One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is by getting out on the water! Paddle sports like stand up paddle boarding and kayaking are a great way to enjoy being on the ocean, lake, or river because they help you get around more efficiently than you would if you were swimming. But how do you decide whether you’d rather ride a stand up paddle board (SUP) or paddle a kayak? While both are a lot of fun to use, there are some important differences to consider when choosing whether to use a SUP or a kayak. To figure that out, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
- How balanced are you?
- How far do you plan on paddling?
- What kind of gear do you want to bring with you?
- Where do you want to paddle?
Each question is meant to help you figure out what sort of paddling experience you want to have. Keep reading for guidance on how to answer each question for yourself!
How balanced are you?
One of the first things you need to assess about yourself when deciding whether to use a SUP or a kayak is your balancing skills. Both watercraft require that you have some form of balance, however, SUPs require that you have much more balancing abilities compared to kayaks.
SUPs are great at developing the core strength and coordination required for balancing on an unstable surface. If you want the challenge of maintaining your balance while paddling, a SUP might be the best choice for you! If you’d rather be able to get right on the water and go while sitting without having to worry about falling in the water, kayaks are the better choice.
How far do you plan on paddling?
The next thing to consider when deciding whether to use a SUP or a kayak is to determine how far you plan on going. If you’re planning on staying fairly close to shore or your plan is to use the current to help you get to where you want to go (such as with river SUPing), then using a SUP is a great option!
If you’re planning on putting some miles in while on the water, then a kayak might be the better choice. One reason why long-distance paddling is better in a kayak is that you sit lower on the water than when you’re on a SUP. The wind can be a factor in how efficient you can be while paddling. If you have a higher profile while on the water, the wind has a larger surface area to push against, resulting in you putting more effort into staying on course. But on the other hand, SUP is better for your posture and workout if you are more health conscious.
You can mitigate the effect of the wind while on a SUP by kneeling or sitting down on the board or turn your paddle board into a kayak by getting a seater.
What kind of gear do you want to bring with you?
A great thing about paddle sports is that it allows you to gain access to areas that aren’t accessible by foot. There’s nothing better than being able to set up on a shoreline that you have all to yourself! And what’s better is that both SUPs and kayaks can bring along gear to make that private experience even better.
If you are a minimalist and you don’t need a lot of stuff, SUPs are a great option. A lot of SUPs come with bungy cargo nets on the nose of the boards to secure gear to the deck of your board. That space is limited, so be selective with what you want to bring! And use a dry bag for any gear you don’t want to get wet.
Kayaks are also somewhat limited on what you can bring with you. The style of kayak that you use will determine how much gear you can bring with you. Sit on top kayaks are like SUPs in that they don’t have a lot of room to strap gear down onto the deck. Sit inside kayaks sometimes come with a storage area with a watertight hatch that can hold small items and keep them dry.
Where do you want to paddle?
As mentioned earlier, SUPs and kayaks can be paddled pretty much anywhere you want to go! Some common places that you can paddle are:
- On a river
- In the ocean
- On a lake
If your plan is to float down a river, consider the class of river you’re going to visit. If you plan on hitting a river with class III or higher rapids, a kayak is a much safer option to use.
Is your plan to go hit the beach and maybe catch a few waves? Then a SUP is your best bet! In fact, there is a growing community of SUP surfers because the paddle helps to catch waves since you can easily match the speed of the wave compared to surfing where you have to use your arms alone to push yourself through the water.
And if you plan on going to a lake, the choice is really up to you! SUPs and kayaks are both excellent choices for paddling at the lake. Consider the questions we’ve talked about earlier to help you make your decision on which one to use. In either case, you’ll be sure to have a ton of fun!
SUPs and kayaks are both great tools to help you reap the benefits of getting out on the water to enjoy a day of fun in the sun. While there are a few things to consider before you decide to use either craft, you can’t go wrong when choosing to spend your time paddling!
Regardless of the choice you make, always be sure to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) whenever you go out on the water to stay safe. And always consider paddling with a friend. That way, if you run into trouble, you’ll have someone there to help you out!