Kayak Types and Styles – Lots of Variety

Well Hello!

Let’s find out what kind of kayak types and styles are out there. I have an Ascend D10T model. It is a sit-on top style and is 10′ long and weighs about 65 lbs.


Oh, and it is bright red. Just thought I would throw that in there. Cause you know color matters.

How Many Types Could There Be

Oh My Goodness, This is where it gets crazy.

From my research on the world wide web, I have discovered that there are varying opinions on this.

According to the American Kayak Association there are basically two categories of kayaks. There are flat water kayaks and white water kayaks. So, this is what we are going to base our research on.

Flat Water Kayaks

Flat water kayaks are the primary kayaks that you will find in your local sporting goods store or Walmart. There are basically 5 types of flat water kayaks.

  • Recreational
  • Sit-on Top
  • Inflatable
  • Pedaling
  • Touring

Recreational Kayaks:

These are probably the most common and by far the most popular kayaks on the market. I was just in Walmart and by golly they have theirs on display for spring already.

These kayaks typically have a closed cockpit, meaning you sit down in them. The opening is usually large enough to get in easily and depending on the size of the occupants, you could probably put a small child in with you or your favorite fur baby.

They come in a variety of colors and are affordable. Made from an in-expensive polyethylene, they tend to be fairly lightweight and budget friendly. This makes them a great choice for beginners.

Recreational kayaks are typically between 8 to 11 feet in length and have minimal accessories available. Probably wouldn’t use them on open water, but they work great on the lake or in the gentle flowing stream.

Sit-on Top Kayaks:

This is what I have. They tend to be much heavier, as they are a solid, molded piece of plastic. They are self draining, which is convenient and they are easy to get into to.

If by chance you happen to flip over, they are a little easier to get right in the water. These tend to be a little wider than some of the others, so they tend to be pretty stable in the water when encountering waves from passing boats on the lake or pulling in a large fish.

I love mine, as it is easy to fish on and it is easy to pack gear on. It makes for easy access to my tackle box.

I will say, that with no cockpit, you will get a little wet while paddling. Not a bad thing on a hot day, but I have yet to go out on the lake in the colder weather. I am kind of a wimp.

So again, budget friendly depending on manufacturer and easy for beginners.

Inflatable Kayaks:

So there are a lot of opinions about these on the web. Some love the diversity of them for their lightweight, storage capabilities and over-all convenience.


Some are not impressed with their maneuverability in the water during breezy days, over-all durability and comfort. I will say that I personally have not used one, but have looked at them many times.

I think if you were to look seriously at one of these for purchase, cheaper would probably not be better. I would not want to be on a river float and pop my kayak. That would be a bummer!

Pedaling Kayaks:

This is kind of a dream kayak for me. I saw one on the lake a few times and fell in love with the idea of having my hands free for other things.

Besides the fishing I also haul my camera around with me for that occasional, once in a lifetime, wildlife moment. These are more expensive and tend to be a bit cumbersome to haul around, especially if you are by yourself.

From my research, several of the models are heavy, the pedal mechanisms need regular maintenance, and can be tricky to learn how to maneuver. So, probably not for a beginner.

Touring Kayaks:

Last, but not least, we come to the touring kayaks. These are longer usually 12′ or longer and much narrower than the recreational kayaks. These can be much harder to come by.

Not usually found at the local sporting store or Walmart. They are more specialized, thus much more expensive. Generally used for large bodies of open water and going long distances.

They can be quite hard to store due to length and hard to manage. Not good for smaller variety rivers and creeks due to their length and maneuverability. Great for speed and hauling enough supplies for several days of paddling.

White Water Kayaks

So according to the American Kayak Association there are 5 main styles of white water kayaks.

  • Play boats
  • River Runners
  • Creek boats
  • Old School
  • Inflatable (Duckies)

Play boats:

These are small, usually only about 6′ and are primarily used for going to a favorite spot where you can play in the waves of turbulent water.


Not really good for paddling down a river for any length of time. They are great for doing tricks, but uncomfortable when traveling from spot to spot.

River Runners:

These are longer, usually 7-8′ long and track better for paddling those flat areas on the river in between fun spots. They are long enough to store gear and are more comfortable. These can also be easy enough to maneuver around turns and bends in the river.

Creek boats:

Also known as Creekers, these are typically 8′ or longer. They are built a little sturdier to handle those drops and are pretty comfortable from what I have read. They do have two basic hull types, a displacement hull and a planning hull.

Beginners should pay attention to that as it could be tricky in holes and crossing eddy lines in a displacement hull. Now, I am basing this on my research and not my personal experience. So, I am sure there are differing opinions on what’s best.

Old School:

Also known as Long Boats. The name says it all. These were made in the late 80s and 90s and can be found on a lot of used sites. You can pick them up relatively inexpensively and be ready to go pretty quickly.

They are usually much longer, (10-12 feet), than modern day boats and have narrower cockpits. This can be great if you run rivers with long stretches of flat water in between rapids. Can be tricky though in the turns.

Inflatable Duckies:

This one just makes me smile. How could you not like something called a Duckie?

These are nothing like the inflatable kayaks used on flat water. These vessels are made out of very durable materials, as they are subjected to various types of extreme conditions.

Unlike the flat water inflatables that can be as low as $50, these guys are going to start in the hundreds and work their way up. From what I have researched there are several options out there and boy, do they look fun.

Fishing Kayaks

So these guys are kind of in a class of their own. While many folks, myself included, purchase basic recreational kayaks and use them to fish from, fishing kayaks have a few more bells and whistles when it comes to accessories and set-up.

They come in both the sit-in and the sit-on styles. The sit-on styles are preferred, as they allow the angler freedom of movement and access to the gear.

Some of these can be geared to handle fish finders, trolling motors, plus all your necessary fishing gear.

You can find them at most places that you can get a recreational kayak, but the more elaborate you go the more you are going to break the budget.

Let’s Wrap it Up

All of these styles have pros and cons. It is just a matter of which one will suit your needs the best. Whether it be length, budget, style or color. Cause again, color matters.

Thanks for joining me again on learning about these kayak types and styles. Who knew there was so much to learn, and wow the options are endless!

So, Until me meet again!

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2 thoughts on “Kayak Types and Styles – Lots of Variety”

  1. We in the UK call them canoes and looking at how Kayak is spelt I guess it originates from maybe the Eskimos? Seriously, just Googled that!

    A great selection with various price tags attached. I love the one you talk about last, the fishing Kayak which is what I’d probably go for, as I am into my fishing. Not in boats but from the river edge. We don’t have massive rivers and lakes as much as probably you do, and besides the weather is never up to it.

    I can see why the peddling Kayak would appeal!

    Your article brought back some good memories. I remember a few years back whilst in the forces, we went on a Canoeing expedition which went on for around 50 miles, down rivers and rapids (nothing like what you have in the states though) and finishing in the sea. Great times!

    Great post and really enjoyed it

    • Hey Mick,
      So glad you enjoyed the article. In the UK, don’t you guys have the water canals? I watched a documentary about a man that travels in a long boat on them over there somewhere. They would be lovely to travel on a kayak in, I would think.
      I am glad I could bring up some great memories for you. Maybe someday you will get a chance to canoe or kayak again. Have a wonderful day.


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