Kayak vs Paddleboard: Which Wins And Why?

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I often find myself in conversations around the great kayak vs paddleboard debate. And I always say the same thing. Both these water sports offer unique experiences and have their own sets of advantages (and disadvantages)

In this article, I’ll dive deep into the debate of kayak vs. paddleboard and provide helpful suggestions and reasons for my recommendations.

You can also consider hybrid kayak paddleboards as a middle ground option.

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Understanding Kayaks and Paddleboards:

Before we compare the two, let’s briefly understand what kayaks and paddleboards are.


Kayaks are small, narrow boats that are propelled using a double-bladed paddle. They are designed to be stable and efficient in various water conditions. Kayaking offers the opportunity to sit inside the boat and have a lower center of gravity, providing stability and control.


Paddleboards, on the other hand, are long and wide boards that resemble oversized surfboards. They are propelled by standing upright and using a single-bladed paddle to paddle through the water. Paddleboarding provides a unique experience of gliding on the water while enjoying a full-body workout.

Now that we’re on the same page with what each of these are – Let’s get into the nitty gritty details in the kayak vs paddleboard debate.

Kayak vs Paddleboard: The Great Debate

Stability and Balance

One of the key factors to consider when choosing between a kayak and a paddleboard is stability and balance. Which is the one that you’re going to be falling off of? Here’s how it looks:

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Kayaks are known for their inherent stability. They have a lower center of gravity due to the seating position, which helps maintain balance even in rough waters. This stability is particularly beneficial for beginners or those looking for a relaxed and stable paddling experience.Paddleboards, although initially requiring more balance and stability skills, can provide an equally stable experience. Modern paddleboards come in various designs, including wider and more stable options. With practice and proper technique, paddleboarders can enjoy a stable ride, even in choppy waters.

Kayaks are significantly more stable and require less balance to get them right. Paddleboarding has a large initial growth curve, therefore:

The Winner = Kayak

Maneuverability and Speed

Another aspect to consider is the maneuverability and speed offered by kayaks and paddleboards.

Kayaks excel in maneuverability, allowing paddlers to navigate through narrow waterways and tight turns with ease. They have a streamlined design that enables faster speeds, making them a suitable choice for those seeking more adventurous or challenging experiences.Paddleboards offer a different kind of maneuverability and speed. While they may not match the agility of kayaks, paddleboards provide a unique vantage point for exploring shallow waters, coastlines, and calm lakes. They offer a slower pace, ideal for those who prefer a relaxed and leisurely adventure.

Kayaks are nimble, maneuverable and quick while paddleboards are slower and less mobile, so:

The Winner = Kayak

Storage and Portability

When it comes to storage and portability, kayaks and paddleboards have different considerations.

Kayaks, especially rigid ones, require dedicated storage space due to their size and shape. They often need a garage, shed, or rack for proper storage. Transporting a kayak can also be a challenge, requiring roof racks or trailers for transportation.Paddleboards, on the other hand, are relatively easier to store and transport. They are lightweight and inflatable options are available, making them more compact for storage. Inflatable paddleboards can be deflated, rolled up, and easily carried in a backpack or trunk, making them convenient for travel and exploration.

Because of the portability and how easy it is to transport a paddleboard, the only conclusion could be:

The Winner = Paddleboard

Fitness and Physical Benefits

Both kayaking and paddleboarding offer excellent fitness and physical benefits, but they target different muscle groups and provide distinct experiences.

Kayaking is a great full-body workout that engages the arms, shoulders, back, and core muscles. The paddling motion provides a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that improves endurance and strength. Kayaking can also be a social activity, as tandem kayaks allow you to paddle with a partner or friend.Paddleboarding offers a unique combination of strength, balance, and cardiovascular exercise. The act of standing and stabilizing on the board engages the core, legs, and back muscles. Paddleboarding also enhances focus, coordination, and overall body awareness. It provides a serene and immersive experience while working out.

