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Paddle Board vs. Kayak: Which is Best for Me?

 Posted on: October 15th, 2021

Paddle Board vs. Kayak: Which is Best for Me?

Kayaks and paddle boards are both great options to get out and have fun on the water. But if you’re only able to have one, which should you choose?

paddle board
kayak
The visual differences of a paddleboard (top) and kayak

First, it’s important to understand the differences between these two types of water vessels. The main difference is that kayaks are for sitting in or on, while paddle boards are for standing up and paddling.

Paddle boards have a shape similar to surf boards, with a flat deck you stand on, and no cockpit or storage space. They also have flat bottoms, and can be found in hard or inflatable formats.

Kayaks, meanwhile, are usually made out of tough plastic, and have compartments for storage inside and on top. Their side walls create space to sit in or on. You can find kayaks with open or closed cockpits.

When attempting to decide which of these two water vessels you will go with, here are some of the primary factors you should consider.

Your intended usage

How and where will you be doing most of your paddling? Do you plan to just play around at the beach or near shore, or do you intend to go on longer trips?

Paddle boards are highly portable to and from the beach, and you can get multiple kids on and off. While both paddle boards and kayaks are ideal for short-range usage, paddle boards are particularly versatile.

For longer trips, paddle boards have a little more space for gear storage, but kayaks might be more comfortable for people who intend to spend and extended amount of time out on the water. While you can certainly take long trips with stand up paddle boards, it will be a much more intense workout, which may or may not be what you’re looking for.

Balancing on a paddle board
Paddle boarding requires better balance

Stability and balance

Kayaks and paddle boards both provide a fairly stable platform that even beginners will quickly be able to get used to. However, kayaks have a lower center of gravity—you simply have less stability when standing up. So if stability is a major concern for you, the kayak will generally be the better option.

Weather

What types of weather do you in tend to paddle in? Kayaks definitely have the edge when the weather is a bit cooler, as the seated position will protect you from the winds and help you insulate better, especially if you have an open cockpit to crawl inside. In warm weather, either option will be great, but standing up on a paddle board can be quite refreshing in the summer with the breezes and water splashing on your feet.

Durability

The durability you can expect will depend on the materials used. Both types of vessels can sustain damage if they strike rocks or branches. However, the fins on paddle boards are more susceptible than any part on a kayak and could be easily damaged in shallower waters. This gives a slight edge to kayaks.

Speed

If you care about covering a lot of water quickly, you’ll get better speed out of a kayak then a paddle board. Paddle boards are a bit limiting with speed because the very nature of you standing up while paddling makes it less aerodynamic. Kayaks have a low center of gravity, a thinner profile and a double-bladed paddle allowing for faster movement.

sitting in a kayak
Paddling away in a kayak

Comfort

As we alluded to earlier, generally you can expect the seated position of a kayak to offer more comfort than a stand up paddleboard, especially over longer distances. While you might start to get stiff or feel a little too tightly confined in a kayak, you’ll find paddling the kayak is far less taxing than paddling the paddle board because you get to sit down. Paddleboards can be paddled from a sitting or kneeling position as well, but kayaks will be much more comfortable.

fishing in a kayak
Enjoying some leisure time fishing on a kayak

Fishing

Interested in a small, personal vessel you can take out for fishing? You can get good results with either type of vessel.

Kayak fishing has been popular for quite some time, and you can find kayaks specifically designed for fishing. Paddle board fishing is relatively new, but is becoming more popular. You can add some accessories to your board to make it ideal for fishing.

For fishing, the choice ultimately comes down to whether you want more comfort (kayak) or more visibility of the surrounding waters and fish (paddle board).

Consider all these factors, and enjoy your time out on the water with your new vessel!