Paddle board vs kayak, which is better for you? Choosing between the two really depends on your personal preference, storage space, mode of transportation, intended use, and to some degree, experience level.

I love both, and have a few paddle boards myself. A good friend of mine has a few kayaks, so between the two of us we have the best of both worlds.

Here are some things to consider, if you’re trying to choose between the two.

  • Paddle boards: easier to transport, easier to learn, better visibility and best for calm water
  • Kayaks: best for rougher waters and longer trips, faster, easier to carry things
Kayaking on Lake Washington
Living my best life, one lake at a time.

Paddle Board vs Kayak – Main Differences

Generally, kayaks are better suited for longer trips and rougher waters. They are more stable with your lower center of gravity and offer better protection from the elements.

Kayaks can also carry more gear and are generally faster than stand-up paddle boards. This makes them a fantastic choice for camping on remote-ish islands.

On the other hand, stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) are better for shorter trips and calm waters. Like lakes, rivers, and bays for example. You can see more of your surroundings, as you’re usually standing on the board. But you can also sit or kneel, depending on your mood. SUPs are also a great workout, as you engage your core muscles while balancing on the board.

I prefer a kayak if I’m going out on the ocean where the water is generally rougher or if I’m camping on an island because they hold more gear. And I prefer a paddle board on just about any lake.

Moving through the water

The main difference between a kayak and a stand-up paddle board (SUP) is the way they’re propelled through the water and the position of the paddler.

  • In a kayak, you sit inside the boat and use a double-bladed paddle to propel yourself through the water. Kayaks have a lower center of gravity and are more stable, especially in rougher waters, longer trips, and carrying gear.
  • In an SUP, you stand on the board and use a single-bladed paddle to move through the water. SUPs are wider and more stable as a result except that you often stand up while paddling, which decreases your stability.
  • SUPs are better suited for calm waters, shorter trips, and getting a good workout.
  • Another key difference between kayaks and SUPs is the level of skill required to use them. Kayaking can require more skill, particularly in rougher waters. SUPs can be easier to learn but may require more balance and core strength.

Ultimately, the choice between a kayak and a stand-up paddleboard depends on your preferences, intended use, and skill level.

My personal preference is a paddle board because I’m not stuck in a single position, I get a full body workout and it’s easier to bring with me.

An infographiic, a side by side comparison of paddles boards and kayaks

Pros and Cons of a Kayak

paddle board vs kayak
All I can do today is this!

There are several advantages and disadvantages to using a kayak as your watercraft.

Pros of Kayaks

  • Stability: Kayaks are generally more stable than stand-up paddle boards, which makes them a great option for rougher waters and carrying gear.
  • Protection: Kayaks offer more protection from the elements, as you sit inside the boat and can be covered with a spray skirt or other accessories. Highly recommend the spray skirt on the ocean!
  • Speed: Kayaks are generally faster than stand-up paddle boards, which makes them a great option for longer trips or getting to your destination faster.
  • Maneuverability: Kayaks can be more maneuverable than stand-up paddle boards, which makes them a great option for navigating through tight spaces or around obstacles.

Cons of Kayaks

  • Skill level: Kayaking can require more skill, particularly in rougher waters, and may require training and practice to master.
  • Weight: They can be heavy and difficult to transport, especially by yourself, which can limit your options for launching and landing.
  • Limited visibility: You sit inside the kayak, which can limit visibility and make it harder to see your surroundings.
  • Cost: They can be expensive, particularly if you are looking for a high-performance model or one with specialized features.

Overall, kayaks can be a great option if you want to explore rougher waters, carry gear, and have a faster, more maneuverable watercraft. However, they may require more skill and practice to use effectively, and can be heavy and expensive.

