SUP Gear

30 Types of Kayaks: Choose The Right One for Your Water Trip

30 Types of Kayaks: Choose The Right One for Your Water Trip

In the world of kayaking, there are endless types of kayaks to choose from. From seasoned kayakers to those just learning their ways in the water, it’s important to pick the best one. No two types are exactly the same, just as no paddlers are identical in preferences.

Sturdy options may be best for thrill-filled whitewater adventures. If you prefer a peaceful paddle, lightweight kayak types perform exceptionally well in flat water.

Types of Kayaks Based on Construction

Kayak types are categorized into many factors. The most common, which you will encounter often, is construction.

Different types of construction can affect a kayak's performance, durability, and weight, making it crucial to choose the most appropriate one for your needs.

1. Rigid or Hard-Shell Kayaks

Rigid or hard-shell kayaks are made from rigid materials such as plastic, fiberglass, or composite materials. They cannot be easily inflated and folded like inflatable kayaks, hence the name.

Types of Kayaks Based on Construction

Pros:

  • They are more resistant to punctures and tears, but this often depends on the quality of the manufacturers.
  • This type of kayak is faster and also has better tracking compared to inflatable ones.

Cons:

  • They are heavy and harder to store and transport.
  • They are often more expensive than inflatable kayaks and do require a certain level of maintenance to perform their best.

2. Blow-molded Kayak

Blow-molded kayaks are made by injecting plastic into a mold and then inflating it to produce the desired shape.

Pros:

  • They are affordable and more lightweight compared to hard-shell kayaks.
  • Due to their structure’s strength, they are quite resistant to rocks, bumps, and scrapes.
  • They are cost-effective and convenient. It’s easy for you to store and handle this type of kayak

Cons:

  • They are often pretty basic in terms of design, meaning that there won’t be much space for customized features.
  • While lightweight, there may be limits to their performance in rough waters.

3. ABS Plastic Kayak

ABS plastic kayaks are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a lightweight and durable thermoplastic material. They are also known as thermoform kayaks. The hull and deck are made separately then joined together.

Pros:

  • ABS plastic is lightweight and highly durable, and it’s also easy to clean.
  • Experienced kayakers also prefer thermoform kayaks due to their ability to withstand choppy waters.
  • The appearance is fancy, with a glossy finish provided by an acrylic outer layer.

Cons:

  • ABS plastic is not UV-ray resistant. The kayak’s base may deteriorate with time.
  • This type of kayak is not suitable for cold climates when being shattered at below-freezing temperatures.

4. Composite Kayak

Composite kayaks are typically made from a blend of two or more lightweight materials such as fiberglass, aramid fiber, and carbon fiber which is later infused with resin.

Pros:

  • Composite kayaks are fast. Perhaps, the fastest of all kayak types based on construction. Their sleek and aerodynamic hulls are great for paddling.
  • It has high performance, responsiveness, and efficiency.
  • It’s easy to repair the composite kayak

Cons:

  • The materials are expensive, so composite kayaks may not be the best option for those with a tight budget.

5. Inflatable Kayak

Inflatable kayaks have gained popularity in recent years due to a rise in outdoor adventures. They are typically made of durable materials such as PVC or rubber and are designed to be lightweight and easily portable.

Pros:

  • If you plan on traveling with your kayak frequently, a kayak that can be deflated and kept in the back of your car or in a bag is perfect.
  • Some inflatables also offer added comfort, such as an extra seat, without taking up any space.
  • To an extent, they are also quite sturdy against bumps.

Cons:

  • Sharp debris can be a pain for inflatable kayaks.
  • Since you have to inflate them beforehand, setup time is longer than other types of kayaks.
Inflatable Kayak

If you’re looking for an inflatable kayaker that can help you explore the water in style and comfort, consider the iROCKER inflatable kayak. It’s lightweight and compact when deflated and stable and versatile when inflated. It also comes with an extra kayak seat so you can share the fun with your kayak buddy.

