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Types of Kayaks and Kayaking


Kayaking means different things to different people. To some it conjures up ideas of serenity, peace, and leaving cares aside. To others the word kayaking evokes imagery of adventure and excitement. It can be fast paced or laid back and everything in between. As varied as the paddlers themselves, kayaking is really a sport for all ages, abilities, and preferences. Here is a list and explanation of some of the different types of kayaking.

Recreational Kayaking

Recreational kayaking is the basic kayaking that is seen on well protected lakes and other safe bodies of water. They are the boats used in rental fleets local parks and are found on the shores of lake homes across the country. Recreational kayaks are usually wide and stable. No experience is required to paddle them and they are not meant for speed nor necessarily for comfort. Their primary purpose is to have fun on the water, period.

Touring Kayaking

While touring also takes place on protected bodies of water, is not necessarily reserved for beginning paddlers. Touring is for paddlers who take paddling serious and can be used over long periods of time comfortably. Touring kayaks are long and they track (go straight) very well. While touring kayaks look a lot like sea kayaks they only have one sealed bulkhead which is behind the paddler. The bow area of the kayak is not sealed which will allow the kayak to fill up with water if flipped. This is the primary reason why touring kayaks are meant to be paddled on protected bodies of water.

Sea Kayaking

Sea kayaking is done out in the ocean or other bodies of water which are large and unpredictable. For this reason, sea kayaks have two sealed bulkheads, one in the bow in front of the feet and the other in the stern behind the seat. It is necessary to understand principles of navigation as well as the rules of the road when sea kayaking.

Whitewater Kayaking

Whitewater kayaking is done in rivers, streams, and creeks where rapids, or white water, is present. The whitewater classification system rates the different rivers and rapids by level of difficulty to help paddlers assess. Whitewater is exciting and extremely dangerous. Within whitewater kayaking there are also different types of paddling such as playboating, river running, squirt boating, and creeking. Depending on how serious of a paddler a kayaker is they can require very specialized boats for each type of whitewater paddling.

Surf Kayaking

Surf kayaking takes place in the ocean but uses kayaks similarly shaped to whitewater boats. It is basically surfing, but instead of using a surfboard the paddler sits in a kayak. Surf kayaking is another dangerous genre of paddling and requires special instruction and understanding.

Sit-On-Top Kayaking

It is said that 1 out of 5 kayaks purchased is a sit-on-top kayak. While kayaks are traditionally sit-in boats, meaning the paddler’s leg are inside the kayak, this type of kayaking has gained in popularity in recent years. They make sit-on-top kayaks for both recreational and also very specialized purposes, such as fishing, diving, and surfing. Anyone can paddle them. They’re nearly impossible to sink. If it flips over, the paddler just need flip it back upright and climb back in.

Sport Kayaking

This last category is not really an official one. It’s just to say that there are many kayaks that are designed and outfitted with specific purposes in mind. Fishing kayaks have rod holders affixed to them. Scuba diving kayaks have a cutout in the kayak for the dive tank to fit. Kayaks for excursions can fit camping gear. There’s really no limit to what one can do with a kayak!
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