Types Of Kayaks – [30+] Kayak Types

Types of kayaks

It might be challenging to choose which kayak types are best for you since there are so many different models. The types of kayaks depending on materials, designs, number of seats, intended usage, and method of propulsion.

You may get the ideal kayak for your objectives, financial situation, and desires by being aware of the variations. You may learn the fundamentals from the discussion below, which will also set you on the correct road to discovering the kayak that is ideal for you.

Kayak types by structure

Kayaks that are inflatable

When storing their kayaks, kayakers with limited space may want to consider inflatable or blow-up kayaks. Whitewater, fishing, and recreational inflatable designs are the most common types. The same durable materials that are used to make whitewater rafts are usually employed to make fishing and whitewater inflatables. Recreational designs are usually more lightweight, less durable, and more cost-effective.

For paddlers wishing to explore wild rivers, whitewater inflatable kayaks are an alternative to rafts and whitewater kayaks. Recreational designs are appropriate for peaceful water activities. Both come in solo or tandem configurations.

The main benefit of inflatable designs is their portability and storage efficiency. Additionally, they are among the most cost-effective solutions for folding kayaks. Because they are less stiff than hard-shell designs, inflatable kayaks don’t function as well. However, whether you’re searching for a kayak to keep in your closet or a rugged boat to blast down the river, they’re a wonderful alternative to explore. They also provide fewer design possibilities and amenities than rigid kayaks.

Pros: While inflatable kayaks are undoubtedly “recreational,” aren’t all kayaks in some way? Wider beams provide them greater stability on both flat and moving water. They are simple to paddle and steer and can carry greater loads.

Modern inflatable kayaks come in a variety of prices, from the low-cost play/learning boat to the robust, long-lasting inflatable kayak or raft for major river rapids.

Cons: Recall that gap we spoke about? No matter where you are, any hole in an inflatable ends your kayaking day. (Remember your patch kit and be familiar with its use.)

PVC-made inflatable kayaks (Plastic)

It is more portable since the seams are welded, inexpensive, and simple to fix, but it doesn’t hold up well to the sun.

Hypalon inflatable kayaks – (Synthetic Rubber)

It’s durable and has excellent UV resistance, but it costs a lot and has to be bonded rather than welded.

Nitrylon inflatable kayaks – (Laminated Rubber Over Fabric)

Although it is hefty, it is strong, puncture-resistant, and performs better in the cold.


Kayaks made of blow-molded plastic are often the least priced and least resilient models. Heavy-duty blow-molded kayaks are produced by a small number of high-quality manufacturers, although the majority of these designs are budget-friendly versions that are distributed by mass merchants and department shops. These kayaks are blow-molded, which makes them cheap and lightweight but far less robust than rotomolded plastic models.

Rotomolded polyethylene

For rigid kayaks, polyethylene (PE) rotomolded into shape is the most typical material. Nearly all whitewater kayaks are rotomolded because it is strong and especially impact-resistant. A almost limitless variety of kayak designs may be produced using rotomolding. Many paddlers find the material to be an excellent option because of its durability and affordable price.

Rotomolded kayaks’ greatest drawback is that they are often heavier than other types of boats. Rotomolded materials aren’t nearly as ideal for high-performance designs like racing kayaks and sea kayaks since they are a bit more flexible than composite boats.

Kayaks with rigid or robust shells

Rigid or hard-shell kayaks are the most prevalent type of kayak. There are several designs available in a variety of materials, including thermoformed ABS plastic kayaks, rotomolded and blow-molded plastic kayaks, and composite buildings. These structures all have the same trait in that they are stiff. They do not collapse, roll into bags, or—for the most part—fall apart into fragments.

Your exploration should start with hard-shell kayaks. Whether they’re searching for a fishing kayak, a lightweight recreational model, or something for serious ocean exploration, the majority of individuals who buy kayaks will discover a hard-shell design that suits their demands. Whether it is fishing kayaks, recreational boats, whitewater designs, or touring kayaks, rigid designs predominate in almost every area of kayak design.

Rigid kayaks vary in terms of both design and construction. We’ll talk about certain design features a bit later. We’ll concentrate on the variations among rotomolded, blow-molded, ABS/thermoformed, and composite structures for the time being.