6. Folding Kayak

Folding Kayak is basically an inflatable kayak’s sibling. While it doesn’t need to be inflated, the premise is pretty much the same - easy transportation. This type of kayak typically has a collapsible frame made of wood, aluminum, or plastic, with a skin or shell made of durable fabric such as PVC or nylon.

Pros:

  • They have flat bottoms, which can be good for shallow waters.
  • They are lightweight and very responsive to movements.
  • They offer easy portability and storage.
  • You can repair minor tears easily with convenient patch kits

Cons:

  • The seams between panels can be seen as weak points, but that may depend on the manufacturers.
  • Due to their thinness, folding kayaks may not withstand rocks and punctures very well.
Folding Kayak

iROCKER’s Tucktec Folding Kayak is worth a try for fans of this portable, ready-whenever-you-are type of kayak. The adjustable seat and footrest are made with extra comfort in mind to overcome the misconception that folding kayaks are awkward to sit in. With its simplified design, setting up only takes minutes, and maintenance is even less cumbersome.

7. Rotomolded Kayak

Rotomolded kayaks are made from a plastic material, which is heated and rotated in a mold to create a seamless and durable hull. The process is called rotational molding.

Pros:

  • Easy control and maneuverability are the qualities rotomolded is known for.
  • They offer great performance-to-price value.
  • They possess indestructible construction that you can paddle with on whitewater and rocky shorelines.

Cons:

  • They are susceptible to dents when left in the sun for too long, but there are ways to fix them.
  • They are pretty heavy, so they may not be the best option for those who are concerned about portability.

8. Modular Kayak

By characteristic, modular kayaks are hard-shell kayaks. However, they are not one solid piece but are divided into modules - separate parts - that can be put together using a snap-lock mechanism.

Pros:

  • Their construction makes them perfect for moving your kayak around in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Some modular kayaks allow you to add or remove sections to adjust the length and capacity of the kayak based on your needs.

Cons:

  • They require a bit of learning to get the hang of proper assemblance. If it’s not assembled correctly, there may be leaks. For that reason, they also need frequent maintenance.

9. Hybrid Kayak

A hybrid kayak can be a canoe-kayak mix or a kayak-paddle board mix. This kayak type often comes with an accessory or two to assemble it into another thing, for example, a seat to convert it from a SUP to a sit-on-top kayak.

Pros:

  • Kayak/canoe hybrids can offer extra storage, and kayak/paddle board hybrids give you full use of the deck.
  • They are stable and perform well in calm lakes, slow-moving rivers, and coastal waters.

Cons:

  • Some can be quite expensive, and depending on the manufacturers, some designs may have subpar performance for both functions.

Types of Kayaks Based on Design

Apart from construction, types of kayaks are also different from one another based on design. There are two main kayak designs: sit-on-top or sit-inside.

The debate has always been about which one is better than the other. But the truth is that each has its own ups and downs as well as purposes. “For you” is the keyword here. The best kayak design is the one that works for you.

10. Sit-on-top Kayak

A sit-on-top kayak does not have an enclosed space, which means that you’re going to be sitting with your legs exposed, and everything is sealed off from the water. Yes, you will get wet when there are waves, but water won’t stay trapped in the kayak.

Sit-on-top Kayak

Pros:

  • It’s ideal for warmer climates as it allows for easy entry and exit into the water. You can also dip your toes in the water because your legs have more freedom to move when you’re paddling.
  • When people say it’s easier to have control with a sit-on-top kayak, they don’t always mean it’s going to magically make you paddle better. What it means is that since you’re not tucked inside, you can just climb back onto the kayak on your own when flipped over and continue your journey smoothly.

Cons:

  • Sit-on-top kayaks typically have less storage space compared to sit-inside kayaks, making them less ideal for longer trips or camping excursions. Being exposed to the elements may also make them uncomfortable to use when it’s cold or rainy.
  • Due to their open design, sit-on-top kayaks have a higher risk of capsizing compared to sit-inside kayaks, especially in rough water or surf conditions.

