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Debating which comes out on top in the stand-up paddleboard vs kayak contest can be fun but only when compared against their few similarities. These two watercrafts are different in design, how to navigate, and what they can do.
The few things they have in common in terms of practical applications are not worth scratching your head too much.
Here are some of the basic things you should know about stand-up paddleboards and kayaks. After understanding where they come from and what they are meant to be, you’ll have an easier time deciding which one is best suited for you. This can be based on what activities you like, how fit you are, and how excited you get around water.
Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is often considered to be more of a workout than a leisure activity but this is not an accurate assessment. This movement originated in Hawaii and it is derived from surfing.
Unlike traditional paddleboarding, SUP requires paddling from a standing position, similar to how you would keep balance on a surfboard.
You are limited with where you can practice your surfing skills. This is the main reason why SUP is getting more attention than ever before. Stand-up paddleboarding can be an activity for calm waters too, which opens up a lot of possibilities.
This small and narrow boat design is an interesting choice for extreme sports enthusiasts, amateur fishermen or even the casual water adventurer. It is a versatile boat that can fit one, or in some cases more people. You can travel in one for long distances with less effort.
Similar to the stand-up paddleboard, the kayak can be taken out in harsh river conditions or calm waters. The skill, of course, will play a major part in how well you can control it. Because of the narrow design, the boat can easily topple over.
Stand-up paddleboard vs kayak locations
When it comes to location, both watercrafts are versatile. It doesn’t take much to navigate a calm lake or a gentle stream on either of them. However, it does take a different skill set when it comes to dealing with strong currents.
You need to have good balance when battling with harsh weather conditions or when trying to avoid rocks and tree stumps. Obviously, a kayak may seem easier to control but that’s not the only feature that gives it an edge.
A stand-up paddleboard just doesn’t offer any safety when there’s a possibility of crashing into a foreign object.
If you plan on having an adventure on some river rapids, then you might want to consider a kayak. It is a bit easier to navigate and it also provides some protection in case you do hit something.
Keeping perfect balance can be hard at times, even when standing still, so trying to do this when the board beneath your feet is unstable is not a good idea.
Stand-up paddleboard vs kayak activities
So, you’re probably wondering what you can do with these watercraft other than sightseeing. When trying to figure out which comes on top in the stand up paddleboard vs kayak debate, it’s important to understand that they are best suited for different activities.
The stand up paddle board is a bit more demanding and puts more strain on your muscles. Calm waters are where you want to be with one. You can simulate a gondola experience without too much effort.
You can also try to do some light surfing if you catch a few waves, just don’t expect the board to be as easy to control as a surfboard. Nonetheless, when you have full-body range of motion, the experience you get from a SUP is a bit more entertaining.
A kayak may not offer as much movement freedom as a stand-up paddleboard. A decent-sized kayak can be a useful watercraft if you plan to do some fishing.
As long as you don’t plan on catching a dinner for 10 people, spending a few hours on a lake in a seated position will give you some much needed quiet time and an activity to do.
If you want to feel some wind in your hair, there are small electric motors that you can equip your kayak with; you can’t do that with a stand up paddleboard because it wouldn’t be safe at high speeds and you would have a hard time maintaining balance.
Stand-up paddleboard vs kayak as a workout
An interesting point was brought up as stand-up paddleboarding was getting traction as a sport. Kayaking is an Olympic activity so why not paddleboarding also? Paddleboarding may not look as fun on TV given the lack of speed but there is more to it than racing.
Comparing a stand-up paddleboard vs a kayak as a training device is like comparing apples and oranges. Both are fruits but have two very different flavors. A kayak will get you a chest and arm workout if you paddle hard but that is all it can do.
When sailing with a stand-up paddleboard, you are putting your entire body to work. From head to toe, you are constantly contracting muscles to maintain your balance.
At the same time, you are using your hands to paddle, while again, trying to balance yourself.
It seems hard to accomplish but in reality, you don’t need exceptional body strength to pull it off. The workout is pleasant even if it demands that you put all your muscles to work.
This is why even though rowing is an Olympic event, stand-up paddleboarding can produce more well-rounded athletes.
When deciding which to choose between a stand-up paddleboard vs. kayak, you have a lot to consider. If you live in a place with generally good weather and calm waters, then a stand up paddleboard can fulfill more needs at the same time. You can get your workout and enjoy some sailing too.
If you like fishing and want to feel your adrenaline pumping on rapid rivers, then a kayak is more accommodating. You have some room to carry a fishing pole with you, and you get to sit in a comfortable position.
With the kayak’s back support and some level of protection against possible injuries, you can spend more time on the water.
It really is a case of what activity you enjoy more. Both watercraft are fun but the designs don’t allow them to compete for the same spot. If you can make the investment, just get them both and switch between them accordingly.
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I’m an Colorado native, who learned to surf in the Pacific Northwest, and SW Canada. I live inland near the mountains now, and love to get out on my SUP. It’s weird, but I love windy, choppy days as no-one is out and I like the challenge.