Kayaks and paddleboards are both great ways to get on the water and explore the great outdoors. From fishing to whitewater to flat water paddling, SUPs and kayaks are extremely versatile and can be a ton of fun in a wide variety of paddling conditions. This article will help you answer the question Paddleboard vs. Kayak–which should you buy?

Obviously, in an ideal world where money is no object, it’d be nice to have both a kayak and stand up paddleboard. Budget, space, time spent on the water, and other practical considerations add up. If you had to choose, which one is best for you? As with anything else there are pros and cons to each option, and in this article we’re going to cover the advantages and disadvantages of both. That being said, SUPs have one key advantage…they can be upgraded with an attachable kayak seat!

We’re going to give you a full rundown of all the features to consider when debating a paddleboard vs. kayak. However, it really comes down to which of these features are important to you. So before you read through our list, take some time to consider your own criteria. Keep in mind what makes a watersport fun for you, and we are confident you will make the right decision.

Transform your Paddle Board with a Kayak Seat

Table of Contents / TL;DR

waterwalker 132 thumbnail scale Blue Kayak Example
Paddleboard Kayak
Fitness ✔️
Stability ✔️
Getting Back On ✔️
On-board Storage ✔️
Transport and Portability ✔️
Overall Fun Factor ✔️
Perspective for Sightseeing ✔️
Cold Weather Paddling ✔️
Warm Weather Paddling ✔️
Paddling Long Distances ✔️
Durability ✔️
Speed ✔️
Comfort ✔️
Paddling in Windy Conditions ✔️
Freedom of Movement ✔️
Fishing ✔️
Yoga ✔️
Sun Protection ✔️
Accessibility ✔️

Overall Winner


Choosing Your Watercraft: Kayak or Paddle Board?

1. Fitness

When it comes to getting a workout, stand up paddleboarding is the clear winner. SUP delivers a low-impact, full body workout that tones the body, strengthens muscles, and burns calories. It’s a really fun way to get in shape and, in our humble opinion, it beats going to the gym any day. It’s so much fun that you may not realize how much of a workout you’re getting until the next day.

Having said that, kayaking is also a viable way to get some exercise. While SUP engages your entire body from your legs and glutes, to your core, to your arms, chest and back, kayak paddling provides more of an isolated workout that hits your shoulders, back, arms, chest, and abdominals.

So it might depend on your fitness goals. If you are looking for an overall workout that focuses more on your stabilizer muscles, then a paddle board is the way to go. However, if you are mostly focused on your upper body, then a kayak might be your best bet.


Perfect water sports not only boosts physical fitness but also provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature

Perfect water sports not only boosts physical fitness but also provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature

2. Stability

As far as stability goes, kayaks and paddleboards both offer a stable paddling platform that even beginners can quickly get accustomed to. Despite the fact that both score well in this category, kayaks do have an advantage since they offer a lower center of gravity. Simply put, because you are standing up on a paddle board, you inherently have less stability. However, the standing portion is the primary reason that many choose a SUP board in the first place.


3. Getting Back On

Whether you end up in the water by choice or accident, it’s important to consider how easy it’ll be to get back on your kayak or SUP. When it comes to a capsized kayak, you’ll first need to flip the kayak back over before crawling back into it. Flipping a kayak while in the water is no easy task, and definitely requires knowledge of the proper technique.

And once you’ve flipped it, there is the matter of actually getting back inside! Climbing back on and getting into position might take a little practice to perfect.

SUPs are much easier to get on to when you’re out in the water, thanks to the fact that they rarely capsize and are a lot easier to pull yourself up onto. They are open and accessible, with no lip to climb over or cockpit to shimmy into. It’s easy for you to pull yourself up and go from kneeling to stand up once you’re on board. Additionally, if you make proper use of a leash, they won’t get far even when you fall off.


Paddleboards are much easier to climb back onto than enclosed kayaks

Paddleboards are much easier to climb back onto than enclosed kayaks.