11. Sit-inside Kayak

Sit-inside kayaks are kayak types with a cockpit. This is where you sit, and your legs are tucked in and below the waterline, sheltered from the outside elements.

Pros:

  • A sit-inside kayak is better for venturing further out into the open waters compared to a sit-on-top.
  • It is a bit more stable because your center of gravity is lower in this position. This means that you can paddle through the water more efficiently without exerting too much energy for the same distance.
  • Another upside is that you are partially protected from the elements. When attached with a spray skirt, the cockpit can help keep the water out and trap in warmth, making it perfect to kayak in colder climates.
Sit-inside Kayak

 

Cons:

  • There’s going to be a lot more work to do when using a sit-inside kayak. While rewarding, you still need a bit of learning to get the control right. Also, since you have to put your legs inside whenever you want to get in the kayak, it’s not the swiftest thing getting in and out of it. You will have to learn self-rescue techniques or, sometimes, have to get extra assistance to get back on the kayak.
  • A big con that makes many shy away from sit-inside kayaks is that when water gets in the cockpit, it stays there until you drain it by flipping the kayak over. However, spray skirts can prevent this by keeping the water from splashing in the cockpit.

Types of Kayaks Based on Function

Several types of kayaks are designed for different functions. Some have added features to serve a purpose; some are pretty basic and streamlined. It all depends on what type of water activities you are looking for.

12. Touring Kayak

A touring kayak is great for covering long distances. It is often long and narrow, making it effortless to paddle. They are also designed to have more storage, making them perfect for multi-day expeditions or camping trips.

Pros:

  • The longer hull of a touring kayak provides better tracking, meaning the kayak will stay on course more easily and require less effort to paddle straight.
  • It’s also faster to cover more distances.

Cons:

  • Touring kayaks tend to be more expensive. Their weight and design also make it harder to store and maneuver.

13. Recreational Kayak

A recreational kayak is a smaller, lightweight kayak designed for calm water activities such as exploring lakes, rivers, and ponds. It is not meant to cut through choppy water and strong waves like a sea kayak, and it requires fewer skills for a casual kayaker.

Pros:

  • They are more versatile than touring kayaks in terms of what you can do with them, be it fishing or exploring nature.
  • They typically have a flat bottom for stability and a wider hull for easy maneuverability.
  • It’s a lot easier to use compared to a sea kayak.

Cons:

  • Due to their smaller size, recreational kayaks typically have limited storage space for gear and supplies. They also have certain limits when it comes to how much weight you can load.

14. Sea Kayak

Sea kayaks are made for the open ocean where water conditions are oftentimes unpredictable. They are longer and narrower than recreational kayaks and have a pointed bow to help with paddling through rough waves. Some models also come with bulkheads for floatation and skeg for better tracking.

Sea Kayak

Pros:

  • Their sleek and aerodynamic design makes them exceptionally fast and easy to control in whitewater.
  • The smaller cockpit makes it easier to attach a spray skirt and to make sharper turns compared to touring kayaks.
  • As they are made to deal with rough waters, it’s easier to roll a sea kayak to self-rescue than a recreational one (with training).

Cons:

  • If you’re not kayaking in the ocean, sea kayaks are probably going to be underused for the money you’re paying.
  • Since it’s slim, inexperienced kayakers may feel like it’s a bit tippy.

Surf Kayak

Surf kayaks are kayak types made specifically for surfing big, moving waves. They are unique in look and feature features such as rocker (the curve from bow to stern), edges, and fins.

Pros:

  • Surf kayaks are designed to excel in riding waves, which can be an exhilarating experience.
  • They are good for performing tricks and maneuvers in the surf.

Cons:

  • Other types of kayaks may be used interchangeably to an extent, but with surf kayaks, surfing may be solely what they are made for.
  • Switching from recreational kayaks to surf ones may require a bit more practice and learning than you’d expect.

