5 Unique Types of Kayaking

recreational kayaker
Recreational kayaking is just like it sounds—relaxing!


When you hear the word “kayaking,” you think of a long, thin boat with a hole in it that you move with a double-bladed paddle.

But did you know there are at least five unique types of kayaking? And all of them use a different style of kayak?

Here’s a brief overview:

Recreational Kayaking

Recreational kayaking is just like it sounds—relaxing! This is the type many of us do when we’re on a local lake or slow river. Easy for beginners, easy for children…easy for anyone who can get into a kayak and paddle.

Even if you have trouble getting inside a kayak with a cockpit (the hole), you can still kayak recreationally. A sit-on-top kayak is even easier because there’s no climbing in. You just sit on it, grab your paddle and away you go.

Kayaks perfect for recreational paddling are fairly wide, average 9-12 feet long and are very stable.

Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Recreational Kayak Gear [Video] and How to Choose a Recreational Kayak Paddle [Video]

Sea Kayaking or Touring

Kayaking on large bodies of water—like the Great Lakes or the ocean—or for hours or days on end is touring. You want speed and efficiency in the water because you want to cover distance.

sea kayaker
Kayak touring and sea kayaking use the same type of kayak


Sea kayaks are ideal for touring because they’re long and narrow, often 14-18 feet. Some of them are tandem, for two paddlers. They handle waves well and cover lots of distance with ease.

This paddling environment needs respect—there’s big water, possible tidal currents and waves. It’s great to have some kayaking experience first, or go with a guide or other experienced paddler you can learn from.

Read: Making Lake Superior even more Superior (sea kayaking in the Midwest) and Sea Kayaking in the Fjords of Norway

Whitewater Kayaking

Whitewater kayaking is just like it sounds—kayaking in rivers with rapids and whitewater. Some of these kayakers get a little crazy and even go over waterfalls—big ones!

whitewater kayaker
Yes, you have to be a little crazy to do this!


Whitewater kayaks are short and stubby. They’re built for maneuverability, both for turning easily and rolling, in the event the paddler ends up upside-down!

As you can imagine, you’ll want to learn the ropes for whitewater, and not just launch out on your own. Take some lessons at a nearby river or find an experienced whitewater kayaker to take you along.

Read: The Shred Carbon Paddle for Whitewater Kayaking [Video]

Kayak Surfing

Kayak surfing is just like surfing with a board, except it’s in a kayak. Kayak surfers like to ride the waves that break along the ocean’s coast, and use a sea kayak.

kayak surfer
Kayak surfing with a GoPro (photo courtesy of Adam Constantine via Facebook)


Again, big water, waves and current mean get some good paddle experience first, and then go with someone who knows the ropes until you have the skills needed for this environment.

Read: How to Kayak in Ocean Surf

Kayak Fishing

Of the five on this list, this is the type of kayaking that’s more of a means than an end. Don’t let that make you think it’s not about kayaking, though. Being comfortable on the water, and especially as a paddler, will make your fishing much more enjoyable.

kayak angler
Many anglers love the many benefits of fishing from a kayak (photo courtesy of Steve G. via Facebook)


Most anglers like sit-on-top kayaks that are made for angling. They’re wide and stable, and have comfortable and adjustable-height seats. They’re suitable for standing in, too, and have extra features like rod holders and storage areas for gear.

Read: Beginner’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Gear [Video]

Which of these kayaking types is for you? The best way to find out is to find a local rental shop or guide and try them!

What paddle questions do you have? Call or email our friendly Customer Service Team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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