Kayaks made of ABS plastic occupy a midway ground between composite and rotomolded PE designs. They are basically in-between the two materials in terms of stiffness and impact resistance and cost more than rotomolded boats but less than composites. This material is used in many light touring and touring designs and provides outstanding value.

Folding or foldable kayaks are the only type you’ll seldom see in hard-shell designs. Although some rigid kayaks may be disassembled into two or more sections for storage or transit, inflatable and foldable models predominate in the category of travel kayaks.


Layers of aramid or fiberglass fabric are bonded with a resin to create composite kayaks. In general, composite kayaks are more rigid and lightweight than rotomolded ones. For longer touring kayaks, composite is an excellent material option. The best material to use when creating an ultra-lightweight or high-performance racing kayak is composite.

Foldable kayaks

In terms of collapsible kayak designs, folding or foldable kayaks often provide the most high-performance possibilities. The solid frame of a traditional folding kayak is covered by a flexible waterproof skin. Some more recent designs make use of foldable panels that, when snapped together, create the kayak’s hull. In any instance, the hull is more rigid than an inflatable and, in certain circumstances, performs similarly to high-end hard-shell touring designs.

There are recreational and touring models of folding kayaks. With tandem folding designs in particular, they are often broad and sturdy.

The main benefit of folding kayaks is that they provide a portable choice for storage and transportation. Although folding kayaks are more costly than inflatable ones, they often perform better on the water. Folding kayaks are a bad option for whitewater kayaking because of their inflexible nature, where strikes with boulders might shatter or bend their frames.

Folding designs should be at the top of your list if you’re searching for a small kayak for storage or travel and you have the extra cash available.

In the world of kayaking, the construction of a vessel plays a significant role in defining its attributes. Whether crafted with air-filled chambers, forged from seamless polymer molds, or ingeniously folded into shape, the essence of a kayak lies in its build.

This construction dictates not merely its robustness but its weight, translating into an array of performance characteristics that suit varied pursuits. A lightweight creation, for instance, emerges as a superior choice for the adventurous at heart, seamlessly melding sturdiness with nimble control.

Whether it’s the thrill of catching a fish, battling rapids, or gliding on calm waters, the best lightweight kayak is an enticing lure, calling out to those who seek fluidity in their aquatic endeavors.

By activity, several kayaks types

Kayaks for fishing

Angler kayaks or fishing kayaks are unique recreational models. Fishing kayaks are typically sit-on-top models. These provide easy fish landing, excellent movement, and safety when a long way from land.

Some kayaks used for fishing have ample room for standing. Although these designs often move more slowly than narrower boats, their broader beam offers plenty of stability. Wider designs also have the advantage of allowing chairs to be positioned higher for better visibility and casting.

In tidal or river situations, where strong currents may make paddling difficult, pedal-drive fishing kayaks are common. Pedal kayaks come in a variety of types, some with fins and others with propellers. All of these enable a kayak fisherman to use both hands for casting and fish handling.

Some kayak anglers like closed cockpit designs in cooler areas. These kayaks provide additional protection from the chilly water and air temperatures but are a bit more challenging to get into and out of.

Kayaks for whitewater

Specialized kayaks called “whitewater” are made for navigating river rapids. Most sit-inside whitewater kayaks have smaller cockpits that can be securely enclosed with a neoprene sprayskirt. For people who prefer to sit on top of their kayak rather than within it, certain sit-on-top designs provide hard-shell kayak performance.

Touring or recreational kayaks tend to be longer than whitewater kayaks. They are the most agile types of kayaks and often feature hull designs that plane like a surfboard while riding waves. The following section discusses some of the most popular types of whitewater kayaks.

Play Boats

On a playboat, you may surf waves, do cartwheels, and spray water. For precision surfing, they nearly usually feature a planing hull. Playboats are usually shorter and have less capacity than river runners. In order to do vertical play maneuvers, it is now simpler to slice them beneath the water.

Playboats have a smaller cockpit because of their lesser capacity, which limits their space for comfort. You should keep in mind that, in most situations, you will be exchanging plush for play if you opt to go with a playboat rather than a river runner.

Creek boats

Creek boats are designed to make navigating very steep whitewater safer and simpler. They often have softer edges and generally have greater volume than river runners. The majority of creek boats have enough rocker for good handling and forgiving landings on steep drops.

