A Quick Guide To The Different Types Of Kayaks

Most people have an idea of what a kayak looks like in their mind but, there are actually many different types that all look different and have subtle differences. When choosing which type of kayak to purchase or reading beginner kayak reviews, you need to think about what you’re going to be using it for. Will you be paddling on calm lakes and rivers Heading out into the ocean or a choppy sea?

The answer to these questions will affect what type of kayak you’ll want to be looking at getting. Below are a few of the different variations and what type of paddling they’re best suited for.

Sit on top Kayaks (SOT)

Sit on top kayaks are very popular with beginners and those just starting out with kayaking.

As the name suggests you sit on top of the kayak with your legs exposed rather than getting into it like a canoe or a sit inside kayak (which we’ll look at next).

They’re often made of plastic or foam and the big benefit is they can’t fill up with water or sink!

They’re not as popular with more advanced kayakers as you’re not very attached to them and you might find you lose some control. You won’t be able to capsize it or Eskimo roll either.

You’re also going to be exposed to the elements a lot more. That may or may not be a good thing depending on the weather!

You can get both solo and tandem sit on top kayaks and even an inflatable one.

Sit in Kayaks (SIKs)

Sit in kayaks have an enclosed seating area (the cockpit) as opposed to the sit on top kayaks where you’re exposed to all the elements.

One of the pros of this is that they can be a bit warmer and you’re less likely to get wet! The downside is that if you were to capsize it can be complicated as you’ll have to empty the cockpit of water.

Let’s take a look at some of the types of sit inside kayaks below.

Recreational kayaks

Recreational kayaks are the kayaks I usually recommend for brand new beginners.

Their design means that they’re a lot more stable and easier to use as someone learns how to balance and paddle.

Length wise they will tend to be anywhere from 10 – 12 feet long and so are a bit easier to turn than say a touring kayak which we’ll look at next. They also have a wider body and cockpit and so are a lot more spacious which can make getting in and out easier and more comfortable.

Touring kayaks

Touring kayaks are the upgrade from a recreational kayak. Once you’ve got used to paddling and controlling your yak you’ll want to move on to one of these.

They tend to be over 13ft long and so can be quite hard to turn if you don’t know what you’re doing and often come with a rudder (skeg) to make turning easier.

The extra length does mean that you’ll have a bit more space to bring supplies!

Touring kayaks are recognizable by their high bow and stern which makes them easier to use in choppier water, but you do sacrifice stability.

Sea and ocean kayaks

Sea kayaks are one of the longest kayaks normally coming in at around 15ft. They’re very similar to touring kayaks but are recognizable by their upswept bow and stern which helps them tackle waves a bit easier!

They are specifically designed for use at sea and whilst they are ok to be used by beginners their long length does mean they’ll be hard to turn and are a lot less stable than recreational kayaks.

Racing kayaks

Racing kayaks, like sea kayaks, tend to be very long (over 15ft). They’re distinguishable because of their very long narrow and sleek design.

They will often be wider behind the kayak and thinner at the front allowing them to cut through the water. They’re very unstable and so are not recommended at all for beginners.

White water kayaks

White water kayaks are distinguishable by their very short length, usually under 7ft. To make them as stable as possible they’ll have a very wide, flat hulls.

They are designed to be used on rapids and so have high manoeuvrability and are easy to turn quickly to allow you to negotiate the twists and turns of a fast moving river.

There are various different types of whitewater kayaks that will be preferable depending on the grade of the river you’re paddling down.

Inflatable kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are hugely popular as they’re so easy to store and transport. No having to get roof racks for these yaks, just take them out blow them up and you’re ready to go.

They are typically made out of PVC or Hypalon and are surprisingly durable considering they’re inflatable.

There are lots of different types of inflatable kayak at multiple different price points and can be very cheap and so a good option for beginners dipping their toe into kayaking.

Fishing kayaks

There are a whole host of kayaks specifically designed for fishing. It’s a very popular pastime and so you can get kayaks that have specific features like rod holders, more space to take supplies with you and some will even have built in tackle boxes.

You could just use any kayak though for a fishing trip but we’d recommend a recreational kayak as these are more stable and you’re less likely to fall in.

Kayaks for kids

If you’re looking for a kayak that’s suitable for kids then you’re going to want to look for a kayak that’s easy to steer and more stable so to avoid unnecessary tips.

Depending on how big your child is you’re going to want to look for a paddle that’s the right size and also ensure that you’ve got them a PFD (personal floatation device) before letting them loose on the water.

You can get specific kayaks made for children but we’d recommend a tandem one to start with so you can be in with them to get them used to being on the water.

Then once they’re comfortable a small recreational kayak tends to be a good choice.

Summing Up

I hope that’s helped make a little more sense of the different types of kayak available. I’ll be updating this post with more in-depth descriptions of the variations and what they mean for you when choosing the right kayak to get soon.

Any questions just leave a comment below.