These three seemingly similar recreations – kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding, share as much in common as they differ from one another.
All of these vessels can be paddled on the waterline for leisure, fishing, touring, fitness, and many other purposes. These watercrafts each have their own unique set of features that make them perform differently.
Take a look at the comparison review below which works as a guide to choosing between kayak, canoe, or SUP.
What is a SUP?
Stand Up Paddleboard is a small water vessel for leisure or fitness purposes where the paddleboarder is standing on the board to use a single-bladed paddle to propel forwards.
Let’s take a look at the popularity in three of the largest water-sport nations in the world, the US, United Kingdom, and Australia.
*As of 2022.
USA population – 330 million
UK population – 67 million
Australia population – 26 million
How many kayakers and canoers are there?
- United States – 18 million (5.45% of the population)
- UK – 170 000 kayakers (3% of the population)
- Australia – 130 000 (0.5% of the population
How many paddleboarders are there?
- United States – 4 million
- UK – 1million / 1.49% of the population / 1.5 in every 100 persons goes paddleboarding.
- Australia – Found only a survey to identify the median user.
As you can see, when it comes to these three demographics, the U.S. ranks the highest of these nations. In the coming years, the use of kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards is only bound to grow more and more.
Table of Contents
II. PROs & CONs
I. Kayak vs SUP vs Canoe
Differences / Similarities / Conclusions
SUP vs Kayak
- Most paddleboards are designed for one person only.
- There’s a large percentage of inflatable paddle boards, while kayaks are almost always in a solid form.
- A small minority of SUPs are designed for two or more persons, tandem kayaks are much more common.
- You’ll get a full-body workout on a SUP.
- A kayak can’t be used for surfing.
SUP vs Canoe
- Both SUP and canoe use a single-bladed paddle, whereas the paddleboard paddle is much longer.
- It is much easier to store and transport SUP.
- Canoes are heavier and longer than SUPs at 17′ compared to 10′ – 11′ paddleboards.
Kayak vs Canoe
The kayak and the canoe share more in common than the paddleboard. Their main difference is that canoes are designed to be ridden on calm waters, while kayaks are built to paddle in some messy conditions as well. Canoes have an open deck, and the majority of canoes are built for 2-3 persons, while kayaks have a cockpit where the kayaker often has a spray-skirt for added waterproofing.
- Kayaks have waterproof storage compartments while canoes have an open deck.
- Kayaks have a spray skirt around the kayaker’s waist to prevent water from entering the cockpit.
- Kayaks have a narrow design and are shorter in length compared to canoes.
- Kayaks are much faster than the canoe.
- Canoes have often two or three seats, while the majority of kayaks are designed for one or two persons.
- Canoes are best suited for river paddling, while kayaks can be used in all kinds of waters.
Main Similarities – Kayak, Canoe & SUP
- All of the vessels can be used in the water for short water transportation, touring, fishing, and leisurely rides.
- One of the only ways to transport a kayak, canoe, or SUP by car is on the roof racks, on a specific carrier.
- SUP, Canoe, and Kayak can be towed by a foot-trailer for nearby transportation.
- Average paddle board weighs 25-30lbs / 11 – 14kg (Inflatable & hard SUP)
- Average kayak weighs 35-65lbs / 16 – 30kg (solo & tandem)
- Average canoe weighs 50-70lbs / 23 – 32kg (solo & tandem)
- Average paddle board costs $700-$1,200
- Average kayak costs $900 – $1,400
- Average canoe costs $900 – $1,200
- Paddleboards are the most convenient to store, carry, and transport.
- Paddleboards can be stored upwards.
- Paddleboards are available in the inflatable form (inflatable paddleboards) that fit inside a large backpack.
- Kayaks require a pair of crossbars, a carrier, and plenty of room to be stored away.
Stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking can be used for exercise, while canoeing is best suited for leisurely rides. Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding offer a low-resistance workout in fresh air which is very beneficial for your well-being and can help you enjoy being in nature.
- SUP offers a full-body workout.
- Kayaking takes the most effort on the upper body but holds the best speed.
- Canoeing is a low-resistance workout, a recreation where exercise is more of a bonus.
Canoe vs Kayak vs SUP speed differs in terms of as you’d have to take into account the following:
- SUPs are much lighter and paddled by a single blade. Each stroke takes more effort as well.
- Kayaks are heavier and often longer – which means they’ll have a better momentum (or glide) in the water.
- Kayaks have the least amount of drag in the water.
- Canoes have the most optimized pace when paddling down a slow-moving river.
When it comes to paddling, canoes are more similar to paddle boards than kayaks. Canoes and SUPs use both a single-bladed paddle, whereas the paddle on a canoe is much shorter. The SUP/kayak paddle is a paddleboard paddle with an extra blade extension.
Conclusions – Which one is right for you?
Canoeing – Great for river touring, fishing, transportation, or just to reach a nearby island to relax for a bit.
Kayaking – Great to ride in all kinds of waters, choppy and clean, downriver or flat – kayak is the most advanced of the bunch. A go-to choice for touring and fishing, these boards are the most water and weatherproof, so to say.