You already know whether a stream boat is necessary. Class IV may be more approachable and enjoyable for paddlers who are confident on class III and want to test themselves on rougher water by using a stream boat. If you operate a class V vessel, you most likely already own a creeker.

River runners

Whitewater kayaks called “river runners” are designed to go large distances while having fun on various river characteristics. These boats often have traits in common with some of the other categories, such as stream boats or playboats. For wave surfing, river runners may feature a planing hull like a surfboard. Compared to playboats, most are roomier and more comfortable. Compared to stream boats, they often have less capacity. Playboats and creekboats are usually shorter than river runners, which are also quicker on the water.

There is a wide range of options in this area, as there is with all boat designs. Some river runners have greater volume and rocker, leaning toward the creek boat end of the spectrum. Others are more akin to playboats, which may squirt and rotate by cutting a hole in the stern of the boat with a sharp object. You must choose how much you want to play the river and how essential stability and forgiveness are to you before choosing the best river runner for your requirements.

Kayaks for Flat Water

Kayaks made for flat water are relatively stable and are intended for recreational usage. They are designed to take pleasure in placid flat lakes, leisurely flowing rivers, little ponds, and placid ocean inlets. Kayaks designed for flat water are ideal for those who enjoy: Taking a leisurely paddle along a slow-moving river, seeing highland lakes, touring tranquil seaside coasts or inlets, Fishing during troll or stillwater

SUP Kayak Combination

The popularity of the paddlesport known as SUP, or stand-up paddling, has increased substantially in recent years. It’s not surprising that there was a clamor for the two activities to be joined given that this parallels the surge in popularity of kayaking. A SUP Kayak Hybrid has a seat and a double-ended kayak paddle in addition to all the characteristics of a stand-up paddleboard. The hybrid SUP/kayak enables the paddler to sit down and paddle in harsher circumstances or relax while traveling longer distances.


By removing some of the physical strain and enhancing control, the addition of a kayaking seat to a SUP enables the paddler to take on longer lengths or somewhat tougher weather.


The value of the SUP hybrid is quite limited, and regular kayaks or SUPs are often superior. Before purchasing a kayak seat, it’s best to research precisely how it will enhance your SUP experience because it’s sometimes preferable to just get a kayak.

Kayaks for the sea

Touring kayaks may be compared to ocean/sea kayaks in terms of characteristics and functionality. Sea kayaks are a little bit longer, ranging from 15 to 19 feet. The cockpit on them is often significantly smaller, perhaps measuring less than 20 inches wide. Long and streamlined, sea kayaks are designed to manage waves and mild surf.

Advantages: Ocean kayaks track better and cope with wind and waves better. They have design elements integrated into their hulls that enable them to easily handle ocean waves and chop. Due to the sealed bulkheads at the bow and stern, they won’t get swamped and fill up with water.

Ocean kayaks have a bigger interior volume (room), which allows them to accommodate more gear—enough for many day trips—and are better at managing rough water.

Cons: The diminished flat water performance and stability comes at the expense of the ability to manage chop and track straight. Additionally, they weigh a lot more than other kayaks. Oh, and to store them, you’ll need a second garage.

Sailing Kayaks

The usage of a sail on a kayak has been around for more than 150 years, but it is still unusual. A kayak sail is an item that can be fitted to nearly any kayak, increasing its speed and easing the strain on the paddler, as opposed to a kayak that is especially designed for sailing. Both sit-in and sit-on kayaks may have it installed.


A kayak sail may considerably increase a paddler’s capacity to swiftly span wide lengths of water. For individuals who want to concentrate on kayak touring, it lessens the physical strain on the paddler.


A kayak sail may not fit in all kayaks comfortably. The installation of a sail may cause an imbalance in kayaks with a broader beam and shorter length, which will greatly affect their tracking. Kayak sails typically perform best on touring and sea kayaks.

Diverse Kayaks

In California, kayak diving gained popularity in the 1990s and is now a common substitute for utilizing a motorized boat to go to diving destinations.

There are no kayaks made expressly for diving, but those that are are distinguished by their broad and sturdy beam and spacious storage compartments. Since diving kayaks exist in both sit-in and sit-on varieties, choose one.


