Types of Kayaks

Kayak types


Kayaking is an incredibly versatile sport that appeals to people of all ages and abilities. With so many different types of kayaks available, it can be a daunting task to choose the right one for your needs. In this article, we will explore the various types of kayaks, their features, and how to select the perfect kayak for your next adventure.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are a popular choice for beginners and those looking for a more casual kayaking experience. These kayaks have a sealed hull and a molded seat on top, making them easy to get in and out of. They are typically more stable and self-draining, so you don’t have to worry about water pooling inside.

Recreational Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Recreational sit-on-top kayaks are designed for calm waters, such as lakes and slow-moving rivers. They are perfect for leisurely paddling, wildlife watching, and short day trips. These kayaks are usually wider and shorter than other types, providing increased stability for a relaxing experience on the water.

See our publication Recreational Kayaks: An In-Depth Guide Here

Fishing Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Fishing sit-on-top kayaks are specifically designed for anglers, with features such as rod holders, gear tracks, and storage compartments. They are often wider and more stable than recreational models, allowing you to stand up and cast or reel in your catch with ease.

See our publication Fishing Kayaks Here

Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Tandem sit-on-top kayaks are built for two paddlers, making them a great option for couples, families, or friends looking to share the kayaking experience. They offer ample storage space and can be more efficient than solo kayaks when paddled in sync.

Sit-Inside Kayaks

Sit-inside kayaks have a traditional design with a cockpit that encloses your lower body. They are more versatile than sit-on-top models, making them suitable for a wider range of water conditions.

Recreational Sit-Inside Kayaks

Recreational sit-inside kayaks are perfect for calm waters and provide a drier ride than sit-on-top models. They typically have a larger cockpit for easy entry and exit and offer more storage space for gear.

See our publication Recreational Kayaks: An In-Depth Guide Here

Touring Sit-Inside Kayaks

Touring sit-inside kayaks are designed for longer trips and more challenging water conditions, such as open water and coastal areas. They are typically longer, narrower, and have a more streamlined shape for improved speed and tracking. These kayaks also have added storage capacity and adjustable footrests for a more comfortable and customizable fit.

See our publication Touring Kayaks: Discovering the World from the Water Here

Whitewater Sit-Inside Kayaks

Whitewater sit-inside kayaks are specifically designed for navigating rapids and turbulent waters. They are shorter and more maneuverable, with a rounded hull that allows for quick turns and responsive handling. These kayaks also feature reinforced construction for added durability in rough conditions.

See our publication Whitewater Kayaks: A Comprehensive Guide Here.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are a convenient and portable option, perfect for those with limited storage space or who want to take their kayak on the go. They are generally made from durable materials, such as PVC or Hypalon, and can be easily inflated and deflated for transport.

See our publication Inflatable Kayaks: Your Ultimate Guide Here

Inflatable Recreational Kayaks

Inflatable recreational kayaks are designed for calm waters and offer a lightweight, portable option for leisurely paddling. They may not be as stable or durable as hardshell kayaks but can still provide an enjoyable experience for casual use.

See our publication Recreational Kayaks: An In-Depth Guide Here

Inflatable Touring Kayaks

Inflatable touring kayaks are built for longer trips and often feature a more streamlined design for better tracking and efficiency on the water. They may also have additional storage compartments and adjustable seats for added comfort during extended journeys.

See our publication Touring Kayaks: Discovering the World from the Water Here

Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks

Inflatable whitewater kayaks are designed to handle the rigors of rapids and rough water conditions. They often have a more rugged construction and reinforced hull for added durability and performance in challenging environments.

See our publication Whitewater Kayaks: A Comprehensive Guide Here.

Folding Kayaks

Folding kayaks offer the convenience of a portable kayak with the performance of a hardshell. They are constructed with a collapsible frame and durable skin that can be assembled and disassembled with ease. This makes them a great option for travelers or those with limited storage space.

See our publication Folding Kayaks: The Ultimate Guide to Portable Paddling Here

Pedal and Motorized Kayaks

Pedal and motorized kayaks provide an alternative to traditional paddling. Pedal kayaks use a pedal-driven propeller system, allowing you to use your legs for propulsion. Motorized kayaks are equipped with small electric or gas motors for added speed and convenience. Both options can be useful for anglers, photographers, or anyone looking to cover more distance with less effort.

