10 Most Popular Types of Kayaks: Sit-on-top, Inflatable & More

The kayak is a popular and versatile boat that can be used for a wide range of activities from fishing to leisure.

The best thing about this small boat is that most of the time you do not need a permit to operate it.

However, for those who have never kayaked before, it can be confusing. After all, there are so many models out there that this confusion is understandable.

Throughout this article, we are going to concentrate on the different types of kayaks so as to better understand what it is all about and which type of kayak suit your needs and purpose.

As we will see below, some models are better suited to a certain type of activity than others.

Types of Kayaks

Below we discuss some of the most common and popular types of kayaks that you will encounter on the market.

1. Sit-on-Top Recreational Kayak

The sit-on-top kayak is a recreational boat that has a wide and open cockpit so that you can easily get in and out. Since the cockpit is wide, you have a lot of maneuverability inside the kayak and will not feel cramped in any way.

In general, the sit-on-top kayak is best for fishing, diving, and of course, recreational activities. It is usually meant for a wide open space like navigating through a lake or a small pond. When it comes to small narrow rivers, the sit-on-top kayak is definitely not the best type of kayak for that purpose.

A key feature that you will find in the sit on top kayak is the presence of a bulkhead at the back of the seat. This serves 2 purposes.

For one, it serves as a dry area for you to store your items.

Secondly, in case your kayak rolls over in the water, it will prevent water from entering your kayak which can potentially make it sink to the bottom.

The main disadvantage of the sit-on-top kayak is that water can easily get in but not out. This can be a problem, especially if you are navigating troubled and rough waters in the winter.

Another caveat with the sit-on-top kayak is that it is one of the slowest types of kayaks on the market. This type is clearly not meant for sports activities.

Additionally, it cannot accommodate a lot of weight as the more weight you and to the sit on top kayak, the more unstable it becomes. To a point that it can topple over if you and excessive weight.

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2. Sit-Inside Recreational Kayak

Photo: expocafeperu.com

The sit-inside kayak is another recreational type of kayak that has a more streamlined form factor. The cockpit is narrower and longer so as to accommodate the full length of your legs.

Indeed, why navigating the sit-inside kayak, you always have your legs tucked in. The main advantage of the sit inside kayak is that due to its streamlined and Hydrodynamic shape, it is much faster than other types of kayaks.

Additionally, the sit-inside is an excellent kayak for those interested in activities like fishing or general-purpose recreation.

The main disadvantage of the sit-inside kayak is that once water gets inside, it is very difficult to remove it. Even more difficult than the sit on top kayak due to the narrower cockpit that provides you with a more limited access.

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3. Whitewater Kayak

The whitewater kayak is one of the most popular types of kayaks on the market. It distinguishes itself from the competition with its small and hydrodynamic form factor.

Indeed, due to the small size of the whitewater kayak, it offers excellent maneuverability. Additionally, the small size of the whitewater kayak also directly translate to a lighter form factor. Therefore, this type of kayak is much more portable and easy to carry around than other types.

For this reason, the whitewater kayak is mostly used for competitive sports and racing activities. Unfortunately, it is not a very good kayak for recreational, fishing or camping.

4. Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks

Photo: airkayaks.wordpress.com

As its name suggests, the inflatable Whitewater kayak (or Duckies) is simply a whitewater kayak that can be inflated.

This type of kayak is usually made out of a very strong stretchable PVC material that is easy to inflate and is extremely durable and long-lasting.

Additionally, in most inflatable whitewater kayaks, the bottom is cleated with a tough plastic material so as to provide it with even more durability and safety in case it comes into contact with the floor during navigation.

More or less, the inflatable whitewater kayak offers the same advantages and disadvantages as a traditional whitewater kayak.

Photo: boatsnbikes.com

One of the main distinguishing factors of the touring kayak is its length. It is one of the longest and on average, the touring kayak measures 12 ft. or more in length.

