the seated confines of a kayak.

So, whether you’re exploring a serene lake or gliding through crystal-clear ocean waters, a paddle board ensures you don’t miss a single moment of the natural splendor that surrounds you. It’s sightseeing at its finest.

Fun Factor (Winner: SUP)

When it comes to sheer fun, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) edge out kayaks with their versatility and potential for water adventures, including the increasingly popular SUP fishing.

SUP fishing not only offers a unique angle on the traditional fishing experience with enhanced visibility and a higher vantage point for spotting fish but also provides more stability and a customizable fishing platform for attaching gear. Plus, it’s a superior workout compared to kayak fishing.

With a paddleboard, the possibilities are endless! You can:

  • 🏄‍♀️ Ride the waves and surf

  • 🧘‍♀️ Strike a yoga pose for an on-water session

  • 💦 Take a refreshing dip for a quick swim

  • 🌞 Soak up some sun while lounging on your board

  • 👯‍♂️ Bring along friends and family for a shared experience

  • 🎣 Try SUP fishing for an adventurous twist on catching fish

Sure, kayaking can be enjoyable too. But it lacks the same level of freedom and spontaneity that comes with standup paddling. You’re somewhat confined to your seated position.

With a SUP, every outing has the potential to turn into an impromptu water adventure. Whether you’re catching waves, practicing your balance, basking in the sun’s warmth, or enjoying the thrill of SUP fishing, paddle boarding just seems to invite more fun into the equation.

So if you’re looking to amp up the excitement and good times on your next aquatic excursion, a stand-up paddleboard is likely the winner for delivering smiles and thrills.

A PADDLEBOARD IS MUCH EASIER TO GET BACK ON

Accidents happen, and occasionally you might find yourself in the water. In such situations, you’ll want to consider how quick and simple it is to re-enter that vessel. SUPs (**stand-up paddleboards**) are the clear winners on this front.

🚣‍♀️ A SUP is an upright platform with no cockpit, making a quick re-entry a breeze. They also rarely capsize completely.

🛶 In contrast, a kayak has a cockpit, making it hard to get back in when the boat capsizes.

PADDLE BOARDS LOOK WAY COOLER

Let’s be honest, most SUP users would agree – paddleboarders just look cooler than kayakers. Just search for stock pictures of each, and the unique perspective of someone standing tall on a paddleboard exudes an undeniable cool factor that kayaking can’t quite match.

PADDLEBOARDS OFFER A BETTER WARM-WEATHER PADDLING EXPERIENCE

When the sunshine beckons, paddle boards offer a superior warm-weather paddling experience, primarily due to their lack of cockpits and freedom from confined spaces.

You’re free to lounge almost anywhere you desire on that open platform. Feeling the heat? Simply jump off the board for a refreshing dip in the water – no hassle, no fuss. Try doing that as seamlessly in a kayak’s seated position!

This unmatched flexibility and ease of access to the water make paddleboards an absolute delight during those hot summer months, proving their value over kayaks for warm-weather paddling adventures.

Gear Storage Options (Winner: Kayak)

While both kayaks and paddle boards offer gear storage options, when it comes to capacity and protection, kayaks, especially recreational kayaks, take the lead.

Recreational kayaks often come with built-in compartments and additional deck rigging, making them superior in terms of design features for carrying more gear compared to paddle boards. This makes recreational kayaks a better choice for those looking to bring along more equipment or personal items on their water adventures.

Kayaks Offer:

– Larger internal storage compartments

Dry storage areas shielded from water

– Ability to strap dry bags or gear on top

– More room for camping gear and essentials

Paddle Boards Have:

– Option to attach mesh gear trails or bungee cord storage

– Must use waterproof bags since deck is exposed

– Limited storage space compared to kayaks

For day trips and shorter paddling adventures, a SUP’s storage solutions may suffice. But when you need to pack more gear for extended journeys or overnight camping, a kayak’s superior storage space becomes invaluable.