4. On-Board Storage

If extended-length paddling excursions are your thing, then available on-board storage is certainly an important consideration. This also comes into play for shorter trips if you want to bring along camera gear, food, etc.

With a paddleboard, you essentially have a limited amount of deck space to secure your gear. Although there’s plenty of room, you need to be able to move up and down the length of your board to execute tight turns and maneuvers. The more gear you stack on, the more challenging your board is to handle. Of course, anything that you tie down to the deck of your SUP is going to get wet, so you’ll definitely need to pack everything in waterproof dry bags. While it is possible to load quite a bit of gear onto a paddleboard, you won’t have quick and easy access to it while on the water.

A kayak gives you the benefit of increased on-board storage without any add-ons, and it’s also much easier to keep your gear dry when compared with a SUP (although it’s always smart to use a dry bag to be on the safe side). Accessing your gear while on the water can also be easier in a kayak if you’ve packed carefully. While loading your kayak with heavy gear will make it sluggish in the water, you can often pack more gear without impacting performance as much as on a SUP. For that reason, we’ll give the edge to the kayak as the best option when it comes to storage.


5. Transport and Portability

When it comes to transport and portability, inflatable stand up paddleboards are the more convenient option due to the fact that they are typically lighter and easier to handle. Of course, if portability and ease of transport is high on your list of priorities, both kayaks and paddleboards are available in inflatable versions which deflate and pack down into a convenient carrying bag. An inflatable kayak or an inflatable SUP might be what you are looking for when it comes to portability.

But keep in mind that while inflatable stand up paddleboards are a close match in performance to hardboards for most applications, inflatable and collapsible kayaks lose more in performance versus their rigid cousins. Be sure to check out our article comparing inflatable SUPs and rigid boards for more on which is right for you.


Inflatable stand up paddleboards offer superior transport and portability due to their lighter weight and ease of handling

Inflatable stand up paddleboards offer superior transport and portability due to their lighter weight and ease of handling.

6. Overall Fun Factor

While there is a certain amount of subjectivity that comes into play when comparing the overall fun factor of kayaks vs. paddleboards, we’d have to say that stand up paddleboards have an advantage in this category. For the majority of people, the SUP experience is far more enjoyable and offers the maximum amount of potential when it comes to fun.

Want to paddle with your kids? It’s a blast to bring children along on your SUP, and they can easily jump on and off the board for some swimming fun!

Paddleboarding with your dog is also enjoyable and something that has gotten extremely popular over the past few years. Your pup will love being out on the water with you, and there’s plenty of space on the deck of your SUP for them to move around.

If you’re into fitness or yoga, your paddleboard instantly transforms into an exercise platform or yoga mat on the water. This adds the element of balance to your workouts so you can challenge yourself and try difficult poses with only a splash rather than a hard gym floor as a consequence for falling. This versatility really can’t be matched by a kayak.


Paddleboards are more versatile than kayaks and that means more options for the whole family

Paddleboards are more versatile than kayaks and that means more options for the whole family.

7. Perspective for Sightseeing

When it comes to sightseeing, there’s no better way to take in the sights and sounds of nature than standing on the deck of a SUP. In a kayak, you’re seated low and very close to the water which substantially limits your view . On a paddleboard, you’ll have a much better view of the surrounding scenery as you’ll be experiencing everything from an elevated vantage point. Not only will you be able to see your surroundings better above water, but you’ll also have a better vantage on what’s below the waves too for spotting fish, sea turtles and other marine wildlife.


Standup paddle board offering an elevated vantage point, provide superior sightseeing opportunities compared to kayaks

Standup paddle board offering an elevated vantage point, provide superior sightseeing opportunities compared to kayaks.

8. Cold Weather Paddling

If you’re planning to paddle in cold weather, a kayak will definitely be your best option as it’ll keep you much drier than a stand up paddleboard. Also, the kayak’s seated paddling position will help shield you from strong winds which can be brutal on cold days.