Due to the lack of kayaks designed expressly for diving, ‘yaks that function effectively as support boats for diving may be utilized for a variety of other sports. They may be used for camping or as a recreational kayak due to their broad beam and ample storage space, which increases their usefulness.


Diving kayaks are often not suitable for activities like kayak touring, which calls for a narrow beam, due to the necessity to have enough space for big oxygen tanks and the stability to enable a diver to re-enter the kaya without overturning it.

Crossover kayaks

Whitewater and touring kayaks are separated by crossover kayaks. They can easily traverse great distances on the river because to their long, whitewater-style hulls. For storing dry stuff, crossovers also have bulkheads and hatches. The majority of them include a retractable skeg, which enhances tracking in lengthy river cruises’ flatwater stretches.

Instead of river runners or touring kayaks, many kayakers who prefer to paddle simple whitewater yet need a flexible boat choose for crossover kayaks. Even for individuals who infrequently or never enter whitewater rapids, they are a great alternative for beginning river paddlers.

Freestyle kayaks

A more specialized kind of playboats are freestyle kayaks. They feature planing hulls, slicy ends, and focused volume around the cockpit, making them the smallest kayak designs. The most complex play movements, like as aerial moves, loops, and a variety of other specialty maneuvers used in freestyle competitions, may be performed on freestyle boats.

Similar to creek boats, paddlers interested in freestyle boats frequently want a fresh challenge, in this case, learning difficult play moves and honing their boat handling techniques.

Freestyle kayaks, like playboats, won’t be the most comfortable for a long day on the water, but they will maximize the play value of any river location.

Kayaks for racing

There are different varieties of racing kayaks. There are whitewater sprint kayaks, flatwater sprint kayaks, downriver racing kayaks, racing surf skis, and whitewater slalom kayaks. For certain types of kayak racing, there are also long, swift sea kayaks utilized.

People purchase racing kayaks for two reasons: either they want to participate in a certain sport or they admire the speed and performance of a particular design. Racing kayaks are a popular option for fitness paddlers looking to train on the water.

Before diving in and investing in a racing kayak, it’s generally best to learn more about the community around your chosen discipline if you’re thinking of competing. There are a ton of suggestions for where to start and what to look for from other competitors and coaches.

Recreational kayaks

Fun, stability, and value all come together in recreational kayaks. Stability is a priority in recreational designs, whether they are sit-inside or sit-on-top. Although slower than touring kayaks, they are more stable.

Recreational kayaks can come with extremely simple features and are reasonably priced. Sometimes they are little more than a basic kayak hull with a seat. Some touring kayak features, like as hatches and bulkheads for dry storage and deck elastics for stowing a water bottle, are included into nicer designs.

Recreational kayaks are available in a variety of lengths and styles, just like all other kayaks. Most are no longer than 14 and few are less than nine feet. Compared to touring designs of comparable length, all are broader.

If you’re thinking about buying a recreational kayak, start by looking at models that are around 12 feet long. Shorter boats cost less and are lighter, but they move noticeably slower. The longer ones are heavier but speedier. For traversing a lot of kilometers, longer recreational boats make sense.

The best recreational kayaks for paddling far from shore are sit-on-top models, as was indicated in the sections above. Recreational kayaks with seats are ideal for paddlers who paddle near the shore.

Surfing kayaks

Surf kayaks are kayaks designed specifically for playing in ocean waves. Because they have a unique edge that grabs a breaking wave and enables a diagonal run like a surfboard, they are different from whitewater kayaks.

Both types of sit-inside surf kayaks are available. High-performance (HP) boats are small and resemble surfboards in shape with a flat planing hull. International Class (IC) boats that are longer often have a rounder hull. Both may be equipped with surfboard fins, although HP boats are more likely to have fins.

A wave ski is a specific type of sit-on-top surf kayak. With an elevated seat and a seatbelt to hold the paddler in place, this is effectively a surfboard. HP boats and wave skis both have a similar length and breadth. There are a few other sit-on-top surf kayaks for novices who are just starting out in the sport.

Kayaks for touring and sea

Specialized sit-inside kayaks designed touring kayaks are made for camping and long distance travel. Sea kayaks are a subset of touring kayaks that are more narrow and longer than other types of touring kayaks.

