Both kayaks and paddleboards offer a ton of freedom and fun on the water.
They can be used for all-around paddling, transportation, for fishing and touring. They go so far together that they can be used in the whitewater! But, there are some major differences between the two. In terms of recreational activities – kayaks can’t be used for surfing, and paddleboards are not as safe for open water touring.
To get a better overview of both of their pros and cons, we have put together a paddleboard vs kayak comparison.
Its not only that people have more free time to spend by the water, but also the advancements in the manufacturing world. This has made kayaks and SUPs way more accessible to so many. There are lots of new inflatable SUP brands that started producing good quality boards with affordable price tags. Due to higher competition – you can now find many awesome features at a great value!
The point of this review is to discuss some of the pros and cons of owning a kayak or paddleboard. It’s not only that they are designed to glide on the water with a help of a paddle, they both can be used on surprisingly similar disciplines.
While they can be very similar, there are some major differences as well.
Let’s find them out!
- No previous skill needed, great entry-level recreations.
- Paddleboards and kayaks have seen a consideradble market growth during the past decade.
- Both are available in solid and inflatable form.
- Both move forwards with the help of a paddle.
- Both can accomodate more than one paddler on board.
- Both are similarly priced.
- You can use the paddleboard and kayak for – fishing, touring, flatwater cruising and whitewaver kayaking.
Paddleboard vs kayak
Besides the main difference in the stance where the paddleboarder is standing up, and kayaker sits on the seat – there’s much more!
- I. Activities (use)
- II. Types of materials
- III. Number of paddlers per board
- IV. Prices and affordability
- V. Transportation
- VI. Storing
- VII. Dimensions
- IIX. Different types
I. Activities (use)
Kayaks are often used for:
- All-around cruising
- Whitewater kayaking
- Sea kayaking helps to maximize all the previous do a different degree
Paddleboards are often used for:
- All-around paddling
- Kids’ / youth
- Freediving deck
There’s many more paddleboard types available, while kayaking can take you out on the open sea with confidence. Kayaks often have much more storage space, and sea kayaks have closed compartments for total waterproofing as well.
II. Types of materials
What are kayaks made of?
- PVC plastic mould
- Roto-molded polyethylene (PDF)
- Inflatable (PVC)
Kayaks have a slightly larger option of materials to choose from. The most used material is plastic, or PVC to put them on a better scale. PVC is ultra durable (kayaks often hit the bottom), easy to mold and manufacture.
- Solid Kayaks can be made of PVC plastic mold, fiberglass, epoxy and even carbon. There’s also the modular 3- or 4-piece kayak available.
What are paddleboards made of?
- Inflatable (PVC)
Paddleboards are made of either inflatable PVC or Epoxy. As a very rare occurrence you can also see shorter soft-top paddleboards. Carbon nor fiberglass are almost never available as an option.
- Solid SUPs are often made of epoxy. Epoxy is lightweight and strong, also has a better waterproofing than for example fiberglass surfboards.
- Inflatable PVC on the other hand is super widely used among lifeboats, inflatable docks and obviously paddleboards have taken a big part of the market cake as well.
For every inflatable SUP type, there’s an epoxy discipline represented well.
That means – that all the SUP types are available in both inflatable and solid form. Inflatable boards are actually only around 5% slower than their solid counterparts. Many can’t tell the difference between the feel and look of a premium inflatable SUP and an epoxy SUP
III. Number of paddlers per board
- Multi-person (from 3 to 10 people)
CONCLUSIONS: Both platforms are easier to paddle by two persons, while the majority of models are designed for 1-person use. Paddleboarding takes the lead here by having more capacity to fit up to 10-persons on one board!
Read more – 101 Introduction to Multi-Person SUPs
IV. Price & affordability
Average paddleboard price
- Entry: $300 – $400 (inflatable), $700 for a solid board
- Mid: $700 – $1,000 (inflatable), $1,300 for a solid board
- Premium: $1,200 – $2,000 ((inflatable), $1,500 – $2,500 for solid board
Average kayak price
- Entry: $300 – $500 (inflatable), 700$ for a solid kayak
- Mid-range: $700 – $1,000 (inflatable & solid)
- Premium: $1,000+ (inflatable), $1,500 – $2,000 for a non-inflatable kayak
CONCLUSIONS: Both boards cost about the same. For a solid board you’ll be needing extra $300 for roof racks & carriers.