While it is certainly possible to use a stand up paddle board in cold conditions as well, you have to be sure to dress properly for the frigid temperatures. Overall, SUPs for winter use are really just a question of your cold tolerance.


9. Warm Weather Paddling

While kayaks are the best choice for paddling in colder temperatures, SUPs have an edge in warmer climates. It’s really refreshing to feel water splashing on your feet as you paddle along, and when things get a bit too hot, you can always easily jump off your board for a quick dip. Also, paddling from a standing position exposes you to cool ocean breezes — a wonderful thing to experience during a warm afternoon on the water!


SUPs offering the ability to easily cool off and enjoy ocean breezes, are better suited for warmer climates

SUPs offering the ability to easily cool off and enjoy ocean breezes, are better suited for warmer climates.

10. Paddling Long Distances

Since kayak paddling is done from a seated position, it makes things much easier when it comes to paddling long distances. Standing for very long periods of time on a paddleboard (especially when conditions are less than ideal) is much more challenging than kayaking due to cramping and fatigue.

However, this can also be framed in whether you are looking for a more intense workout or not. Some prefer that a SUP presents this extra layer of difficulty, as it makes it more efficient to get a quick cardio workout in.


11. Affordability

When it comes to the question of affordability, there’s really no clear winner. Paddleboards and kayaks can be purchased at nearly all price points, making both of these a good option regardless of one’s budget. From a few hundred dollars to several thousand, there’s something for everyone in each category.

Make sure to do your own research as to the brand and model of each which suits your needs. Don’t pay extra for features you don’t need.

WINNER: Stalemate

12. Durability

Depending on the construction and materials used, both kayaks and paddleboards can sustain damage by rocks and knocks. Having said that, SUPs have fins that can easily be damaged or broken in shallow waters. Although interchangeable fins are affordable and easy to replace, we’re going to award this round to kayaks.


13. Maneuverability

Kayaks and paddleboards both come in a wide variety of shapes and lengths, and their maneuverability changes greatly based on the particular model and its dimensions. Shorter boards and kayaks are much more nimble than longer models, while additional length is desirable when it comes to speed and tracking.

WINNER: Stalemate

14. Speed

While there are long, sleek racing SUPs that cut through the water with ease, kayaks are a much better choice if speed is high on your priority list. Paddleboard design can limit you when it comes to speed, while a kayak’s low center of gravity, narrower profile, and double-bladed paddle allow it to achieve greater speeds.


15. Comfort

Unless you have an injury that makes sitting painful or difficult, a kayak’s seated paddling position will provide more comfort than a SUP. Over longer distances, the single fixed position you’re locked into on a kayak can become confining but in general, because you’re seated, paddling a kayak is less taxing than paddling a SUP. Although SUPs can be paddled from a kneeling or sitting position, kayaks are generally more comfortable.


A seated paddle is one thing, but paddleboards are made for kicking back in comfort and maybe a pre-paddle siesta

A seated paddle is one thing, but paddleboards are made for kicking back in comfort and maybe a pre-paddle siesta.

16. Paddling in Windy Conditions

When conditions are windy, paddleboarding becomes much more challenging, as you’re fighting the strong winds from an elevated and exposed standing position. Not to mention the fact that the additional waves will present another obstacle that is more difficult to manage with a higher center of gravity. While you can combat this by taking a kneeling position or adding a kayak seat to your board, kayaks, naturally, have a much lower profile that makes it far easier to paddle in high winds.


17. Freedom of Movement

If you truly want to feel free on the water without any restrictions, stand up paddleboarding is definitely the way to go. Sit, stand, kneel, lay down, move around — SUPs are extremely flexible and allow for a wide variety of movement. While kayaks are designed with fixed position seating for one or two people, a SUP is only limited by the weight of the riders. That means there’s plenty of room for you, your partner, your kids, and even a dog on deck!