Because a paddleboard provides fitness and physical benefits for the entire body (including the legs), the only winner for this category is:

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The Winner = Paddleboard

Scenic Views and Exploring

kayak vs paddleboard

Both kayaking and paddleboarding offer opportunities to enjoy scenic views and explore natural environments. However, each has its own advantages in this aspect.

Kayaks provide a lower seating position, allowing paddlers to have a closer and more intimate connection with the water and surroundings. This vantage point enhances the experience of wildlife spotting, coastal exploration, and accessing hidden waterways that might be challenging for other watercraft.Paddleboarding offers an elevated viewpoint, providing a panoramic view of the surroundings. Standing upright on a paddleboard offers a better perspective for admiring scenic landscapes, spotting marine life, and enjoying the tranquility of open waters. Paddleboarding is also ideal for accessing shallow and hard-to-reach areas.

When you are paddleboarding, you are standing and this makes it easier to absorb the landscape while spotting animals. It also lets you easily explore hidden areas, so:

The Winner = Paddleboard

Children: Is it Easier to Learn How to Kayak or Paddleboard?

kayak vs paddleboard
Kayaks provide a more intuitive and balanced experience, making them suitable for beginnersPaddleboarding requires better balance and coordination, but with practice, it can be mastered, allowing for enjoyable and rewarding experiences on the water.

When it comes to learning, both kayaking and paddleboarding have their own learning curves. However, many people find kayaking to be easier to learn initially due to the inherent stability and seating position, that’s why:

The Winner = Kayak

Which Is More Expensive?

The price of paddleboards and kayaks can vary significantly depending on factors such as the brand, quality, materials used, and additional features. Good paddleboards and kayaks often come with superior construction, durable materials, and advanced design elements that enhance performance and longevity. These quality factors contribute to their higher prices. Additionally, reputable brands invest in research, development, and quality control to ensure their products meet the standards and expectations of water sports enthusiasts. While the initial cost may seem higher, investing in a good paddleboard or kayak can provide a safer, more enjoyable, and longer-lasting experience in the long run.

Based on Amazon and other website searches, it’s obvious that there are some wildly expensive paddleboards along with cheap ones. And the same goes for a kayak:

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The Winner = Neither (No Clear Price Differences)

What Burns More Calories: Kayaking or Paddleboarding?

Generally, kayaking at a moderate pace can burn approximately 400-500 calories per hour.Paddleboarding can burn around 300-450 calories per hour

Both kayaking and paddleboarding offer excellent calorie-burning potential. However, it’s important to note that these are estimates and can vary depending on factors such as body weight, water conditions, and effort exerted. There are too many variables at play because every person is different, so the only fair outcome is:

The Winner = Neither (Too Many Variables)

Can You Do Any Other Activities With Your Kayak Or Paddleboard?

kayak vs paddleboard
A kayak has limited uses besides actually paddling in different locations, yes you can ride waves but compared to a SUP your other activities are limited.There are mutliple different uses for a paddleboard besides actually paddling. You can use it for fishing, yoga and surfing.

Based on the multiple different uses that you can get out of a paddleboard compared to a kayak, there can only be one winner:

The Winner = Paddleboarding


Total Points = 3Total Points = 4

The Overall Winner = Paddleboarding

As you can see from the above score tally that it is REALLY hard to separate these two watersports. They both have such large benefits that you can’t ignore… Along with glaring faults.

And yes – you can always change the considerations and there will always be different opinions, but MY opinion is to go the paddleboard route if you are looking to buy one.

But here’s an interesting idea:

Can You Turn a Paddleboard into a Kayak?

kayak vs paddleboard

Yes, it is possible to turn a paddleboard into a kayak through the use of conversion kits and accessories specifically designed for this purpose. These conversion kits allow you to attach a kayak seat, footrests, and additional stability features to a paddleboard, transforming it into a kayak-like setup.

What Would You Need To Convert A Paddleboard Into A Kayak?

