Paddleboard Vs Kayak – Is SUP Better Than Kayaking?

Paddleboard Vs Kayak – Is SUP Better Than Kayaking?

Paddleboarding (with an SUP, or Stand Up Paddleboard) and kayaking are two popular watersports.

While there is some overlap between the paddleboarding and kayaking communities, they are different activities, each one with its own benefits and unique characteristics.

If you’re just starting out and wondering whether to choose paddleboards or kayaks, you’ve come to the right place.

Today, I will be breaking down these two activities and helping you decide which one better suits you, so read on!

Quick Summary

Here are the key takeaways from this article:

The benefits of kayaks are:

  • They are more versatile, allowing you to do a wider range of activities, such as fishing and long-distance touring.
  • They are better for more diverse weather and water conditions.
  • They are generally more stable and safer.
  • They are more comfortable.
  • They tend to be cheaper than SUPs.

On the other hand, paddleboarding has some benefits as well:

  • It provides a full body workout.
  • SUPs are easier to carry.
  • They’re great for yoga and Pilates.

Overall, if you are a beginner, I would recommend starting with a kayak and transitioning to paddleboards later.

Kayaks vs Paddleboards: Costs

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Kayaks are largely cheaper than SUPs.

At first glance, you might think that SUPs are cheaper. They have a less complex design, after all, while kayaks have extra stuff like storage wells and seats.

Nevertheless, the reality is that SUPs are often a bit more expensive than kayaks.

There are a few reasons for that. First of all, it’s important to remember that the materials used for SUPs are usually high quality.

You need rigid, strong, and durable materials that won’t break under pressure, even with someone standing on it. You can’t have a flimsy, low-quality SUP.

The design of a kayak is actually pretty simple to make, on the other hand. In fact, most kayaks nowadays are made of a single piece of rotomolded plastic, which is incredibly cheap to manufacture.

Kayaks have been around for a long time and are incredibly popular. There is a large market for them, with a lot of suppliers, which helps bring down the price.

Meanwhile, SUPs are more niche. There are fewer suppliers offering them, which can bring up the market price a bit.

In addition, the market for used SUPs is smaller than the market for used kayaks, which is another factor in the difference in pricing between them.

Remember, I am just speaking in general terms. Of course, there are cheap SUPs as well.

For example, you can get an inflatable SUP, just like you can an inflatable kayak. These tend to be cheaper and are great for entry-level paddleboarding on a budget.

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There are also high-end kayaks which are incredibly expensive.

The cost of other equipment and gear is relatively comparable. For both, you will need:

There are some pieces of equipment which vary between the two, though. For example, for paddleboarding, you will need a leash to keep you attached to your paddleboard in case you fall into the water.

For kayaking, on the other hand, you may need a bilge pump to help you pump water out of your kayak. If you plan on kayaking for long distances, a GPS system is also useful.

Winner: Kayaks

Paddleboards vs Kayaks: Ease of Transport

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SUPs are generally lighter and easier to transport than kayaks. Kayaks can be heavy, making it harder to lift them onto the roof of your vehicle, carry them on land, and transport them in general.

SUPs, on the other hand, can be carried by hand more easily. They usually have carry handles to assist with that, while not all kayaks have such handles.

Both are typically transported on roof racks on your vehicle, though, so there’s not that much of a difference there.

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Of course, you could get an inflatable kayak or a folding kayak. An inflatable kayak can be deflated and transported in small spaces, although you will need a pump to help you inflate the kayak once you reach your destination.

A folding kayak doesn’t require inflation, but it takes up more space than an inflatable kayak.

There are inflatable SUPs, too, as mentioned.

Winner: Paddleboards

Kayaks vs Paddleboards: Learning Curve for Beginners

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This is a tough one, since both are good for beginners. Nevertheless, if you are a complete newbie, I would recommend kayaks.

A common difficulty beginners experience while paddleboarding is maintaining their balance. It can be hard to learn how to stabilize yourself.

While you will get better with practice, you are a lot more likely to fall into the water from an SUP than from a kayak.

You also need a lot of core strength to paddleboard, and you need to build this up over time.