Pros and Cons of a Stand-up Paddle board

Stand up paddle board on lake

Stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) have become increasingly popular as a watercraft option in recent years. And for many reasons, as follows:

Pros of Paddle Boards

  • Easier to learn: Stand-up paddle boarding can be easier to learn than kayaking, as you stand on the board and have a better view of your surroundings.
  • Great workout: Paddle boarding is a great workout, as it engages core muscles while balancing on the board.
  • Versatile: SUPs can be used in a variety of water conditions, from calm lakes to small waves, making them a great option for many different types of paddling.
  • Portability: SUPs are generally lightweight and easy to transport, which makes them a great option for those who want to enjoy it as a solo sport.

Cons of Paddle Boards

  • Less stable: SUPs are slightly less stable than kayaks, which can make them more difficult to use in rougher waters or carry gear.
  • Limited protection: Paddle boarders are exposed to the elements and may not have as much protection from wind, rain, or waves.
  • Slower: SUPs are less aerodynamic and generally slower than kayaks, which can make them less suitable for longer trips or getting to your destination quickly.

Overall, stand-up paddle boards can be a great option for getting a good workout, exploring calm waters, and having a portable watercraft that is easy to transport. It is my personal favorite!

Aninfographic, a list of pros and cons of a paddle board vs a kayak

SUP vs Kayak, Ease of Learning

Relaxing on paddle board
Good choices, right?

The ease of learning to kayak or stand-up paddle board (SUP) depends on several factors. It’s based on your prior experience with water sports and your level of fitness and balance.

Generally speaking, stand-up paddle boarding can be easier to learn than kayaking. This is because it’s easier to get onto an SUPs than into a kayak. Assuming you’re learning on calm water, the SUP is more stable when getting in because of its broader base.  

In contrast, kayaking requires more skill and technique to master. It can take some getting used to, especially getting into your kayak. It can also take some time to learn how to use a double-bladed paddle effectively and navigate through rougher waters.

Some people find kayaking easier to learn than stand-up paddle boarding, depending on their strengths, preferences and past experience. For either one, taking lessons or practicing with an experienced instructor can make it significantly easier to learn.

Where Will You be Paddling?

It’s important to consider where you will want to go paddling, as the environment plays a huge role in what sort of watercraft is best to use.

On the Beach

When it comes to beach activities, the SUP is a clear winner. It offers more fun and versatility than a kayak, allowing you to sunbathe, swim, and paddle with friends, kids, or pets.

On the Coast

For shorter coastal explorations, both the paddleboard and kayak have their advantages. A paddleboard allows easy access to land and freedom to stop anywhere, while a kayak provides confidence in changing weather conditions and covers greater distances.

Rivers and Whitewater

For rivers and whitewater adventures, the kayak is absolutely safer and more suitable. Whitewater rafting in a kayak is risky, so it’s best to avoid using a SUP unless you’re experienced. Take lessons and practice on easier rivers.

On the Open Sea

For longer expeditions and open sea journeys, the kayak is again the top choice. It offers safety, speed, and comfort, with more storage space for gear. Kayaks handle wind and inclement weather better, allowing you to cover greater distances and explore more areas.

The Comfort Factor, Paddle Board vs Kayak

Personal preferences come into play when it comes to choosing between a kayak and a paddle board, making it a highly subjective decision.

While some people appreciate the serenity of sitting back and relaxing in a kayak, others may find the prospect of being in a seated position for an extended period uncomfortable.

This is where the versatility of paddle boards truly shines.

Paddle boards are specifically designed for standing paddling, providing a unique and active experience on the water. However, what sets them apart is the variety of alternative positions they offer.

Not limited to standing, paddle boards allow for various paddle positions that cater to individual comfort levels and needs.

If standing for an extended period poses a challenge, you can choose to paddle while kneeling up, which provides a lower center of gravity and increased stability.

Alternatively, kneeling back on your heels is another option that allows for a more relaxed posture while still maintaining control over the board’s movement.

But the adaptability doesn’t end there. Paddle boards even offer the possibility of paddling while seated directly on the board itself. This position can be particularly appealing if you prefer a lower vantage point or desire a change of pace during your water adventure.

Furthermore, paddle boards present a unique opportunity for relaxing. On calm water, you can take advantage of the board’s buoyancy and simply lie down and float along. This position provides a different perspective and truly peaceful connection with the surrounding environment.