15. Sail Kayak

A sail kayak is typically a dedicated design made specifically for sailing, rather than simply attaching a sail to a traditional sea kayak. They may have features and rigging systems that are optimized for sailing, such as a retractable centerboard or rudder, a mast step, and reinforced hull construction.

Pros:

  • With the use of the sail, it’s certainly faster than other types of kayaks. You may only need to use half the energy to get it to travel the same distance as others.
  • You can rest a bit and let the wind take its course, giving you some time to admire the scenery.

Cons:

  • Added features can mean bigger price tags for some.
  • You need to learn both kayaking and sailing safety.

16. River Runner Kayak

A river runner kayak, or whitewater kayak, is for navigating whitewater rapids and fast-moving currents. They are on the shorter side and don’t travel as fast over long distances, but the rounded hull and rocker profile give them the advantages in unpredictable conditions, especially of rivers.

River Runner Kayak

 

Pros:

  • They are perfect for moving through tight turns and obstacles in fast-moving water.
  • They are often made from durable materials that can withstand impacts.
  • Due to their purpose, river runner kayaks usually come with safety features like flotation bags and grab handles.

Cons:

  • River runner kayaks are specifically designed for whitewater paddling and may not perform as well in calm or flatwater conditions.

17. Duckies Kayak

Duckies are inflatable sit-on-top kayaks for flatwater fun. They are often used solo but can fit an adult and child. They are lightweight, portable, and easy to store, suitable for calm lakes and rivers. However, they are less durable than hard-shell kayaks and may require more maintenance.

18. Racing Kayak

Racing kayaks are used in competitive kayaking. There are two main types of races: sprint (covering a short distance as fast as possible) and marathon (endurance over long distances). With that being said, racing kayaks are often designed to excel at one specific aspect - speed. They are sleek and low-profile. Think of an arrow, but on water!

Pros:

  • They are customizable to an athlete’s preference or race type.
  • They are designed to have minimal resistance compared to recreational kayaks.

Cons:

  • Unless you’re competing, a racing kayak may be a bit too niche for casual paddling.

19. Fishing Kayak

A fishing kayak typically has extra space for fishing gear, rod holders, and sometimes indents to hold small items like lures and phones. Anglers may customize a fishing kayak to their liking. Some fishing kayaks have pedals instead of paddles.

Fishing Kayak

 

Pros:

  • Fishing kayaks are more affordable than fishing boats, and they are easier to squeeze into tight spots.
  • Because of its ease of use, some designs are safe for fishing with kids, compared to a larger boat.

Cons:

  • They may not be suitable for longer fishing trips or for fishing in rough waters.

Check out our guide on Kayak Fishing for more tips and tricks!

20. Freestyle Kayak

Freestyle kayaks are a type of kayak designed specifically for freestyle kayaking, which is a form of whitewater kayaking. A flat hull and sharp edges to make it easier to perform tricks like spins, flips, and loops. Unless you’re doing freestyle kayaking, you might not need it.

21. Crossover Kayak

They are recreational kayaks but are made to paddle well in whitewater as well.

Pros:

  • They can be used in a variety of water conditions, including calm lakes and rivers with small rapids.

Cons:

  • Crossover kayaks may not perform as well in more challenging whitewater environments as playboat and river runner kayaks.

22. Playboat Kayak

Playboat kayaks are similar to freestyle kayaks. Their design allows for tricks in whitewater. They have a shorter and stubbier hull with less volume.

23. Hunting Kayak

A hunting kayak is not that much different from a fishing kayak. It has lots of storage space for gear and stability to approach wildlife more effectively. Many hunters prefer pedals over paddles because they allow more freedom to use their hands. On top of that, hunting kayaks are quiet and have colors/patterns that help them blend in with the environment.

Types of Kayaks Based on Seat Number

If you plan on kayaking with friends or family, you can choose types of kayaks based on how many people they can carry.