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Kayaking, on the other hand, has less of a risk of falling into the water. Many beginners find it easy to stabilize themselves on kayaks, which are generally more stable and have a lower center of gravity.

Remember, you sit in a kayak as opposed to standing on an SUP, which is a big advantage for beginners.

On the other hand, if you do fall into the water from a kayak, you might be in trouble. It’s important to know how to get back into a capsized kayak.

Also, if you are a beginner, I don’t recommend going too far from shore in your kayak, in case you fall out and can’t get back in.

Winner: Kayaks

Paddleboards vs Kayaks: Versatility

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Kayaking offers greater versatility than paddleboarding.

For example, if you want to go fishing, you’d be better off getting a kayak. A kayak offers advantages such as extra storage space and stability.

In fact, there are many kayaks designed exclusively for fishing. These usually come with features such as fishing rod holders.

While there are also paddleboards designed for fishing, which are wider, more stable, and have more storage space than regular paddleboards, fishing kayaks are still superior in all factors.

In terms of long-distance travels, kayaks again win. If you want to travel far from shore, a kayak will be a lot more useful and more comfortable than a paddleboard.

Imagine standing the entire time on a day trip. You will get exhausted and won’t be able to enjoy yourself.

On the other hand, touring kayaks are designed for long-distance travels. Even a regular kayak is better for long-distance paddling than an SUP.

There are some things that SUPs are better at. For example, there is a whole community of people who do yoga or Pilates on SUPs.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for overall versatility, kayaks come out as the winner.

Winner: Kayaks

Kayaks vs Paddleboards: Weather and Water Conditions

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Next up on the topic of versatility is availability. For example, how useful are SUPs when it comes to a broader range of weather conditions?

While SUPs are a lot of fun on calm sunny days, they aren’t that great when it is windy. SUPs are very susceptible to the wind.

If it’s a windy day, you will have a horrible time on a paddleboard. Kayaks, on the other hand, usually take winds pretty well, as long as the winds are not too extreme.

If the water is cold, you will also be better off in a kayak. You are a lot more likely to get wet or fall into the water on a paddleboard.

Kayaks are better for cold waters. That is especially the case if you have a sit-in kayak, which has a cockpit to protect you both from splashes and the cold weather.

In general, kayaks are better suited for a wider range of water types. Kayaks can do well in calm waters but also in the ocean and in whitewater rivers.

That’s true regardless of which kayak you have. If you specifically like the ocean, though, you could get a sea kayak, while you can get a whitewater kayak if you plan on going on a lot of whitewater adventures.

Even in calm waters, where SUPs are great, kayaks are often better in terms of maneuverability. The main advantage that SUPs have is that they are faster than kayaks.

That is due to their design, which allows them to glide over the water swiftly and smoothly.

Kayaks, on the other hand, are easier to maneuver. For example, in tight spaces, it is a lot easier to turn a kayak than to turn an SUP.

Ultimately, it depends on which types of waters you plan on paddling in. If you plan on mostly doing short-distance trips on warm, calm waters, an SUP might actually be superior.

That’s because SUPs are a bit more fun in warm waters. You can dip your feet in the water or jump in entirely to cool off and then get back onto the paddleboard with ease.

On the other hand, if you want the flexibility of being able to paddle in a broader range of water conditions and types, a kayak would be a better choice. If you’re not sure yet what kind of paddling you want to do, again, opt for a kayak.

If you live in a place where the warm season only lasts for a short time, and you have chilly or cold weather most of the year, a kayak would be better. It will allow you to paddle in the spring and autumn as well, even early in the morning.

Even in warm weather conditions, SUPs have a serious disadvantage. Since your entire body is exposed, you will be more likely to get sunburned.

If you have a sit-in kayak, on the other hand, the lower part of your body will be automatically shielded from the sun.

In either case, it is important to wear protective gear and take other measures to protect you from the sun, such as applying sunscreen.

Winner: Kayaks

Paddleboards vs Kayaks: Sightseeing and Nature Viewing

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In terms of sightseeing, both SUPs and paddleboards have pros and cons. On the one hand, SUPs give you a better view.