The diverse range of paddle positions offered by SUPs also holds particular appeal for people who may have limited flexibility or experience discomfort from prolonged sitting.

Whether you have back issues or hips issues, prolonged sitting is never a good thing. By having the flexibility to switch between positions, you can tailor your experience to your comfort level and actively engage with your surroundings.

Paddle Board vs Kayak, Transportation

Most kayaks cannot be stored inside your vehicle, as they are long and not foldable. You will need a roof-top rack and cross-bars on your vehicle in order to move them wherever you want to go. These are expensive, but can often be purchased used at a great price.

There are some kayaks however that are foldable, and easily stored in your vehicle. Interestingly, the foldable kayaks get mixed reviews. Some people absolutely love them for their convenience and lightweight portability.

Others dislike them for the same reasons! While it is convenient to transport them when they fold, it takes some practice to put them together efficiently once you arrive at your destination.

There are also hybrid kayaks, which come in two basic forms. You have the kind that looks more like a paddle board, but has a seat mounted on it.

And you have the kind that looks like an open-top kayak and behaves more like a paddle board.  These hybrid alternatives have some of the advantages and disadvantages of both the kayak and the SUP.

The inflatable SUP can easily fit into your vehicle and can generally be moved by yourself. This makes it a great option as a solo sport.

Kayak vs Paddle Board Storage

When it comes to storage, there are significant differences between kayaks and paddle boards.

Storing a Kayak

Kayaks, with their traditional shape and design, often require more space for storage compared to paddle boards. Their elongated hulls and distinct form can pose challenges when it comes to finding adequate storage solutions.

Kayaks typically need a dedicated storage area, such as a garage or shed, with enough space to accommodate their length. This can be a limiting factor for people with limited storage options or those living in apartments or small homes.

Transporting kayaks to and from the water can also be cumbersome, requiring roof racks, trailers, or specialized kayak carriers.

Storing a Paddle Board

On the other hand, paddle boards offer advantages in terms of storage. They are generally more compact and lightweight than kayaks, making them easier to store and transport.

Paddle boards can be deflated or disassembled, depending on the type, allowing for more convenient storage options.

Inflatable paddle boards, in particular, are highly portable and can be easily deflated, rolled up, and stored in a compact bag or backpack. This makes them suitable for those with limited storage space or those who frequently travel or move between locations.

Storage of Gear

Another aspect to consider is the need for additional accessories and gear. Kayaks often require additional equipment, such as paddles, life jackets, and spray skirts, which also need to be stored alongside the kayak.

Paddle boards, while still requiring a paddle, tend to have fewer accessories and gear requirements. This streamlined nature contributes to their ease of storage and makes them more accessible if you have limited storage space or a prefer something more simple.

Paddling Safety

When it comes to comparing the safety of paddle boarding and kayaking, several factors should be considered.

Remember that safety can vary depending on circumstances, experience levels, and the specific conditions in which the activities are performed.

Both paddle boarding and kayaking can be safe recreational activities when practiced responsibly and with appropriate precautions. However, there are some inherent differences that may influence safety considerations.

Calm Water Safety

Paddle boarding, particularly on calm and flat waters, is generally considered to have a lower risk of capsizing or getting submerged compared to kayaking. Paddle boards offer a stable platform, and falling off the board can be easily managed by getting back on.

In contrast, kayaks, especially sit-inside kayaks, have a higher risk of capsizing, which may require self-rescue techniques or assistance from others to re-enter the kayak.

Rough Water Safety

That being said, paddle boarding can present challenges in rougher water conditions, such as strong winds, choppy waves, or swift currents. Balancing on a paddleboard may become more difficult in these circumstances, increasing the risk of falling into the water.

Whitewater Safety

Kayaking, with its enclosed cockpit and lower center of gravity, may provide a greater sense of stability in turbulent waters. However, kayaking in whitewater or fast-moving rivers carries its own set of risks and requires specific skills and experience.