Typically, recreational kayaks leave off where touring kayaks continue. They usually measure more than 14 feet long and less than 24 inches wide. For dry storage and flotation, the majority of touring kayaks are equipped with bulkheads and hatches in the front and back. Most include retractable skegs or rudders to aid with wind direction control. Decklines and other safety elements are widespread.

In many respects, sea kayaks and all-purpose touring kayaks are comparable. Usually 16 feet long or more, they are also often 22 inches broad or smaller. Sea kayaks are usually less stable than conventional touring kayaks yet are speedier. They often contain additional compartments and hatches that provide simple access to equipment while on the water, and they nearly always have a skeg or rudder.

Polyethylene is rotomolded to make the majority of touring kayaks. Many sea kayaks are constructed from composite materials like fiberglass or aramid fibers that are lighter and more rigid. These composite kayaks often perform better than their PE counterparts, although they are much more expensive.

Touring kayaks are a wonderful option if you’re interested in paddling on bigger areas of water, such as the ocean or the Great Lakes. especially if you want to go camping on many day outings.

You are reading: Types Of Kayaks – [30+] Kayak Types

Kayak types according to design

Sit-inside Kayaks

A sit-inside or sit-in kayak is the most popular kind of kayak. The variety of designs in this area as a whole is astounding. Whitewater kayaks, touring kayaks, sea kayaks, racing kayaks, tandem kayaks, sit-in recreational kayaks, and so on.

The main benefit of sit-inside kayaks is that a sprayskirt may completely insulate them from the elements. In cold weather or on cold water, they are thus warmer and drier to paddle. Depending on the design, a closed cockpit may keep out a light rain or shield a paddler from crashing waves or furious whitewater.

Recreational sit-inside designs are widespread and a nice choice for paddling alongside the beach on calm water. Longer touring designs are quicker and typically include with safety measures that are useful while touring or camping in open water. Whitewater designs may surf a river wave or race severe drops. There are literally many design options.

The major drawback of sit-inside designs is that if you fall out in deep water, it might be difficult to get back into them. For sea kayakers to go back in their kayaks, they must acquire certain abilities. Recreational paddlers need to stick close to the coast. If at all feasible, whitewater kayakers should learn to roll their kayaks to prevent swimming.

It might be difficult to provide a succinct description of the sit-inside kayak possibilities since there are so many.

Sit-on-top kayaks

Sit-on-top or sit-on kayaks exist in a broad variety of designs, much like other types. Recreational sit-on-top kayaks, sit-on-top fishing kayaks, and specialised racing sit-on kayaks known as surf skis are also available.

The major benefits of sit-on-top kayaks are two. First of all, if turned over, they won’t fill with water. One of the reasons sit-on-tops are a smart option for a recreational kayak that you intend to paddle far from shore is that they are simpler to climb back onto in deep water as a result. Second, whether you are climbing onto them at the beach or turning around to get a fishing line, they are simple to move about on. For this reason, sit-on-top designs are the norm for fishing kayaks.

You could become wet and chilly if you paddle a sit-on-top in cold water. The major drawback of sit-on-top designs is this. Another is that sit-on-top kayaks are often heavier than kayaks with cockpits of a comparable design.

For recreational paddlers who paddle farther from the beach, fishermen who want a multipurpose kayak for fishing, and anybody who goes into high-performance surf ski racing, sit-on-tops are a great option.

Sit-on-top recreational type kayaks

You sit on top of sit-on-top recreational kayaks while using them outside. The summer, having fun, and learning to kayak are the three main purposes of sit-on-top kayaks. Most likely, if you’ve ever hired a kayak, it was a sit-on-top model. Rental kayak facilities usually have many stacks of them.

Benefits: Almost anyone of any size can fit on a sit-on-top kayaks and learn to paddle. They are also easy to flip back over if you capsize. They are simple to enter and exit, have excellent main stability, and won’t overfill with water if you flip them.

Due to its increased weight capacity, ample storage space, and superior primary stability, sit-on-tops make good fishing platforms.

Cons: Paddling a sit-on-top kayak will likely result in you getting at least a little bit wet. Oh, and they are somewhat heavier than sit-insides due to their one-piece unsinkable construction.

