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Different Types of Kayaks – A Complete Guide for the Enthusiasts

Different Types of Kayaks
Written by Derrick Riley
Last Update: August 14, 2023

The world of kayaking is one of excitement and adventure. There are many different kinds of kayaking niches, from touring, to the ocean, to white-water rapid kayaking. These many niches each come with their own specifically designed and suited kayak. Stick around to get the full list of different kayaks!

Different Kayak Types

Sit in vs Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Sit-in kayaks

These kayaks are the ones most people are familiar with. They consist of a hull and body that has an inside seat – hence the name. With this type of kayak, your legs and lower body remain inside the hull of the kayak where you will also find the pedals for steering in pedal kayaks.

Sit-on-top kayaks

This kind of kayak has no hollow hull or inside space for your legs. You sit on top of this kayak and row and steer of a flat top.

Kayaks often offer a version of either sit in or sit on. For example, touring kayaks come in sit-in designs and sit-on designs. The decision of which type to go with between these two is largely preference-based.

Recreational Kayaks

These are arguably the cheapest kind of kayak one can buy and generally are made from one or another kind of plastic or composite. They are not particularly hardy and are not designed for long trips or tough rapids. They don’t hold a lot of gear and don’t offer any competitive edge. These are, as the name implies, used purely for fun. If you want a day out on the lake or a calm river for the sake of fun and are not serious about doing anything extreme or competitive, these are perfect.

Touring Kayaks

Touring kayaks come in various sizes but are all designed for long trips and higher weight capacities. The reason for this is the need to hold enough gear to last a tour trip. As such, they also generally come with more storage space than a typical kayak. They tend to be bigger and wider than other kayak types, except ocean kayaks, because they need to offer comfort and stability over a longer than normal period of time. You also get lighter smaller touring kayaks for use in different wetlands, marshes, and swamps where you may have to carry your kayak over certain points. If you are looking to river-tour or swamp-tour, this kind of kayak is especially for you.

Sea Kayaks

Sea kayaks are built long, wide, and strong due to their requirement to contend with the ocean. They have a different composite make-up than other kayak types in order to avoid erosion and counter for the buoyancy changes experienced in salt water. There are a few variation in the ocean kayaks to cater for particular aims such as deep-sea kayaking or shoreline touring.

White-Water Kayaks

White-water kayaks are among the most fun and adrenaline inducing kayaks. They are designed short in solid to make quick turning in the rapids much easier and can take a hit better than most other kinds of kayaks available, they don’t contain much storage space as their point is not for long arduous trips but for quick, adrenaline-filled trips down violent river-ways.

Tandem Kayaks

Tandem kayaks are designed to fit two people. They come with designs for touring, recreation, ocean, and even fishing purposes. They have a slightly different hull design for weight distribution purposes but are otherwise quite similar to a normal kayak just with an extra seat.

Fishing Kayaks

These kayaks are designed specifically for fishing and offer wider hulls designed for more stability when moving around on the kayak during cast etc. they also come with a few extra bits and bobs attached for resting your rod and so forth. They also contain more storage space for your tackle than a recreational kayak would.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are perfect for those who have no space or way to attach a full kayak to their car when going out. Simply pop the deflated kayak in the boot and inflate on-site. They don’t offer anything particularly competitive like serious rapid runs or intensive long touring but are quite adaptable for needs such as recreation fishing, short tours, and calm river-runs, and as such make good flat-water kayaks.

Folding Modular Kayaks

This kind of kayak can be sourced for different uses such as ocean, white-water, touring, and recreational use and has a few different styles. The key difference setting these apart from others is their neat ability to fold up quite small and thus take up very little space. They are also lighter than most non-folding kayaks of the same nature. These are especially useful for those who are travelling on a plane overseas and need a compact way of bringing their kayak along.

As you can see, there are many different kayaks that are specifically designed for an express purpose. When trying to decide what kayak you want it is important to ask yourself what you intend to do with it and thus shop for one in the relevant category so that you get what is safest and best suited to your needs and comfortability. Happy rowing!

About the author

Derrick Riley

I’m Derrick in my early 40s, but planning to bag from every saltwater source in America. In practice, I’ve explored over a dozen bodies of water that hosted almost all of the saltwater game fish. My personal favorites are brook trout and striped bass though. I don’t mind catching bluegill and white crappie either.

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