The ability to stow items internally and keep them dry gives kayaks a distinct edge. Their design allows you to bring all the essentials while ensuring your precious cargo stays secure and protected.

So if maximizing gear capacity is a priority, especially for multi-day water adventures, the clear winner is the trusty kayak and its ample storage options.

What Burns More Calories: Kayaking or Paddle Boarding?

  • Kayaking burns around 500 calories per hour, primarily working the upper body.

  • Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP) burns 300-500 calories per hour for recreational paddling, but offers a low-impact, full-body workout engaging the legs, core, arms, and back.

  • SUP activities like surfing, yoga, fishing, and racing can burn up to 1200 calories per hour, making it an excellent full-body toner and fitness booster.

Ease of Transport, Storage, and Handling (Winner: SUP)

While both kayaks and paddle boards are available in hardshell and inflatable versions, traditional hardshell paddle boards hold a clear advantage:

  • 🏄‍♀️ Lighter Weight: Most hardshell SUPs weigh less than hardshell kayaks.

  • 📏 Compact Size: Typical paddle board lengths range from 10-13 feet, while sea kayaks are often 16 feet or larger.

  • 🛍️ Easier to Transport: Their manageable size and weight make SUPs simpler to load, unload, and transport.

  • 🏠 Space-Saving Storage: SUPs require less storage space compared to the bulkier kayaks.

Inflatable options for both crafts improve portability, but in their traditional hardshell forms, the SUP emerges as the clear winner for ease of transport, storage, and handling.

Pros of Paddling A SUP/Kayak Hybrid

We discuss some of the advantages of paddling SUPyak. The versatility of the SUP kayak seat transforms a paddleboard into a sit-on-top kayak, offering the comfort of a kayak with the elevated view and versatility of a paddleboard.

This allows paddlers to enjoy the best of both worlds, seamlessly switching between standing and sitting to reduce fatigue and extend their time on the water.

Fishing Paddleboard vs Kayak

You make a fair point – many anglers do prefer fishing kayaks for fishing due to their inherent advantages, including specific features like rod holders and tackle storage that make them particularly appealing:

👍 More Comfort: The seated position in a fishing kayak provides more freedom and comfort for extended periods on the water, along with the convenience of having your fishing gear within easy reach.

🛄 Increased Storage: Fishing kayaks generally offer more space to store and organize your fishing gear and supplies, including specialized compartments for tackle and rods.

🏃‍♂️ Better Speed and Efficiency: With their design, fishing kayaks can be paddled faster and are more efficient when fighting wind and currents, making them ideal for anglers looking to cover more water.

However, paddleboards still have their niche benefits for fishing:

🐟 Shallow Water Access: The shallow draft of SUPs allows anglers to access areas that are too shallow for most kayaks.

👁 Elevated Vantage Point: The horizontal angle from the standing position provides excellent visibility for sighting fish in clear, shallow waters.

⚖️ Stealthy Approach: Standing upright minimizes water disturbance, preventing fish from being easily spooked compared to a kayak’s seated position.

So while fishing kayaks are arguably the more popular and versatile choice for most fishing scenarios, paddleboards can still be a compelling option, particularly when shallow water, stealthy approaches, and an elevated sighting perspective are advantageous.

PADDLE BOARDS OFFER EXCELLENT FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

Paddle boards provide an unrivaled sense of freedom compared to traditional kayaks. While kayaks typically confine you to a seated position, paddle boarding allows for a full body workout with unrestricted movement.

A standup paddleboard (SUP), with its flat design, enables you to stand, kneel, or even sit cross-legged, offering unparalleled flexibility. And when it comes to paddle board fishing, the unique vantage point from a standing position can be a game-changer.

If you plan to bring a friend along, focus on the weight capacity rather than the number of seats.