18. Fishing

While kayak fishing is extremely popular (they make the fishing kayak for a reason), SUP fishing is a fairly new phenomenon that is catching on. Paddle board fishing gives you a huge advantage when it comes to visibility, thanks to the fact that you’re standing vs. sitting. With a set of D-rings and some tie downs you can outfit your SUP as an incredibly stable fishing platform with a cooler for a seat, rod holders, your deck bag and tons of other accessories.

This one will of course come down to your preferences. If you prefer the extra visibility, then you might prefer the SUP. However, if you are an angler simply because it is a relaxing, easygoing activity, then you might like fishing out of a kayak.


SUP fishing offers enhanced visibility and customizable stability, appealing to those who prioritize a higher vantage point and versatility

SUP fishing offers enhanced visibility and customizable stability, appealing to those who prioritize a higher vantage point and versatility.

19. Yoga

This one is a bit one-sided, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Because standup paddleboard yoga is such a popular activity, it deserves consideration in choosing between a kayak and a SUP. The winner is clear, as a SUP is really the only tool that offers a platform to do yoga.

So if you are a yoga aficionado, then your only choice is a SUP. SUP yoga actually tends to be a better workout than normal yoga, as the uneven surface and moving water really tests your balance. This additional balancing will put extra stress on your stabilizing muscles, further strengthening your core and your legs.


20. Sun Protection

An important consideration when it comes to any outdoor activity is how exposed you are to the sun. Sun damage can be quite serious, so it is worth consideration when choosing an outdoor activity. Kayak is the winner here because less of your body is exposed to the sun. Standing on a SUP pretty much exposes your entire body, depending on the level of protective clothing you are wearing. However, a kayak keeps most of your lower body and some of your torso covered.

However, it is a safe idea to use sunscreen for both activities, and keep all exposed areas protected from the sun.


21. Accessibility

Next up is how friendly the sport is to beginners. Both kayaking and SUP are quite easy for a beginner to pick up. However, we still think the advantage goes to SUP.

While a kayak is easy to learn, it still requires a degree of skill to pick up. This is primarily due to the difficulty of getting in and out, especially when it comes to how to react if the kayak flips. Getting back into a kayak, or getting stuck, is a safety issue that beginners need to be aware of. On the other hand, a SUP is quite easy to get back onto if you fall, due to the high degree of stability.

For this key reason alone, we award the accessibility factor to paddle boarding.


Stand up paddle boards excel in providing a user-friendly experience, particularly for beginners

Stand up paddle boards excel in providing a user-friendly experience, particularly for beginners.

SUP-YAK: A Game-Changing Innovation

In the world of water sports, the kayak sup board stands out as a remarkable innovation, blending the best elements of kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. This hybrid solution is ideal for those who love the idea of both but are constrained by budget, space, or simply desire the versatility that it offers.

One of the key features of the SUP Kayak Hybrid is the versatility of the SUP kayak seat. This ingenious addition transforms the board into a sit-on-top kayak in no time. It offers the comfort of a kayak with the elevated view of a paddleboard. For those who enjoy long paddling sessions, the option to switch between standing and sitting can be a game-changer, reducing fatigue and allowing for longer periods on the water.

For individuals with limited storage space or those mindful of their budget, the SUP-Yak offers a practical solution. Instead of investing in two separate pieces of equipment, the paddle board kayak serves dual purposes, saving both space and money. Inflatable models, in particular, are easy to store and transport, adding to their convenience.

Transitioning between paddle boards and kayaks modes is typically straightforward in these hybrids. The ease of transforming the watercraft ensures that you can spontaneously decide how you want to paddle, based on your mood, the water conditions, or the activities you plan to engage in.

The SUP Kayak Hybrid is not just a compromise between two different types of watercraft; it’s a testament to the evolution of water sports equipment, striving to provide the best of both worlds. It’s an innovative option for those who appreciate diversity in their water activities and value flexibility in their adventures.