Kayak types by the method of propulsion

Pedal kayaks

Some kayaks include pedal-drive mechanisms that let you move them with your legs rather than your arms. The muscles in the legs are more powerful than those in the upper body, therefore pedal-drive kayaks may be easier to operate. Most recreational kayaks, especially fishing kayaks, have pedal-drives. When attempting to throw and maintain position, being able to keep your hands free for fishing is a huge benefit of pedal-drive kayaks.

Many fishermen choose pedal kayaks while fishing in current-filled waters since they may be utilized to keep the kayak in place without using an anchor and have a lot of power. Although pedal-drive kayaks offer several benefits, they are sometimes more costly than recreational kayaks of a same size. Even the largest pedal kayaks can weigh a lot.

Types of Pedaling Kayaks

Since the days when you may have rented the two-seater pedal boats at the neighborhood pond, pedal kayaks have advanced significantly. Modern pedal-powered kayaks are high-tech, fast boats that allow you to paddle yourself instead of using your arms and shoulders.

The majority of activities that recreational kayaks may be utilized for are also possible with pedaling kayaks. However, pedal kayaks are particularly popular with anglers since they free up their hands so they can cast and fish rather than needing to use a paddle.

The two main types of pedal kayaks are:

  • Paddle kayaks that resemble bicycles by having you pedal in a circular.
  • Kayaks with pedals that swing back and forth, similar to stairmasters, simulate ascending stairs.

Paddling kayaks

The two-bladed kayak paddle is the most typical form of kayak propulsion. As long as you choose a paddle that is appropriate for the boat, you may paddle this method in just about every kayak on the water. Narrower kayaks utilize shorter paddles, whereas wider kayaks need longer paddles. One thing is generally true—a lightweight paddle makes paddling your kayak much more fun and is a great investment. Different designs of kayaks perform better with different types of paddles.

Kayaks with motors

Similar to pedal-drive kayaks, motorized kayaks are propelled by a marine battery as opposed to the kayaker’s legs. Pedal-drive kayaks usually have motor drives available as an add-on option, or they may be purchased as a kit to be installed on a regular fishing or recreational kayak.

With the help of a motor, the kayak can go over the water quickly without using its paddle or pedals. Although marine batteries must be charged and motors increase the complexity and expense of a kayak, some fishermen consider the motors’ hands-free power to be a worthy investment.

Kayak types according to the number of seats

Tandem and two-person kayaks

We’ll mention tandem kayaks as a significant kayak difference because they are a class unto themselves.

Tandem, or two-type, kayaks are available in all except whitewater kayaks of the aforementioned kayak types. There are tandem versions of recreational, sit-in, sit-on, touring, ocean, and even fishing kayaks.

Tandem kayaks are simpler to paddle since they are broader, longer, and can carry more weight provided you have a competent paddle partner.

There are many ways to refer to them—tandem kayaks, two-seater kayaks, two-person kayaks—but the fundamental concept is the same. One boat, two people. All types of kayaks, including racing, touring, and recreational kayaks, come in tandem models.

While some tandems have separate cockpits and are best utilized by two people, others don’t and can only be paddled by one person. While usually less expensive than two solo kayaks, a single tandem kayak can be more difficult to transport and heavier to carry. Tandem kayaks have the different benefit of allowing two paddlers of varying strength or skill levels to remain together on the water.

Individual kayaks

The most popular kind of kayak sold is a solo or one-person kayak. A solo kayak has the benefit of just requiring one person to set out on the water. Because they may choose their own speed and path, solo kayaks are preferred by many kayakers. Solo kayaks are more affordable and lighter than comparable tandem kayaks.

Read more: How much does a kayak weigh?


So there you have it—a summary of the main kayak types available to you. The next type is to choose the type of kayak that is best suited to the type of paddling you wish to undertake and the type of water you’ll be on.

These kayaks are all excellent types for their specific applications. That is to say, it is challenging to get them to function in a different type of water or environment than for which they were designed. For instance, you wouldn’t paddle in the ocean waves in a sit-on-top recreational kayak.

Therefore, if you find yourself suggesting that you may only need two different types of kayaks, don’t be startled.

5/5 - (1 vote)