Inflatable vs solid = performance vs portability
Inflatable kayaks and paddleboards are super compact that fit into a large backpack.
With a 2 or 3-piece paddle, this is often the time the biggest selling point for the customer who don’t want to use roof racks for kayaking and paddleboarding.
Although, if you want a board that performs well and lasts that performs to its peak, and you don’t mind the extra time spent for inflating, and deal with some of the dangers to air-filled vessels – you’ll have to look towards a solid construction.
This means, having more free space in the garage, and a set of roof racks for both. Most kayak- and paddleboard-specific roof racks are quite similar. While there are universal solutions as well -one thing’s for sure that’s you’ll be needing to have/create horizontal rails for the kayak/paddleboard holder.
Read more – Inflatable vs Solid SUP comparison
How to transport kayak and paddleboard?
While inflatable boards need no more than few square feet in the trunk, their solid counterparts definitely need a pair of roof rails and cross bars. The good news is that most cars are roof rack compatible.
A set of new roof rails and kayak/paddleboard holder cost around $400 to $1,000.
Read more – 7 ways to transport SUP
Although they are both at around the same in length and width, kayaks are more thicker.
While it can be is easier to find a a spare room for a somewhat slim paddleboard, kayak definitely needs some extra space. We all know that the the spare space in garages is often occupied to a fine degree. The good news is that you just need to be creative and come up with a better organization if storing will stop you from buying the vessel.
kayaks are shorter, but thicker
paddleboards are slimmer, but longer
Average paddleboard length:
- 10’6″ – 12’0″
Average kayak length:
Average kayak width:
- 26″ to 30″
Average paddleboard width:
- 30″ to 34″
Average paddleboard thickness:
- Solid: 4.7″
- Inflatable: 6″
Average kayak thickness/depth (from keel to top of the kayak)
- 11″ to 16″
Average paddleboard weight:
- Inflatable: 20lb – 30lb
- Solid: 30lb – 40lb
Average kayak weight:
- Inflatable: 30 – 50lb
- Solid: 35lb
XII. Different types
Two main types of kayaks are for flatwater and whitewater kayaking.
- Sit-on top
- Whitewater (duckies)
- Creekboats (creekers)
- Old-school kayaks (long boats)
How about kayak and paddleboard in one?
Depending on your expected outcome, there are also the paddleboard kayak conversion kit which lets you enjoy both disciplines. Although not the best out of the bunch in terms of performance, the double-pladed paddle and paddleboard kayak seat is often all that’s needed.
The kayak paddleboard combo is an ideal platform for those who want a relaxed day on the water – where you can sit and stand, whichever you like.
There’s also the 3-piece modular, or so-called folding kayak paddleboard that’s made of PVC plastic.
Want something durable yet compact?
For extreme optimists or those who want more than two in one, or after something extra different – there’s the folding paddleboard/kayak. Otherly known as the modular SUP which won’t take much room and is easy to transport. You don’t have to worry about puncturing the board as well!
Paddleboard or kayak – which one to go for?
If you want a stable platform in where you can sit inside the cockpit, and to carry loads of gear with you – there’s nothing as good as the kayak.
If you are after a deck where you can walk easily, and turn 360-degrees in a matter of seconds – the paddleboard can be a better solution. It is also easier to launch on the SUP paddleboard in deep water.
The inflatable kayak paddleboard is a hybrid to get the best out of both worlds.
What are some of the more popular kayaking & paddleboarding shops?
- Rusty’s Kayaks and Paddleboards (rustyskayaks.com) – Harrisson, Tennessee
- Lake Powell kayaks and Paddleboards (lakepowellpaddleboards.com) – Page, Arizona
- Balboa Kayak and Paddleboard (balboafuntours.com) – Newport Beach, California
- Biscayne Bay Paddleboards and Kayaks (biscaynepaddle.com) – Miami
Should I get a kayak or paddleboard?
Whenever you are deciding to go for a solid or an inflatable SUP or kayak, it all comes down to performance vs portability.
While there are many super high-end paddleboards that perform almost the same (if not better) than their solid counterparts, it is the inflation/deflation and risk of hitting something sharp that makes many paddlers look towards a solid board. We’d say that the inflatable
- Which is faster – paddleboard, kayak or a rowing boat?
- SUP vs Kayak vs Canoe
- 7 Best Kayak-Paddleboard Brands
I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.