Whitewater kayaking, in particular, can be hazardous and should only be attempted by experienced paddlers who have received proper training and are equipped with the necessary safety gear.

safety checklist of paddle board vs a kayak

    Accessories for Paddling

    For most uses, you will use the same paddling accessories with both watercraft. The kayak requires special gear for transporting however, as mentioned above. A different set of items are also required for the longer trips, including overnight camping trips, that kayaks are capable of.

    Paddle Board vs Kayak With a Dog

    Both kayaks and stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) can be dog-friendly, but there are some differences to keep in mind.

    Kayaks can provide more protection from the elements and more security for the owner knowing their dog is inside and safe. They have limited seating however, for a dog to be comfortable.

    SUPs may require more balance and training to ensure your dog stays on the board. It’s important to consider the size and temperament of your dog when deciding whether to bring them on a SUP. Larger or more active dogs may be more difficult to control on the board.

    When bringing your dog on a kayak or SUP, make sure that your dog is wearing a properly fitting life jacket. Work on training them to stay on the watercraft. Even when distracted by ducks and other animals in or on the water.  

    What are the primary differences between paddle boarding and kayaking?

    To sum it all up…

    Paddle Boarding: This involves standing or kneeling on a board and using a paddle to move through the water. It offers a full-body workout, is excellent for balance and core strength, and allows the user to enjoy a standing view of their surroundings.

    Kayaking: Involves sitting in a small boat (kayak) and using a double-bladed paddle. It’s generally faster than paddle boarding, offers better stability in choppy waters, and can accommodate more gear for long trips. Kayaking works out the upper body and core.

    Which is easier for beginners, paddle boarding or kayaking?

    Paddle Boarding: It might be challenging initially to balance on the board in choppy waters but it is easier to learn overall, especially in calm waters. However, once the balance is mastered, it’s quite straightforward.

    Kayaking: It is often considered easier to pick up for beginners. The sitting position and the stability of the kayak make it simpler to maneuver, and it requires less balance than paddle boarding.

    Which one is better for fitness?

    Paddle Boarding: Provides a comprehensive full-body workout. Balancing on the board engages the core, legs, and back, while paddling works the arms, shoulders, and chest.

    Kayaking: Primarily focuses on the upper body and core. The paddling motion strengthens the arms, shoulders, back, and also engages the core muscles.

    FAQs on SUPs and Kayaks

    Is it easier to kayak or paddle board?

    Generally speaking, stand-up paddle boarding can be easier to learn than kayaking. They are more stable and require less technical skill to get started.

    Can a paddle board be used as a kayak?

    Technically no. They do make paddle boards so that they can be used in that way however, there are still some differences in center of balance and exposure to the elements.

    What burns more calories kayaking or paddle boarding?

    The number of calories burned during each activity, kayaking or paddle boarding, depends on several factors, including your weight, level of exertion, and the specific conditions you are paddling in.
    According to the ACE, a 125-pound person can expect to burn around 283 calories in 30 minutes of kayaking, while a 155-pound person can burn around 352 calories in the same amount of time.
    In contrast, a 125-pound person can expect to burn around 224 calories in 30 minutes of stand-up paddle boarding, while a 155-pound person can burn around 281 calories. They’re both fantastic workouts!

    Is paddle boarding safer than kayaking?

    Paddle boarding generally has a lower risk of capsizing on calm waters, while kayaking offers more stability in rough conditions. Safety depends on factors such as skill, experience, and water conditions.

    What is the difference between a paddle board and a kayak?

    A paddleboard is a long, buoyant board that is paddled while standing or kneeling, offering versatility and ease of maneuverability. A kayak is a small, enclosed boat with a cockpit and uses a double-bladed paddle, providing stability and protection from the elements.

    Final Thoughts: Paddle Board vs Kayak

    Ultimately, the decision between a kayak and a stand-up paddle board will depend on your preferences and intended use.

    If you want to explore rougher waters and carry more gear, a kayak is probably the better choice. If you want to enjoy a relaxing day on calmer waters and still get a good workout, a stand-up paddle board may be more suitable.