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Paddle Boards vs. Kayaks: Which One is Right for You?

June 24, 2022

Both paddle boards and kayaks are excellent ways to spend time on the water. They provide you with a simple, easy solution to begin paddling. And can give you the best seat in the house for any water-based activity.

But kayaks aren’t for everyone. And in turn, paddle boards are also not ideal for every single person out there.

The problem is, not everyone knows what’s a good fit for them. Due to this, some people will gamble on one or the other, blow through their budget, and be stuck with either a kayak or SUP when what they wanted was the opposite.

Of course, in an ideal world where money is no object, the easiest solution would be to buy one of each. But that isn’t always feasible. So, to help you make the correct choice for you and what you want to do on the water, we’re going to discuss the main differences between paddle boards and kayaks.

With this breakdown you’ll be provided with the information you need to make the correct choice. In addition, we’re going to provide you with the ultimate compromise between the two as well. A cost-effective solution to owning both a kayak and SUP.

Ready to get into it? Let’s begin!

paddle boards

Barrier of Entry

The first thing you need to consider when choosing between a SUP and a kayak is the barrier of entry.

But, what exactly is that? The barrier of entry is how long it takes to become involved with something. In this case, how long it will take for you to be successful on the water.

No matter what you do in life, there is always going to be a learning phase. When an activity has a low barrier of entry that means it’s much easier to master right away. And the opposite can be said for something with a high barrier of entry.

When it comes to SUP, the barrier of entry is low. Most people are able to stand and paddle on their first try. The same can be said for kayaking as well.

But, out of the two activities, which one has a lower barrier of entry?

While we’d love to say SUP, the truth is kayaking is a little easier to master right away because of the fact that you are sitting down while paddling. This lower center of gravity effectively eliminates the chances of you capsizing while on the water. Due to this fact, we’d have to say kayaking has a lower barrier of entry.

However, as we’ve already mentioned. Most people who try SUP are successful on their first go. Especially with a board that is thick and wide enough to accommodate their body size. Keep that in mind when you give SUP a try. Always pick the biggest, widest, and thickest board that you can find to eliminate the early struggles. If you can do that, you’ll be able to be as successful right away on a SUP just like you would on a kayak.

Verdict: Slight advantage to kayaks

Stability

We’ve already touched on this a bit in the previous section. But, it’s obvious when you compare SUP and kayaks which one is going to be more stable. The answer, of course, is the kayak. After all, you are sitting down on the water instead of having to balance while standing on an uneven surface.

But just as we mentioned that in the previous section, we should also reiterate, if you find the board that matches your body size, your stability on the water will improve. Almost to the point where you can’t even believe you ever doubted yourself.

So, if you do struggle with balance, then a kayak might be the better option between the two. But with the right guidance, and the right board, you’re guaranteed to have success on a SUP.

Verdict: Slight advantage to kayaks

Perspective

On the water there is so much to see. Whether it be the wildlife swimming underneath or running on the land. The sun setting on the horizon. Or maybe even your potential catch if fishing is your thing. Whatever it may be, there is an endless supply of excitement while paddling on the water.

But between the two vessels, there is a distinct winner here. And that is a stand up paddle board. While you might be able to see plenty sitting low on a kayak, it does not compare to the views you can witness on a SUP. While standing on the water, with the ability to move on your board, you have a 360 degree view. As well as the ability to look straight down into the water at the fish or other wildlife swimming underneath your feet. From this perspective you can see it all.

Verdict: SUP wins

kayak

Durability

Durability is important. Especially when it comes to equipment that costs around a thousand dollars. In the past, kayaks might have been the clear winners here. After all, they are shaped with a plastic molded body and can be thrown into the back of your truck or on top of your car with no worries.

Over the years, however, paddle boards have made major strives in terms of durability. And no more is this the case than with inflatable boards. The current iterations are made with military-grade materials that are drop stitched with added layers for enhanced durability, even in extreme conditions.

With this new tech involved, paddle boards are now just as durable as kayaks. And in some instances, even more so. What was once a clear advantage for a kayak is now a tie between the two.

Verdict: Tie

Comfort

This next section might be contingent on what you deem to be comfortable. If you don’t like standing on a paddle board and would rather sit, a kayak might be considered more comfortable to you. However, this comfort can depend on how long you plan to be on the water.

