Kayaking on its own can be a huge amount of fun. Add whitewater into the mix and it can take it to the next level and give you a thrill like no other. You need a great kayak to be able to cope with the demands though and that’s why getting the best whitewater kayak is important.

Whether you want the top whitewater kayak for novices or you are more of an expert, this guide has all the information you need. There are many key features to consider before you’re going to be able to pick the perfect kayak for you.

In this guide we will go through those key features and we have also completed a whitewater kayaks chart to show you the best product on the market. Once you have finished reading this guide, you’ll have all the information you need to pick the perfect kayak for you.

How To Choose A Whitewater Kayak – Buying Guide


Something in our list caught your eye? Don’t jump to buy it just yet, take a look at the list below first to make sure you take everything relevant into account. Some of these amount to all the things you are looking for when shopping for any kayak, some of them are specifically geared towards whitewater kayaks. This is everything you need to consider whenever shopping for a perfect companion to your kayaking adventures.

How To Buy A Whitewater Kayak

If it’s from a good, reputable brand then you can safely order your kayak online. If you haven’t really heard of the brand before, but you really want that particular model for some reason, then you want to make sure that you are looking at the reviews and warranty to get the guarantees you need.

You also need to know what type you want as there are some great inflatable whitewater kayaks out there. They are more durable than many would expect and inflatable kayak care and repair is fairly easy. If you’re still uneasy about getting and inflatable kayak, then this inflatable vs hardshell kayaks guide should help to answer any questions.

Hull Shape

Lately, the most performant whitewater kayaks aren’t the long and skinny ones we were used to some 10 years ago. As time passes and technology progresses, kayaks are becoming shorter and better rounded, or log-shaped. According to multiple tests, both live and simulated, the stability and performance of log-shaped kayaks are far superior to traditionally-shaped ones.

That being said, there is still a choice to be made, between a planing hull (which is flat-shaped) and a displacement hull (which is round-shaped). If people used to consult the white water kayak size guide in the past, today it’s all about the hull shape when you need to determine if a kayak is right for you.

The displacement types of hull make for kayaks which are better at tracking and easier to tip at the edge, but less stable or maneuverable. In contrast, the planing hulls create more resistance of the kayak in aggressive waters, so they are better suited for a whitewater adventure.


You might think that speed isn’t an issue when we’re talking about whitewater kayaking, since the water will be fast anyway. This isn’t, in fact, the case as while you don’t need to kayak to add speed to the river’s own speed, you do need it to be able to maneuver that speed well. A heavier and slower kayak is harder to control through shifting rapids, and that very struggle to control it might slow you down.

Rapid Level

Experts agreed on an internationally accepted classification of rapid level or river intensities when it comes to navigating them with kayaks. There is class A waters (which are rather still and basically amount to lakes), and waters of classes I – VI, where class I is an easy to navigate and fairly slow river and class VI is a very fast and pretty dangerous one.

When shopping for the perfect whitewater kayak for your needs, you need to check for a clear indication of the classes of water that the kayak is greenlighted for.

Safety Features

As we mentioned above, you should accept the fact that your kayak may keel over a few times, so you’ll be ready for the moment when it comes. There isn’t yet a kayak guaranteed to never ever turn over, since the whitewater environment is very dynamic.

The best thing you can do to improve safety is to respect all the recommended safety conditions and precautions given by your instructor and always wear a life jacket for kayaking. Also, if you’re not a very experienced paddler, we recommend choosing a whitewater beginners kayak, since those are better geared towards putting safety first and performance second.

It’s good to know your kayaking safety tips to ensure you are well prepared for your journey. This includes aspects such as kayak self-rescue to ensure that you are able to get out of any tricky situation you may find yourself in.

Comfort Features

In theory, the more you are comfortable in your river runner kayak, the more you will also be in control of your kayak and therefore snuggled more safely in. In reality, you need to be aware that this is true only up to a point.

There is a tradeoff to be acknowledged here between comfort and control, at least up to some extent. You will realize this as soon as you try to experiment with different whitewater kayaks. Getting a great kayak seat can help with that comfort.

The bottom line is to ask for advice if you’re not sure what kayak to choose, and go for a safer one if you’re a beginner. A top rated one with lots of positive reviews is also a good choice, if it indicates that other beginners managed well with it but it’s always a good idea to check this whitewater kayaking beginners gear guide to make sure you have everything that you need.

Related Post: Whitewater Kayaking Gear


Q: How to Roll a Whitewater Kayak?


Rolling a kayak designed for whitewater requires a bit more skill than the rolling of a regular kayak. Even the most accomplished paddle experts may not get it right one hundred percent of the time. So, even after you learn how to roll a kayak and feel confident enough to take it for a ride, you can still expect to need to swim every now and then when rolling it.

There are environmental factors you can’t fully control, especially when whitewater is involved. Still, if you’re careful and plan out your steps correctly, you should only deal with the risk of your kayak keeling over at this initial stage of rolling it.

That being said, the easiest technique to roll a whitewater kayak is the C2C roll. It’s pretty well known among paddlers and the best way to learn it is by watching someone demonstrate it to you live. As a heads-up, the C2C roll is very similar to the move required to flip yourself back up if you capsize.

Alternatively, some instructors teach the sweep roll or the hand roll as other methods of rolling these types of whitewater kayaks. Ask your kayaking instructor what method they prefer and ask them to supervise your attempts to it. You should be ready for a river run soon, with a bit of practice.

Q: Why Do People Kayak Whitewater?


In the past, stereotypes often presented kayaking on whitewater as a dangerous activity, and those enjoying it were portrayed as taking mindless risks. However, not only were those representations misinformed, but things have also progressed a lot in the whitewater sports scene. There is now more information available than ever, and the equipment you can buy is top-notch. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be perfectly prepared and ready to take on a "river run" nowadays.

That being said, people kayak for a lot of reasons. Sure, the adrenaline surge plays a major part in it, as it does in most other watersports as well. But paddlers aren’t into this only for the thrills. Going on a trip with a kayak also attracts those who simply love nature and admire the beauty of a wild landscape, as well as those who like traveling with a minimal impact on the environment, as whitewater kayaks are human-powered.

Q: How to Surf With A Whitewater Kayak?


Among the basic river skills, you must learn before you go kayaking, there are two simple ways to surf. There is front surfing, which most kayak users can accomplish fairly easily, mainly because of the design of their kayaks. The best whitewater kayaks of the past few years are so well built that they’ll almost move flawlessly by themselves, even without much skill of the user.

The second skill you should learn for mastering any river runner kayak or creek kayak is side surfing. A little more complicated than front surfing, it’s nonetheless easy to achieve once you get used to the straightforward way of surfing.

Again, since surfing a kayak can be delicate and you need to be in full control in order to minimize risks, we highly recommend learning this from a certified paddling instructor. Even if you are experienced, you will still need a thorough introduction to whitewater kayaking. If you are going to be surfing on ocean waves, then make sure you get a great surf kayak.

Globo Surf Overview

Not for the faint of heart, whitewater kayaking can be one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have on water. If you’re beginning to feel a little bored of the usual water sports you practice and you want to try something new, a trip across whitewater is the perfect way to revitalize your appetite.

Hopefully this guide has given you all the information that you need in order to get the perfect kayak for you. Once you have, then you can grab your kayak accessories such as a kayak helmet and head out there for a day you’ll never forget.

More Kayak Reviews:

Have you ever went whitewater kayaking or are you just considering it now? Do you consider yourself an experienced kayak user or are you taking classes before the first whitewater experience? Let us know in the comment section below!

Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!