SUPing – A popular recreation and rising trend, paddleboarding is very accessible for the entry-level paddler. Thanks to the inflatable boards, anybody can go out and paddle. There’s also a large number of boards out there for all kinds of activities.
Kayaking and paddleboarding can be both used for a wide variety of activities, including fitness, fishing, and touring, while the canoe is best-suited for more laid-back cruising.
Canoe and paddleboard both use a single-bladed paddle, while kayaking paddles are always double-sided.
Canoe and kayak are great for multiple paddlers, while the majority of SUPs are designed for one person only.
II. PROs & CONs
- Most stable in various conditions.
- Haul plenty of gear in waterproof compartments.
- Faster due to the double-bladed paddle and different shapes of the hull.
- You can rest your back
- Steer with your feet inside the cockpit.
- Safe to paddle on colder days.
- Spraydeck/sprayskirt prevents splashes and water from entering the cockpit.
- Easier for longer distances.
- Great for messy conditions.
- Holds up momentum well.
- Has a backrest.
- Needs a pair of roof racks & carrier for transportation.
- Difficult to recover back on the board once rolled.
- Seated position – can’t stretch or stand up in the kayak.
- Many more activities can be done besides fishing, touring, and leisurely rides.
- Easy access to the deck.
- Easy on & off the board.
- 360-degree freedom of movement on the board.
- Large number of inflatable boards on the market.
- Easy to store.
- Sit, stand, or kneel on the board.
- Limited storage compartments for hauling extra gear.
- More suitable for warm-weather paddling.
- Momentum is not as good.
- Water gets on the deck.
- Large and stable.
- Ideal for slow-moving rivers.
- Plenty of easily accessible storage.
- Great for slow-moving rivers.
- Heavy and slow.
- Long dimensions make it difficult to transport.
- A limited number of activities besides leisure rides.
- No backrest.
SUP VS Kayak vs Canoe
Will kayaking be replaced with paddleboarding in the future?
Very unlikely that the advancements of paddleboarding can replace kayaking in the future. There are almost 20 million kayakers in the US, and there’s no better ‘seafarer’ to paddle through some rough conditions. Although there is a Kayak/SUP, its main purpose is more for the paddler than for the kayaker.
SUP or kayak – which is harder to learn?
Both activities are quite easy to learn and are accessible for beginners.
The difference is that people don’t usually get in the kayak for fun like they do with paddleboards hence the reason why we don’t hear as often that paddleboarding is hard to learn. That being said, whether you turn for a kayak or sup, it takes about the same amount of time to become good at them.
Is paddleboarding hard to learn? It takes about the same amount of time to get used to paddleboarding as it takes for kayaking. The main difference is that the paddleboarder has to stand up and keep the balance of the board while paddling.
Construction – Kayak VS Paddleboard vs Canoe
- Mass-produced kayaks are mainly made of polyethylene (a form of plastic mold)
Alternatively out of fiberglass.
- SUPs are generally made of epoxy or PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) for inflatable boards
Alternatively out of fiberglass.
Which is better for fishing – Kayak or SUP?
While the total number of kayakers in the world is higher than SUP paddleboards, and one of the main reasons people buy a kayak is for fishing – it is the kayak that’s a more popular watercraft for fishermen.
The fishing paddleboard is an awesome alternative to fishing from the kayak that features a set of rod-holders and wide touring board characteristics. Fishing SUPs are an ideal way for calm-water fishing as you can stand, move 360 degrees, or sit on the deck.
Paddle fishing is also a cheaper and more accessible alternative since you can get a solid range of good-quality inflatable fishing boards.
The key difference is that kayaks are often used for ocean fishing, and to somewhat unpredictable weather (which is normal on the ocean).
What to think of a kayak paddle board?
The SUP kayak hybrid, also known as the SUP kayak is an awesome mixture where one can do both – sit-down kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. These boards are essentials paddleboards that come with an extra seat, and a paddle extension. Some boards are also equipped with foot pegs that come in handy while paddling.
Although the best use for a kayak paddleboard is in calm waters and for leisurely rides, some use the kayak for fishing and river rides.
The paddleboard kayak is mainly designed for leisurely rides, while some boards have a more advanced set-up – footrests and a sportier chair than the one pictured above.
The standup kayak also uses a hybrid kayak paddleboard blade which comes as an extension for the original, usually a 3-piece paddle.
To make things more complicated, there’s also a folding kayak paddle board by Origami Paddler.
Can you stand up in a sit-in kayak?
It is advisable to kneel rather than stand up as the board can quickly lose its control and tip over.
Can you fish from the SUP on the open ocean?
While yes, you technically can, but at your own risk. It is much more difficult to get back on the shore on windy and choppy water with a SUP than it is with a kayak.
The SUM – Paddle board vs Kayak
Kayak and paddleboards are both very popular, but the types of activities that can be done are somewhat limited on a kayak. The reason paddleboarding has seen such growth its is easy accessibility thanks to the introduction of inflatable paddle boards.
At their basic. canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards are all somewhat limited, to enjoy some time off the land, or simply combine your favorite hobbies – fishing and paddling, or touring and paddling.
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.