That’s because you can stand up and get a better view of your surroundings. On a kayak, though, you would be seated most of the time.

Even though some kayaks have raised seats, you would still be at a lower center of gravity compared to an SUP, so your vision will be more limited.

On the other hand, kayaks have the advantage of being able to take you longer distances and in more diverse water conditions. You might be able to see more at any given time on an SUP, but when looking at the broader picture, I would still prefer a kayak.

A kayak would allow me to go to places I couldn’t reach with an SUP. So, for short trips, SUPs win for sightseeing, but in the grand scheme of things, I still award kayaks the win.

Winner: Kayaks

Kayaks vs Paddleboards: Comfort

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There is no doubt that kayaks are more comfortable than SUPs. Being able to sit is a big factor on long trips.

Kayaks usually have storage space for a cooler, where you can store cold beer, soda, or water. You can anchor your kayak and relax with a cold drink at any time.

SUPs, on the other hand, require you to either stand or kneel. This can become very tiring after a while.

Winner: Kayaks

Paddleboards vs Kayaks: Exercise and Health Benefits

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In terms of exercising and health benefits, paddleboarding wins.

Both kayaking and paddleboarding are great exercise activities. Kayaking works out a lot of muscles, but primarily, you will be using your arms and upper body while paddling; remember, you remain seated while kayaking.

Paddleboarding, on the other hand, is a full body exercise.

If upper body strength is what you’re after, kayaking is great. It will give you strong arms and shoulders.

On the other hand, if you want a full body workout, including a great core workout, paddleboarding is the right choice. It will even work out your legs and glutes.

Not only that, but paddleboarding is great for flexibility and stability. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of yoga exercises designed for paddleboarding, which require a high degree of practice but are great for your overall health.

Paddleboarding is a lot more intensive than kayaking. You will get tired more easily, but you will also burn more calories and be in better shape.

Winner: Paddleboards

Kayaks vs Paddleboards: Safety

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Both SUPs and kayaks are generally safe, but each has its risks.

SUPs are risky because you are more likely to fall into the water. This means that you are also more likely to fall onto an obstacle, such as a tree branch or rock jutting out of the water, when paddleboarding in shallow waters.

Similarly, paddleboards are more susceptible to winds, again making you more likely to lose your balance.

On the other hand, you are less likely to fall out of a kayak, especially in calm waters. But, if you do fall out, it can be hard to get back in if you don’t know the proper technique to flip your kayak upright.

Also, you are more likely to go further from shore in a kayak, which could be dangerous if you capsize or sink. It’s a lot easier to get back to safety when you’re close to shore.

In any case, whether you are kayaking or paddleboarding, it’s critical to wear a life jacket, watch out for inclement weather, and take other safety measures.

For example, you should let someone know that you went paddling and where. If you are a beginner, take a buddy with you.

You should also take an emergency kit with you with essentials such as bandages and other first-aid products. A whistle hanging around your neck can help you signal for help, and a compass can help you determine which direction to go in case you get lost.

Furthermore, you will want to have enough lighting if heading out at night; you can wear a headlamp or attach lights to your kayak.

Winner: Tie

Paddleboards vs Kayaks: Competition Potential

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Both paddleboards and kayaks have races and competitions. However, kayaks again win, and here’s why.

Kayaking is in the Olympics. On the other hand, paddleboarding is not, although this might change in the future as it is being considered for the 2028 Olympics.

As of now, though, if you want to reach high levels as an athlete, kayaking is the way to go.

Winner: Kayaks

Kayaks or Paddleboards? Winners and Losers

Kayaks SUPs
Cost
Better for Beginners
Exercise
Comfort
Transportability
Versatility (Activities)
Versatility (Weather and Water Conditions)
Competition Potential

Conclusion

Overall, kayaks win.

Though SUPs are great for full body workouts and yoga, kayaks win when it comes to versatility, cost, and which types of water and weather conditions you can paddle in.

As mentioned, both have pros and cons when it comes to safety. But I recommend beginners start with kayaking and move on to paddleboarding once they are ready.

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Peter Salisbury

Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.

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