24. Tandem Kayak

Tandem means two seats. Tandem kayaks are made for duo-paddling: one person in the front and one at the back. There are sit-on-top tandem kayaks and sit-inside tandem kayaks.

Pros:

  • The obvious advantage is that you can paddle with someone else.
  • They can take more weight than a solo kayak that is long and can seat two people.
Tandem Kayak

Cons:

  • Two people need to be in-sync to avoid paddles banging against each other.
  • A tandem kayak may feel awkward when used by one person, so unless you’re going to frequently paddle with a partner, it may not be the most convenient option.
  • They can be quite heavy.

25. Solo Kayak

Solo kayaks are made for 1 person to paddle. It’s the most common type of kayak. Many people tend to fall for the myth that tandem kayaks are better than solo kayaks, but that might not always be the case.

They are good for their own kayaking purposes. If you purchase a solo kayak but decide to seat another person on it, of course, it’s not going to perform its best, and vice versa.

26. Family Kayak

A family kayak is made to carry more than two people. There are 3-person kayaks and 4-person kayaks. Some of them are sit-inside kayaks, while some are sit-on-top. The latter is often the more popular choice for paddling with young children.

Pros:

  • They can accommodate a mix of paddling abilities and experience levels.
  • They are spacious and comfortable for multiple paddlers.

Cons:

  • They are heavy, so a lot of people prefer inflatable family kayaks.
  • They can be more challenging to maneuver and control compared to solo kayaks.
  • Sit-inside family kayaks require some skills to handle safely in case of being tipped over.

27. Kids Kayak

A kid kayak is a smaller, lightweight kayak specifically designed for children to use on calm waters. It has features that can help children paddle more comfortably, such as a smaller cockpit and adjustable foot braces.

Pros:

  • They have safety features dedicated to children compared to a normal kayak in the same size.

Cons:

  • They can be expensive, and children may outgrow them very quickly.

Types of Kayaks Based on Propulsion

Propulsion refers to how different types of kayaks move forward. Depending on their functions, propulsion styles will suit different needs.

28. Paddle Kayak

Paddle kayaks come with a paddle - a pole with broad blades on both ends. It’s what kayaking has always been known for.

Paddle Kayak

 

Pros:

  • They are easy to use and can access a wide range of bodies of water.
  • Paddle kayaks are usually more affordable than pedal and motorized kayaks, and there is less maintenance too.

Cons:

  • You may not have the option to go hands-free, which can be a disadvantage while fishing and hunting.
  • They are slower compared to pedal and motorized kayaks.

29. Pedal Kayak

Pedal kayaks have a pedal attached to the hull near the seat. You propel the kayak using the strength of your legs and feet.

Pros:

  • Hands-free kayaking gives people more freedom to either rest or do something else like taking photos and holding a fishing rod.
  • Paddling by foot is relatively faster.
  • Since the hull is wider to fit a pedal system, they are also more stable.

Cons:

  • They may not be the true kayaking experience (with a paddle) many look for.
  • Underwater plants and shallow water may require an additional paddle to move through.
  • It’s harder to store and transport.

30. Motorized Kayak

A motorized kayak is typically powered by batteries. The motor can be installed at the bow or the stern. Motorized kayaks are popular in the world of fishing and hunting.

Pros:

  • They are faster and can cover more distances.
  • It’s easier to navigate and focus on fishing/hunting instead of continuous paddling.

Cons:

  • Batteries can run out, so you need more careful planning.
  • They can hardly be as cheap as a traditional kayak.

If you’re a newbie to kayaking, check out our beginner guide on how to kayak!

Choose The Best Kayak at iROCKER

With so many types of kayaks, you should probably be asking now which one is the best.

From lightweight inflatable kayaks that can be accessorized to work as a tandem to convenient foldable kayaks for a hassle-free day in the water, iROCKER is a good starting place to find your answer.

Once you’ve found the right kayak for you, download the Blue Adventures app to score the best kayaking destinations in the palm of your hand!