Inflatable Paddle Board vs Inflatable Kayak

Both the inflatable paddle board and inflatable kayak will help you stay in shape while letting you reconnect with nature. 

The decision over which one to purchase will come down to what you are looking for in a vessel in terms of the muscles you want to work, the ease of learning and of transport, safety, and versatility. 

Here's the breakdown to help you decide which to pick.

The new year is almost upon us, and you have resolved to get back in shape and get out on the water, but you have a quandary: do you put your hard-earned money into an inflatable paddle board or an inflatable kayak.

This has become an age-old question…or at least a decade old question. Let’s face it, you are going to have a lot of fun but let’s go through the differences so that you can make an informed decision.

Inflatable kayak 

Muscles Worked

Both the inflatable paddle board and kayak will work your core in a very serious way. The pulling of the paddle with one arm while pushing it with the other through the water will ensure that. Your shoulders, biceps and triceps will also all be pleading for mercy after a long paddle in either discipline.

Where the inflatable paddle board shines over the kayak is in how it works the lower body. 

Hardcore kayakers understand that to get leverage while paddling they should be using the footrests in their kayak to push off but unfortunately your typical inflatable kayak doesn’t have footrests.

Your inflatable paddle board gives you no option whether to use your legs or not since you are standing. The muscles in your legs are not only working overtime to keep you balanced, but your body is also using them as a fulcrum to support your paddle stroke.

That extra leverage also allows you to work the upper body more efficiently because you are really able to dig into the paddle stroke.

 

 

stand up paddle board 

Perspective

Because you are sitting close to the water in a kayak, your perspective is limited in an inflatable kayak. An inflatable paddle board gives the paddler the advantage of standing high above the water which allows the SUPer to see below the surface of the water (assuming the water isn’t murky).

Many a kayaker has missed a school of fish in the crystal-clear water right in front of them because they are sitting. Hopefully their friend on the paddle board will point them out.

 

inflatable kayak vs inflatable paddle board 

Speed

Inflatable kayaks tend to win this category over inflatable paddle boards for a few reasons. Having a double-bladed paddle with the kayak allows the paddler to get in more paddle strokes per minute and there is no wasted energy as the paddler doesn’t have to keep switching paddle sides.

Because a paddler sits in a kayak, they are built to be narrower than a paddle board which adds to the hydrodynamics of the kayak. 

Lastly, because the legs tend to be worked quite a bit less with a kayak, the paddler will tire less quickly than they would with a paddle board.

Although, windy conditions can change this calculus as the paddle boarder will be much slower when paddling into the wind and will be quite a bit faster than the kayak when the wind is at their back because of the “sail effect”.

Versatility

With an inflatable paddle board, one can surf waves (both in the ocean and in rivers), run rivers, flatwater paddle and do a fitness or yoga class on it. There are a few kayakers we know who can surf ocean waves but the kayak limits how agile you can be in the wave.

You can flatwater paddle and run rivers in a kayak but there is virtually zero chance that you could hold a “Down Dog” pose in one. Capsizing your kayak attempting any of the activities is also a whole lot less fun as the boat is far more cumbersome to climb back into.

 

 inflatable paddle board

 

Learning Curve

Because less balance is required with an inflatable kayak it is quite a bit easier for the uninitiated to pick up. Learning to balance on an inflatable paddle board is a bit more challenging. However, most people can master it in a day or two if they are learning on flatwater with very little wind.

Mastering both the paddle stroke in the kayak and the paddle stroke on the SUP can be equally challenging.

 inflatable kayak

 

Transportation

If both the inflatable paddle board and kayak are left deflated, they will both be virtually the same to transport and store. 

Most people tend to inflate each vessel in the spring and leave it inflated until late fall, which gives the advantage to the inflatable paddle board as you can use any soft roof rack to strap it to your vehicle’s roof and it takes up less room wherever you store it.

The inflatable paddle board also offers up a whole lot less wind resistance than the inflatable kayak does when strapped to the roof of your vehicle.

 inflatable sup

 

Susceptibility to Wind

Since you are lower to the water in a kayak, you are going to be less of a wind barrier so it will be less of a factor on blustery days.  Inflatable paddle boards will be more susceptible to wind just given the fact that when you stand upright, you become a human sail on your vessel.

Of course, that also means that the SUP is much more work when paddling out into the wind but can be twice as much fun on the paddle back with the wind pushing you and allowing you to surf the little water bumps a windy day offers up.

 

kayak inflatable 

Tipping Over

You are more likely to fall in the water on an inflatable paddle board but it’s much easier to flip your board back over and pull yourself back on.

As mentioned earlier, it is easy to capsize a kayak but righting it and hopping back in can be quite a challenge. Many a kayaker has had to swim their kayak back to shallow water in order to get back in.

 

inflatable stand up paddle board 

Conclusion

Both the inflatable paddle board and inflatable kayak will help you stay in shape while letting you reconnect with nature.  The decision over which one to purchase will come down to what you are looking for in a vessel in terms of the muscles you want to work, the ease of learning and of transport, safety, and versatility. 

If you decide to get an Inflatable SUP read through our best advice on how to choose the best inflatable paddle board for you right here. Check out our inflatable paddle boards here!