To convert a paddleboard into a kayak, you can utilize some key accessories. These accessories are designed to provide stability, comfort, and the necessary attachments for a kayak-style experience on your paddleboard.

SereneLife Detachable Paddleboard Seat

Kayak vs paddleboard

Where To Buy: Amazon

Why I Love It:
– This seat is made of comfortable foam that will make a very comfortable paddling experience for you.

– It is really easy to use and you can attach it to your existing paddleboard easily.

– The straps are adjustable so it will fit pretty much 100% of paddleboards in the market.

Attwood Kayak Paddle

Where To Buy: Amazon

Why I Love It:
– High quality materials make this a powerful and durable paddle for you to use.

– It breaks down into 2 pieces so it’s easy to transport and store.

– Has rubber grips that make it easy to hold and the spoon blades are designed to improve stroke efficiency and give you speed in the water.

Kayak vs paddleboard

Why This Setup Works?

The seat provides a comfortable and supportive position, while the paddle lets you get you the kayaking experience along with enhanced speed.

You may also consider buying a hybrid kayak paddleboard so that you can skip this process all together. That way you don’t need to consider a kayak vs paddleboard at all!

Considerations and Limitations

While the ability to convert a paddleboard into a kayak is exciting, it’s important to consider certain factors and limitations before embarking on this transformation.

Stability and Performance

One of the main considerations is stability. Paddleboards are inherently designed for standing, emphasizing balance and stability on a flat surface. When converting a paddleboard into a kayak, the stability may be slightly compromised due to the added height and different sitting position. It’s essential to ensure that the conversion kit and accessories you choose provide adequate stability for your intended activities.

Safety and Handling

Another aspect to consider is safety and handling. Although the conversion kits offer stability features, it’s crucial to understand that paddleboards and kayaks have different handling characteristics. Kayaks are specifically designed to handle different water conditions, such as waves and currents, while paddleboards prioritize stability on calm waters. Ensure that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to operate a kayak-like setup safely.

Conclusion: So Which Wins In The Kayak vs Paddleboard Debate?

In the debate of kayak vs. paddleboard, the possibility of turning a paddleboard into a kayak offers an exciting middle ground for water sports enthusiasts. With the help of conversion kits and accessories, you can enjoy the benefits of both watercraft, combining the stability and versatility of a paddleboard with the maneuverability and speed of a kayak. However, it’s important to consider the limitations, ensure proper stability and safety, and be aware of the differences in handling between paddleboards and kayaks.

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Which is easier to learn, kayaking or paddleboarding?

Learning curves vary, but generally, kayaking is easier to learn due to its inherent stability. Paddleboarding requires better balance and may take some time to get used to.

Are kayaks or paddleboards better for fishing?

Kayaks are typically more popular for fishing due to their stability, storage capacity, and ability to access remote fishing spots. However, paddleboards can also be used for fishing, especially in calm and shallow waters.

Can I use a kayak paddle for paddleboarding or vice versa?

While it’s technically possible to use a kayak paddle for paddleboarding or a paddleboard paddle for kayaking, it’s not recommended. Each paddle type is designed for the specific dynamics and requirements of the respective activity.

Are there any age restrictions for kayaking or paddleboarding?

Age restrictions may vary depending on local regulations and safety guidelines. However, both kayaking and paddleboarding can be enjoyed by people of different ages, including children (with proper safety precautions).

Can I switch between kayaking and paddleboarding?

Absolutely! Many water sports enthusiasts enjoy both kayaking and paddleboarding. They offer distinct experiences, and switching between them allows you to enjoy a diverse range of water activities based on your mood and preferences.

kayak vs paddleboard
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Jason Watson

My initial goal was to document my paddleboarding experiences with friends and family, but that has evolved into a commitment to share this sport with as many people as possible because of the health benefits & peace of mind it has given me. This sport is not only a great way to see the world, but it also helps us come closer to ourselves. Information gives us strength!

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