With the purchase of an additional THURSO SURF kayak kit, you can transform your SUP into a brand new kayak

With the purchase of an additional THURSO SURF kayak kit, you can transform your SUP into a brand new kayak.

Conclusion: Making an Informed Choice for Your Water Adventures

As we reach the end of our journey exploring the exciting worlds of kayaking and paddleboarding, it’s clear that both offer unique and rewarding experiences on the water. Whether you choose a kayak or a paddleboard – or even the innovative SUP Kayak Hybrid – depends on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and the type of water adventure you seek.

Remember to consider the key factors before making your decision. Think about the environments where you’ll paddle, the activities you enjoy, and how you want to experience the water. Do you crave the speed and versatility of a kayak, the full-body workout and unique perspective of a paddleboard, or the adaptable nature of a SUP Kayak Hybrid? Below is a little more detail table between a kayak and a board based on various factors, please note that individual preferences and the specific type of kayak or paddleboard can influence these general comparisons:

Stand up paddle board vs kayak: A Detailed Breakdown Across Key Criteria

Factor Kayak Paddle Board
Design Narrow, enclosed cockpit Wide, flat board with an open deck
Seating Sit-inside or sit-on-top Stand-up or kneel on the board
Paddling Position Seated with a double-bladed paddle Standing with a single-bladed paddle
Stability Generally more stable Requires balance, can be less stable
Use Suitable for various water conditions Best on calm water, may handle small waves
Maneuverability Good maneuverability in tight spaces Requires more effort for sharp turns
Storage Limited storage space, may have hatches Easy storage
Transportation Heavier, may require roof racks Lightweight, easy to transport on a car
Fitness Provides a seated workout Engages core muscles, good for fitness
Fishing Suitable for fishing with modifications Popular for fishing, with added features
Learning Curve Generally easier for beginners Requires balance, may have a learning curve
Cost Varies based on type and features Generally less expensive

Whichever option you choose, embrace it fully. Each watercraft offers a gateway to new adventures, a way to connect with nature, and an opportunity to improve your fitness. Kayaking allows you to explore hidden waterways and cover greater distances, while paddleboarding offers a relaxing way to enjoy the water and a fantastic platform for fitness and fun.

Ultimately, the goal is to enjoy your time on the water. Both kayaking and paddleboarding provide immense joy, peace, and an unmatched sense of freedom. They’re not just sports; they’re ways to explore, to relax, and to challenge yourself in the great outdoors.
So, what’s it going to be? A sleek kayak, a versatile paddleboard, or the best of both worlds with a hybrid? The choice is yours, and the water awaits. Here’s to many memorable adventures ahead – see you on the water!

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About the Author: Matt G.

Matt Gelgota is a traveler and all around digital marketing guy. His greatest adventure to date was the Mongol Rally, a 10,000 mile unsupported on and off-road saga from Sweden to Mongolia. He has visited more than 50 countries and has been paddling a Thurso Surf Expedition since 2018. Since then he’s had a chance to paddle board in Nepal, Thailand, Japan, and the US. When he’s not on the road he divides his time between Tokyo and Atlanta, Georgia.


  1. Lorena David September 12, 2020 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Great and easy to understand assessment. – thanks!

    • Social @ Thurso Surf September 13, 2020 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      Stoked to hear you found it helpful!

      Keep paddling,

      Social @ Thurso Surf

  2. UWD August 3, 2021 at 2:42 am - Reply

    Super helpful article! Could you add a section on comparing SUP vs Kayak when planning to take your dog with you?

  3. Steve December 29, 2021 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Hard Sups are not forgiving if you fall on them. Mine broke my ribs!

    • Matt G. December 29, 2021 at 11:28 pm - Reply

      Oof! Sorry to hear that Steve! Hope you’re fully recovered. Take it easy out there!

  4. Laura Baker June 23, 2022 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Super helpful, thank you!

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