Should you buy a kayak or a stand up paddleboard (SUP)? Good question. Kayaks have been around for a while; they’re versatile craft that can go most anywhere there’s water. SUPs are relatively new on the scene. So which is better? It all depends on what you’re looking for.
Sitting is more stable than standing—something about gravity. You’re typically more likely to fall off a SUP than capsize a kayak, especially in windy or choppy conditions. On the other hand, it’s easier to get back on a SUP than a kayak.
This all depends on the specific model of kayak or SUP. Long sea kayaks are better suited for tracking in a straight line, while short whitewater kayaks can snap around and turn very quickly. Likewise with SUPs: some are better in surf than others.
When paddling a SUP in shallow water or near rocks, you always have to be careful not to bend or break the fins. Most kayaks, unless they have a rudder, don’t have this weak point. In any event, most kayak rudders can be raised as you approach shore.
SUPs have a convenient handle in the middle of the board, which allows you to easily carry the board by your side. If you prefer, you can also easily carry the board by holding it above your head with both hands. Kayaks are a little more cumbersome, and some of the longer kayaks are appreciably heavier.
Kayaks often include watertight compartments and hatches in the stern and sometimes the bow where you can stow gear, clothing, and food. Bungee rigging in front of the kayak allows you to keep essentials like a map and water within easy reach. To store gear on a SUP, you need to buy a bungee kit for the deck, but not all boards are set up for deck rigging.
Kayaking will give your shoulders and arms a good, high-repetition workout. Paddling on a SUP, however, works your entire body, especially your core. You may have also seen people practicing different yoga and fitness routines while out on the water. This can be fun, especially when done in a group.
Kids and Dogs
The deck area of a SUP is fairly large—big enough to accommodate a child or even a dog in addition to an adult paddler. You probably don’t want to go superlong distances this way, but for short excursions it can be a lot of fun. Kayak cockpits are usually more confined and are not big enough for an additional kid or pet.
In terms of touring or sightseeing, both sports have their advantages. On a SUP, you’re standing and can therefore see farther. On the other hand, when kayaking, you can sit back, relax, and maybe even pull out an outdoor camera and snap some photos. If you’re nervous about balance, you’ll likely be focused on that when using a stand up paddleboard, and won’t have as much time to appreciate your surroundings.
People have paddled their SUPs surprisingly long distances. Having said that, many kayaks, especially the 16-footers, include storage compartments for gear and are better suited for long-distance travel. You’ll also find that the double-blade configuration of a kayak paddle is less fatiguing and more energy efficient over the course of an hours-long trek.
Ease for Beginners
Almost anyone can jump into a recreational kayak and start paddling. SUPs have a slightly steeper learning curve, though. It might take a little practice as you learn the best way to stand up, paddle, and maneuver the board.
Kayaks are a blast to paddle. They can take you anywhere. But let’s face it, everyone takes notice when they look out and see someone standing in the middle of a lake or on a river. SUPs are generating a lot of buzz right now.