KAYAKS ARE BETTER FOR COLD-WEATHER PADDLING

However, kayaks have a distinct advantage when it comes to cold weather paddling. The enclosed cockpit wraps your entire body, shielding you from the elements and keeping you warm during chilly adventures on the water.

KAYAK-PADDLEBOARD HYBRIDS

Can’t make up your mind between a kayak or a paddle board? Consider a hybrid design that combines the strengths of both. It’s essentially a paddleboard vs kayak hybrid, featuring:

  • A kayak seat for a comfortable seated position

  • Foot supports optimized for kayak paddles

Moreover, for those preferring a seated paddling position, utilizing a paddleboard with a kayak paddle enhances the experience, offering the versatility to engage in activities that benefit from the stability and control of a kayak paddle.

This adaptability is further supported by the option to use a paddle conversion kit, transforming a SUP paddle into a kayak paddle for a seamless transition between paddling styles.

However, the versatility doesn’t stop there. You can easily transition to traditional standup paddling by simply removing the kayak-like features. This hybrid option is an ideal choice for those looking to explore both kayak and paddle board fishing.

KAYAKS OFFER ADEQUATE ONBOARD STORAGE

When it comes to gear storage, kayaks undoubtedly offer more space than their paddleboard counterparts. While paddle boards rely on bungee cords and D-rings, kayaks are designed to accommodate substantial camping gear, making them well-suited for extended trips or long distances.

To keep your essentials dry and secure, invest in dry bags – they’ll ensure your belongings remain safe from the elements, no matter how adventurous your kayak journey gets.

KIDS & PETS / FRIENDS ON BOARD

Kayaks, especially single-seaters, often lack the space to comfortably accommodate additional passengers. While two-person kayaks might work for a friend or partner, they’re not an ideal choice for social outings or bringing along kids or pets.

In contrast, paddle boards offer a generous surface area, allowing guests to sit comfortably and join in on the fun. Their spacious design makes them a great option for social water adventures.

WHAT’S COOLER? KAYAK OR SUP?

When it comes to style points, there’s no denying the cool factor of a SUP. Picture yourself gliding across the water on a sleek paddle board, sporting a stylish swimsuit as the breeze caresses your skin. This image of freedom and grace is tough to match when you’re confined to the limited space of a kayak.

KAYAKS ARE IDEAL FOR PADDLING IN WINDY CONDITIONS

However, kayaks have a distinct advantage when Mother Nature decides to crank up the wind. Their lower center of gravity and added stability make them the preferred choice, especially sit on top kayaks, which are renowned for their ability to handle choppy waters with ease. Attempting to stand on a paddle board in windy conditions can be a real challenge.

WHICH IS FASTER: KAYAK OR PADDLEBOARD?

The eternal debate: paddleboard vs kayak – which is faster? In general, kayaks tend to have the edge when it comes to speed, thanks to their sleek, hydrodynamic design. However, longer paddle boards can sometimes keep up, especially when piloted by experienced paddlers. Ultimately, speed varies based on rider skill, water conditions, and a touch of luck.

KAYAKS ARE BETTER FOR PADDLING LONG DISTANCES

When it comes to tackling long distances on the water, kayaks have a distinct advantage over paddle boards. Their spacious cockpits and comfortable seated position provide the support needed for extended paddling sessions without the fatigue associated with standing for prolonged periods on a paddle board.

Kayaks are designed with ergonomics in mind, allowing you to settle in and cruise for miles without feeling the strain on your muscles and joints. This makes them the ideal choice for those who crave adventure but want to paddle in comfort, even when venturing on epic journeys across vast bodies of water.

KAYAKS OFFER EXCELLENT COMFORT

For those who value comfort above all else, kayaks are the clear winner with their seated position. Standing for extended periods isn’t everyone’s idea of a relaxing time on the water, which is where kayaks truly shine – offering a laidback option for water adventures without the physical strain.