For longer distance paddles, you’d be surprised to learn how uncomfortable a kayak can be. When you sit for extended periods of time, relying solely on your shoulders and arms for propulsion, the muscles in your upper body can become taxed. You can develop cramps in your arms. Or you might even experience some lower back pain.

On a SUP, you have the option to sit or stand whenever you please. This allows you to balance the wear and tear of your body when you’re paddling long distances. And it makes paddle boarding much more comfy on the water. Especially if you like spending hours at a time paddling.

This one might surprise most people but paddle boards win this category with ease.

Verdict: SUP wins

Extra Activities: Yoga, Fishing, Etc.

One of the best features of either SUP or kayak is the ability to experience extra activities on the water besides just paddling. When it comes to kayaking, fishing is the top alternative activity. You have a great place to store gear, drop a line, and catch some dinner.

But when it comes to SUP, you can fish too. But you can also enjoy SUP yoga , SUP surfing, river SUP, and touring. Plus, with a SUP big enough to carry gear, you have the perfect open platform to drop multiple lines in the water, store a cooler, and more!

With these extra options for activities while on the water, it’s clear who the winner is here.

Verdict: SUP wins

Inflatable Paddle Boards

Transport

To truly understand the difference in transportation between a SUP and kayak, we first need to declare what type of SUP we’re talking about.

If it’s a hardboard then the difference between transporting a SUP and a kayak are negligible. Yes, a SUP might weigh less than your average kayak so putting it on your vehicle might be a little easer. However, you’re still going to need roof racks for your car or a large truck bed in order to take your board or kayak to a launch location.

But, if you happen to have an inflatable paddle board, then the difference between the two is extreme. With an inflatable paddle board you can throw your board in its carrying case and place it in the trunk of your car with absolute ease. Not to mention, inflatable boards are much lighter and easier to carry than both hardboards and kayaks.

So, if you have a hardboard that you need to transport, it’s about the same as a kayak. But with an inflatable board, your transportation, whether it be to your local launch location or halfway around the world, is much easier.

Verdict: With a hardboard, it’s about the same as a kayak. With an inflatable board, SUP is the clear winner.

Storage

Both kayaks and paddle boards are best kept in a temperature controlled area outside of the elements. Things like the sun’s rays, rain, snow, sleet, etc, all combine to wear out the surface of your vessel. As such, you are best served storing your board or kayak in the garage in between sessions or for the offseason.

Before you decide to buy a kayak or a hardboard SUP, make sure you have enough space for storage.

That is, unless, you are set on an inflatable board. Just like transportation, inflatable boards shine when it comes to storage as well. Every inflatable board, including our Atoll 11′ board, comes standard with a carrying backpack that’s perfect to store in your house (in the closet) or in your garage. It doesn’t take up much space. And can be moved with ease in case it gets in the way.

Due to this feature, inflatable boards have the clear advantage.

Verdict: Inflatable boards win this one

How to Have the Best of Both Worlds

Do you remember way back when we mentioned the best way to decide if you want a SUP or a kayak is to buy one of each? And use one or the other whenever you see fit?

As we’ve already explained, that isn’t always a viable option for most people. But what if there was a way simple, cost-effective way to turn your inflatable paddle board into a kayak and back again? All without having to drop an extra grand on a new vessel?

Well, with Atoll’s kayak conversion kit, now you can! Our kits come fully loaded with a kayak seat and conversion kit for your paddle so you can turn your inflatable paddle board into a fully functional kayak in a matter of minutes!

That means, you no longer need to decide between one or the other. Instead, you can have both! And at a fraction on the cost.

And the best part is, you receive all the benefits of owning an inflatable board, with all the fun of owning a kayak. With none of the negatives! Check it out today if you still can’t decide between one or the other.

kayak

Conclusion

We hope this short breakdown between paddle boards and kayaks gives you a little more clarity when it comes to making your next purchase. Both vessels are great ways to get on the water and start having fun. But only one of them can be successfully converted between one or the other at a fraction of the cost. With this understanding, we hope you decide on a brand-new Atoll iSUP with the kayak conversion kit so you can have the best of both worlds on the water!

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