Specialty Kayaks

Some kayaks are designed for specific purposes or environments, offering unique features and capabilities.

Skin-on-Frame Kayaks

Skin-on-frame kayaks are lightweight, handmade boats with a wooden or aluminum frame covered with a waterproof fabric or skin. They are inspired by traditional Inuit and Greenlandic designs and offer a close-to-nature paddling experience.

Surf Kayaks

Surf kayaks are designed for riding ocean waves and feature a surfboard-like hull for improved maneuverability and performance in surf conditions. They are often shorter and have a more pronounced rocker for better control of breaking waves.

How to Choose the Right Kayak

When choosing the right kayak, consider your intended use, skill level, and personal preferences. Think about the type of water you’ll be paddling in, the length of your trips, and any specific features or accessories you may need.

Tips for Beginner Kayakers

To help you get started on your kayaking journey, here are some tips that can enhance your experience and ensure a safe and enjoyable time on the water:

  1. Take a Lesson: Before hitting the water, consider taking a lesson or joining a beginner’s kayaking course. This will help you learn proper paddling techniques, safety procedures, and essential skills to make your time on the water more enjoyable.
  2. Choose the Right Equipment: Investing in the right equipment, such as a comfortable personal flotation device (PFD), a suitable paddle, and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions, can make all the difference in your kayaking experience.
  3. Know Your Limits: As a beginner, it’s essential to recognize your limitations and not push yourself too hard. Stick to calm waters and shorter trips until you gain more experience and confidence.
  4. Plan Your Route: Before setting out, familiarize yourself with the area you’ll be paddling in and plan your route accordingly. Be aware of potential hazards, such as submerged rocks, strong currents, or rapidly changing weather conditions.
  5. Practice Safety: Always practice safety when kayaking, including wearing a PFD, informing someone of your plans and expected return time, and carrying a whistle or other signaling device in case of an emergency.
  6. Learn Proper Paddling Technique: Understanding the correct paddling technique will help you move more efficiently and prevent injuries. Focus on using your core muscles and rotating your torso as you paddle, rather than relying solely on your arms.
  7. Stay Aware of Weather and Water Conditions: Keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared for sudden changes in conditions. Additionally, be aware of water temperatures, currents, and tides that may impact your kayaking experience.
  8. Respect Wildlife and the Environment: When kayaking, be mindful of the wildlife and their habitats. Keep a safe distance from any animals you encounter and follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.

By following these tips and understanding the different types of kayaks available, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a lifetime of memorable paddling adventures.

See our publication Introduction to Kayaking Here


In conclusion, there is a wide variety of kayaks available to suit every paddler’s needs and preferences. From recreational sit-on-top kayaks to high-performance whitewater boats, there’s a kayak for everyone. By understanding the different types of kayaks and their specific features, you can make an informed decision and find the perfect kayak for your next adventure.


What is the difference between a sit-on-top and a sit-inside kayak?

A sit-on-top kayak has a sealed hull and a molded seat on top, making it easy to get in and out of, while a sit-inside kayak has a traditional design with a cockpit that encloses your lower body. Sit-on-top kayaks are generally more stable and self-draining, while sit-inside kayaks offer better protection from the elements and are more versatile.

Are inflatable kayaks durable and reliable?

Inflatable kayaks have come a long way in recent years, and many models are made from durable materials, such as PVC or Hypalon. While they may not be as rigid or stable as hardshell kayaks, modern inflatable kayaks can be reliable and suitable for various water conditions, depending on the specific model.

Can I use a recreational kayak for fishing?

Yes, you can use a recreational kayak for fishing, but it may not have all the specialized features of a dedicated fishing kayak, such as rod holders, gear tracks, or additional storage compartments. However, you can often add accessories to a recreational kayak to make it more suitable for fishing.

How do I store and transport a folding kayak?

Folding kayaks are designed to be easily disassembled and packed into a compact carrying case. When not in use, you can store them in a closet, garage, or other small spaces. For transport, simply pack the kayak into its carrying case and place it in your vehicle or check it as luggage when flying.

See our publications about Cleaning and Storing Kayaks Here

What type of kayak is best for beginners?

Sit-on-top kayaks, especially recreational models, are often recommended for beginners due to their stability, ease of entry and exit, and self-draining design. They are ideal for learning basic paddling skills and gaining confidence on the water.