Additionally, when compared to other types of kayaks, the touring kayak is one of the most expensive kayaks. However, due to the streamlined and long shape, they glide in the water much more easily and are significantly faster than other types of kayaks.

Moreover, they track better as well. In short, tracking is the ability that a kayak has to move in a straight line without turning either left or right when you paddle.

6. Pedaling kayaks

As its name suggests, the pedaling kayak usually comes with a pedal that allows you to pedal so that it can move forward. This type of kayak is not used for competitive sports kayaking but is purely for recreational purposes.

The pedaling kayak comes in 2 distinct types. One type that has a pedal and propeller system that moves by using your legs, similar to the way that you would use a bicycle. The other has wings at the back of the kayak that moves in pretty much the same way that a fish moves in the water.

Both offer the same ease of use and speed so there is no advantages or disadvantages in choosing between those 2 types in a pedaling kayak. It is simply a question of preference.

One of the main advantages of the pedaling kayak is its ease-of-use. Moreover, people with back injuries will find it more comfortable to kayak with the pedaling kayak.

This is because the only time you will ever need to use your arms is when either getting in the pedaling kayak or getting out of it. Most of the time, you will simply be using your legs for navigating through.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest disadvantages other than speed of the pedaling kayak is its price. Indeed, it is significantly more expensive than your typical recreational kayak.

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7. Canoe-Kayak Hybrid

The canoe-kayak is literally a hybrid between a regular canoe and a recreational kayak . It is by far the most traditional looking kayak as it has a fairly short length and a large form factor that makes it look more like a small boat than a kayak.

However, the canoe-kayak is one of the most versatile types of kayaks on the market. Indeed, it is ideal for both fishing and camping as well as being an excellent recreational kayak.

Furthermore, its main advantage is that it tracks well, which means that it can easily move in a straight line without steering left or right. Therefore, it is an excellent kayak for those who navigate through narrow waters like rivers.

8. Creekboats

Creekboats are usually smaller kayaks that are 8 ft. in length or longer. They are usually meant for navigating rough waters and are known for the solid and durable build construction. Creekboats come with 2 types of hulls, the displacement hull, and the planing hull.

The displacement how is excellent for rapid waters like rivers and creeks. On the other hand, the planing hull is more general-purpose and usually suited for larger waters like lakes and large rivers.

The displacement hull is the best when it comes to drops but more difficult to navigate through for a beginner. For this, you will need a Creekboat kayak that has a planning hull which is more beginner friendly.

9. SUP-Kayak Hybrid

The SUP-kayak hybrid is one of the most versatile and practical types of kayaks for fishing. In fact, this kayak was literally designed for fishing as it allows the user to move freely in all directions as well as comes with rod holders for your fishing rods .

Additionally, it makes an excellent recreational family kayak because it tracks very easily on waters like lakes, small ponds, and bays. Due to the open cockpit design, the user can get in or out very easily.

The main disadvantage of the SUP-Kayak is that since the cockpit is an open space, water can get in quite easily but it is difficult to remove it afterward.

10. Old School Kayaks

Old school kayaks are kayaks that were made in the 80s and early 90s. In general, an old school kayak will measure between 10 ft. to 12 ft.

This is quite long when compared to a modern day kayak which is normally in the 8 ft. to 10 ft. range. Since the old school kayak is long, it tracks very easily, especially when used on narrow stretches like rivers.

However, its long length can be a disadvantage when turning as you will have to paddle extra hard to do so.

Additionally, another disadvantage of the old-school kayak is that the cockpit is usually on the small side which restricts movement and is less safe than the cockpit found in a modern-day kayak.


The kayak is not a difficult boat to operate and you will quickly gain some skills within minutes of operating this boat. Most of the time, it is operated by a single person and glides through the water with minimum effort.

As we have seen, there are different types of kayaks that are suited for different needs. Hopefully, after reading this article you are now in a better position to choose the right type of kayak for your need and purpose.

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