Paddleboarding vs Kayaking: What is the difference?

A large group of paddleboarders and swimmers enjoying the ocean


Choosing between kayaking or paddleboarding can be a difficult decision. The outdoor sports space could be tricky, especially for beginners, but not to worry, it promises to be a good read. As someone new to the outdoor sports category, specific questions like “what is paddleboarding and how is it any different from kayaking” are expected to pop up in the minds of every individual. Paddleboarding is a water sport where participants are propelled by a swimming motion using their arms while kneeling or standing on the paddleboard in the ocean, river, or lake. 

One primary reason people love paddleboarding is that it helps improve their balance, flexibility, and strength. Now, look at the derivative of paddleboarding, known as standup paddleboarding (SUP). Standup paddleboarding is new to the mainstream outdoorsy space; nonetheless, it is growing fast. Nevertheless, paddleboarding has been around for ages. Here’s an extensive article we wrote on the history of paddleboarding. 

Standup paddleboarding (SUP) derives its name from individuals standing on the board while using a paddle to propel themselves through the water. Some people call it light surf, but the only difference is participants use a paddle, and they are not going against the tides. 

What Makes Kayaking different from Paddleboarding?

What is kayaking? And what makes it different from paddleboarding. Kayaking is the use of a canoe-like boat. The kayaker sits with their legs in front of them throughout the activity. They use a double-bladed paddle to pull front-to-back on one side and then the other in rotation. 

One significant difference between kayaking and paddleboarding is that kayakers sit in a low canoe-like boat using a double-bladed paddle. While for paddleboarding, people either kneel or stand while using a longer, single-bladed paddle to move.

Which is easier to learn? Paddleboarding or Kayaking?

Having learned the difference between kayaking and paddleboarding, the question that comes to mind is – which is easier to learn for newbies? Well, sit back and relax while we embark on this interesting read!

A kayaker in shallow water with mountains in the distance

Paddleboarding and kayaking can both be learned over a short period. Yet, learners will need lots of stamina to increase their upper body stamina to learn kayaking. Since kayakers sit in the same position for long periods, they risk picking up repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Besides this, if participants fall into the water while kayaking, they will need special instructions to learn how to get back into it. However, it is not the same for paddleboarding. 

Paddleboarding is super intuitive because individuals could decide to lay on their belly, kneel or even stand on the board. This process requires coordination and core strength. But once the balance is under control, learning how to paddleboard becomes simple. And since participants can move while doing SUP to change their paddling stroke, the risk of picking up a repetitive strain injury is much lower.

Fishing in a Kayak Vs Fishing on a paddleboard?

Kayak fishing is popular, which is why fishing kayaks were made. However, SUP fishing is a new experience that is trending. It is essential to consider the view from the top, whether fishing in a kayak or on a paddleboard when it comes to fishing.

Visibility and body movement is key, hence, paddleboard fishing has an edge over kayak fishing, the reason being that there’s free body movement while standing on a paddleboard than when sitting in a kayak.

Paddleboarding or Kayaking which is more of a workout?

Kayaking and paddleboarding are exciting ways to get on the water to explore the great outdoors. They are both known for their versatility and can be fun. But when it comes to fitness, SUP edges it.

SUP delivers a low-impact, full-body workout. It tones the body and strengthens muscles, and burns calories. Asides from the fact that SUP is fun, it also helps build muscles. It helps participants develop their biceps and triceps as their arms reach and pull the paddles through the water. It is also giving their quadriceps and hamstring work out too!

A kayaker about to descend a waterfall

Ever wondered what muscles do kayaking work? Kayakers hit the water in their kayak, and several parts of the upper body are tested. These body parts include the arms, chest, and back muscles. One main muscle kayaking puts to work in the body is the Latissimus Dorsi (Las). This is the largest muscle in the back. Kayaking heavily uses rhomboid and trapezius muscles. 

Standup paddleboarding is a fun way to get in shape. It is so much fun that people barely notice how much of a workout they are getting into until the next day. Nonetheless, kayaking is also a practical way to get the body in shape, while SUP engages the entire body, from legs to arms, chest, and back. Kayaking provides more of an isolated workout that hits the shoulders, back, arms, and chest. Hence, it all depends on an individual’s fitness goals.

If anyone wants a workout that focuses more on stabilizing muscles, then paddleboarding is the way to go. But if the focus is more on building the upper body, then kayaking is highly recommended. 

Paddleboarding vs Kayaking in windy conditions

It is imperative to note that certain activities are well suited for certain weather conditions. Hence, paddleboarding becomes much more challenging when it comes to windy or stormy conditions, as it requires wrestling against strong winds from an elevated and exposed standing position. This is coupled with the fact that an additional wave will also be an obstacle that makes it difficult to manage. Hence, it is a lot easier to handle such situations in a kayak as it gives room for more stability and makes it easier to paddle in high winds.

A woman sitting on a paddleboard staring at the forest behind her in the distance

Paddleboarding vs Kayaking, pros, and cons

When it comes to standup paddleboarding or kayaking, there’s no denying that they are both fantastic outdoor sports. Yet, certain categories outshine the other. Here are some pros and cons when it comes to the discussion of paddleboards over kayaks. 

  • Stability  – when it comes to stability, there’s a slight difference between SUP and kayaks. SUP helps build stamina while kayaking is more stable.
  • Getting back on – It is quite abit more difficult to get back into a kayak if you fall out. With SUP, it is easy to get back on and resume your activity.
  • Sightseeing – if anyone is considering sightseeing, both kayaking and SUP are good. But SUP gives one a wider field view compared to kayak.
  • Maneuverability – when it comes to maneuvering with tight space, SUP has an advantage over the kayak, as it gives room for you to maneuver within the shortest time possible.
  • Fitness – when considering fitness, kayaking is great for building the upper body, but SUP offers full-body workouts.

Summing things up:

So after this quick read, which is advisable appeals more to you? Kayak or paddleboarding?

If you are new to outdoor watersports, it is advisable to go with paddleboarding because it is easy to learn and doesn’t take so much time to master. Kayaking is not challenging to learn, but one will start slowly while taking frequent breaks. 

Kayaks need proper supervision for newbies, but once they master the art, it is easy to become a pro. Hence, the advice for newbies would be to start with paddleboarding. It doesn’t need extra effort or much supervision, but your stamina. Once they can learn to balance on the board, they are on their way to a fantastic experience. So, get out there – go paddleboarding and have a water adventure as It promises to be an experience you’d love.

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