Paddleboard vs. Kayak: What’s the Difference?

The paddleboard and the kayak are 2 popular flotation boats that provide the user with a lot of fun, especially when used as a watersports boat.

However, it can often be difficult to choose between the 2 especially if you have never owned a kayak or a paddleboard before. After all, they seem to do the same thing even if they have a different design.

In order to make your choice easier, we made this comparison between the paddleboard and the kayak so that you are better equipped in choosing between the 2.

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Photo: RED Paddle

As its name suggests, the paddleboard is a board made from a thick foam-material that floats on water and on which you stand up and paddle with.

Usually, the paddleboard also comes with an adjustable paddle as well as other accessories depending on the model you choose.

The paddleboard looks very similar to a regular surfboard but is more intended for recreation and sightseeing rather than for performance and speed.

In any case, the paddleboard is a popular water sports SUP (stand-up paddleboard) that has a solid build construction, offers excellent stability and very easy to use.


  • No experience necessary. Since the paddleboard is a very basic flotation device and extremely easy-to-use, you do not need any experience to operate it. However, you will still require very basic skills on how to stand up correctly on the paddleboard. Fortunately, it only requires a few minutes to develop the skill as the paddleboard has a very low learning curve.
  • More lightweight. Due to a simpler design, the paddleboard uses less material than the kayak. Therefore, it is lighter and easier to carry. Additionally, you can easily fit a paddleboard on a kayak roof rack or a kayak trailer for transportation as most paddle boards come in standard dimensions that rarely exceed 12 feet long.
  • Very affordable. When compared to the kayak, the paddleboard is generally more affordable. Again, this is due to the simpler build construction and design of the paddleboard. Nevertheless, the paddleboard is still quite solidly built for the price as most models are made from a durable and long-lasting foam-based material.
  • Superior for fitness activities . Many people use the paddleboard because of its superior fitness capabilities. Indeed, when you paddle using the paddleboard, you exercise a lot with your legs, arms, waist, and shoulder. In general, this is a good workout. Additionally, since the paddleboard has a larger surface area, you can even use it as a yoga mat which brings an interesting experience to the user, especially considering that you are now performing yoga over water.


  • Lack of storage. Unlike the kayak, the paddleboard does not have a dedicated storage compartment. Therefore, it is difficult to store water sensitive materials like smartphones or other pieces of electronics without it getting wet. Nevertheless, most paddle boards come with a cargo net located either at the front or at the back to store your various accessories like fishing accessories.
  • Not as stable. Even if there is a decent level of stability in the paddleboard, it is not as stable when compared to the regular kayak. Especially when navigating rough waters is where this lack of stability in the paddleboard becomes apparent. There is no such problem in the kayak.

The kayak is an efficient and versatile floatation boat that can be used for a wide range of activities, from sightseeing to fishing.

There are different types of kayaks on the market, each tailor-made for a specific need and purpose.

One of the best things about the kayak is that the paddler is closer to the water thus allowing him to paddle more efficiently with greater performance when compared to the paddleboard. Additionally, the kayak is also significantly more comfortable, especially for those who opt for a sit-in kayak.


  • More comfortable. The kayak is usually equipped with a comfortable padded seat that makes the whole paddling experience very comfortable. Additionally, most kayaks come with an adjustable backrest that provides support to your back throughout the navigation process. This makes your whole kayaking experience very comfortable, especially for those who like to kayak for long hours.
  • Much more durable. Since the kayak is built from a high-grade material like polyethylene for molded models and PVC for inflatable kayaks, this means that the kayak is more durable than the simple foam build construction of the paddleboard. Furthermore, the kayak is more heavy-duty and can withstand more shocks, making this boat ideal for use in a rapid water like whitewater.
  • Superior control and maneuverability. Due to the general design of the kayak, it offers superior control and maneuverability. Indeed, the paddler is closer to the water thus providing him with better control over his paddling. This superior control makes the kayak much more maneuverable, especially when compared to the paddleboard.
  • Better versatility. Since the kayak is a more complex boat, it is also more versatile than the paddleboard. Indeed, the kayak can be used for a wide range of activities, ranging from sightseeing to fishing which makes it more versatile as well as more flexible. When used for fishing, the user can easily stand up on the kayak because of its exceptional stability that is provided by its smooth and flat bottom.
  • A larger choice of models. The kayak is one of the most diversified boats that you can buy. It comes in all shapes and sizes intended for every type of use out there. It does not matter whether you are an absolute beginner looking to learn how to kayak or a professional kayaker wanting a professional grade model, chances are you will find a model specifically tailored to your need and purpose.


  • More expensive. When compared to the paddleboard , the kayak is much more expensive as it has a more complex design. Additionally, the kayak is built from higher grade materials like polyethylene or a high-grade PVC which is more expensive than the build construction or paddleboard, which is usually made out of a foam material.
  • Small learning curve. Despite being fairly easy to navigate with, the kayak still requires you to have a set of basic kayaking skills to operate the kayak. This is not an issue with a paddleboard because even absolute beginners can start navigating with the paddleboard right away.
  • More difficult to transport. In general, the kayak is both longer and also heavier than the paddleboard. This makes it more difficult to carry, especially if it needs to be transported by a single person. However, transportation on a roof rack or a kayak trailer is not a problem regardless of its weight.


As we have seen, both the paddleboard and the kayak have its advantages and disadvantages. When choosing between those 2 types of boats, you need to take your need and purpose into account.

Additionally, your budget will also play a factor as the kayak is significantly more expensive than the paddleboard . Our recommendation is quite simple.

If this is your first time using a floatation boat and you only need it for sightseeing and recreation, then the paddleboard is an excellent purchase. It is a simple boat that does not require a lot of experience to navigate with and also quite affordable.

On the other hand, the kayak is more heavy-duty and intended for performance as well as comfort when used for an extended period. It requires a little bit more experience and will cost more than the paddleboard.

However, the kayak is more versatile and convenient as most models have a large waterproof storage compartment for carrying your water sensitive devices and accessories.

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