ON-BOARD STORAGE

While kayaks come pre-equipped with dedicated gear storage compartments, paddle boards allow for more customization. With bungee cords, dry bags, and other accessories, you can tailor the storage setup on your paddleboard to suit your specific needs.

KAYAKS OFFER BETTER SUN PROTECTION

Unlike a SUP, which leaves you fully exposed to the sun’s rays, kayaks provide partial protection thanks to their covered design and cockpit. However, it’s still crucial for all paddlers to apply (and reapply) sunscreen regularly, regardless of their chosen watercraft.

THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO BUY A KAYAK

If you’re looking to score a great deal on a kayak, the off-season months from November to February are prime time for shopping. During this period, prices tend to drop significantly, but stock availability may be limited, so keep an eye out for those sales!

Conclusion

As we conclude our exploration of the exciting realms of kayaking and paddleboarding, it’s clear that both water sports offer unique and rewarding experiences tailored to different preferences and needs.

Choosing between traditional kayaks, paddle boards, or even versatile kayak-paddleboard hybrids ultimately depends on your personal goals and the type of adventure you’re seeking.

It’s crucial to carefully consider the environment in which you’ll be paddling, the activities you enjoy most, and the experience you hope to have on the water.

FAQ

Is it easier to kayak or paddleboard?

Kayaking generally requires less balance and is easier for beginners due to the seated position. Paddleboarding demands a greater sense of balance since you stand on the board.

Can a paddleboard be used as a kayak?

Some paddleboards can double as kayaks by adding a seat and using a double-bladed paddle. However, they don’t perform as well as specialized kayaks.

What burns more calories, kayaking or paddleboarding?

Both activities provide a solid workout, but paddleboarding generally burns more calories due to the continuous balance and full-body engagement required.

Why are paddleboards more expensive than kayaks?

Paddleboards often use high-quality materials for lightweight construction, durability, and stability, which can drive up the price compared to many kayaks.

What makes a kayak easier to paddle?

Kayaks with a sleek hull design, lightweight construction, and efficient paddles glide through water more effortlessly, making them easier to paddle.

Is SUP easier than kayak?

Stand-up paddleboarding is more challenging due to the need for balance and core strength. Kayaking may be easier for those new to water sports because it requires less balance.

Why is SUP more expensive than kayak?

SUP boards often feature premium construction and materials to ensure durability and performance. Specialized designs also add to the cost.

Can you use a SUP as a kayak?

Yes, many SUPs are designed with attachment points for a kayak seat and can accommodate a double-bladed paddle, making them suitable for kayak-style paddling.

What is the point of SUP?

SUP offers a versatile water experience, combining fitness, recreation, and exploration. It’s also beneficial for improving balance, strength, and endurance.

Can you use a paddleboard as a kayak?

Similar to SUPs, some paddleboards have provisions to add a seat and paddle like a kayak, but their performance differs from dedicated kayaks.

Is stand-up paddleboarding harder than kayaking?

Generally, yes. SUP requires balance and leg strength, which can be difficult for beginners, while kayaking involves primarily upper-body effort.

Why is SUP better than kayak?

SUP provides a unique perspective from a standing position, offering better visibility and a more comprehensive workout involving the whole body.

Can you use a paddle board like a kayak?

With the right modifications, yes. Some paddle boards can be adapted for kayak-like use, but their performance won’t match a true kayak.

Is kayaking or canoeing easier for beginners?

Kayaking is usually easier for beginners due to its lower center of gravity and ease of handling, while canoes require more skill in paddling technique.

Do canoes flip easier than kayaks?

Canoes tend to be less stable than kayaks due to their open design and higher center of gravity, making them more prone to flipping.

What is safer, a canoe or a kayak?

Kayaks generally offer more safety due to their enclosed design, which protects against water ingress, and their superior stability in rough water.

Which is more stable, a kayak or a canoe?

Kayaks are generally more stable, particularly in rough water, due to their lower center of gravity and enclosed design.

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