If you enjoy an adrenaline rush and want more excitement on the water, whitewater kayaking is perfect for you. By requiring you to focus more and overcome challenges that come with fast-paced rapids, this type of kayaking truly takes the experience to a higher level.

Due to the intensity of this activity, a standard kayak isn’t the best choice here. If you want to stay safe and have fun, you’ll need a whitewater kayak that is up to the task – balanced, responsive, and highly maneuverable. Whether you’re an experienced whitewater kayaker or just getting started, the best whitewater kayaks from our list will allow you to confidently tackle even demanding rapids.

How To Choose A Whitewater Kayak – Buying Guide


Hull Shape

With the advancements in materials and technology, the highest-performing kayaks are no longer skinny and long like they were a decade ago. Nowadays, kayaks are becoming shorter and rounded, shaped more like a log. According to multiple tests (both live and simulated), the stability and performance of log-shaped kayaks are far superior to traditional ones.

That being said, you can still choose between a planing hull (flat) and a displacement hull (round). A planing hull creates more resistance in aggressive waters, so it’s often found on the best river runner kayaks. On the other hand, a displacement hull is better for tracking and tipping from edge to edge, but offers less stability and maneuverability.


You might think that the speed isn’t an issue when talking about the best whitewater kayaking models, since the water is fast anyway. However, even though the kayak doesn’t need to further add speed, it should be able to handle that speed. Because of this, a heavy and slow kayak is harder to control through shifting rapids, which might slow you down.

Rapid Class

To better display the properties of a river or a rapid, experts agreed on an internationally-recognized level system that ranges from level I to level VI. Non-moving waters like lakes are classified as class A waters, while all others have their place on the scale.

For example, a class I rapid is fairly slow and easy to navigate, while class V and VI rapids are fast and very difficult to handle. When shopping for the best kayaks for rapids, be sure to check whether the model has been greenlighted for the rapid class you want to tackle.

Safety Features

Due to the nature of the sport, you should expect the kayak to capsize sometimes and you should be ready when it happens. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a kayak that can guarantee that it won’t capsize in the dynamic whitewater environment.

The best thing you can do to improve safety is to respect all the recommendations 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 the most excellent whitewater kayaks for beginners, since those will focus on putting safety first and performance second.

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


In theory, the more comfortable you feel in your river runner kayak, the more control you will have when tackling the rapids. In reality, this is true only up to a certain point because there is somewhat of a tradeoff between comfort and control. A more comfortable kayak often means added size and weight, which may be counterproductive on whitewater.

Because of this, we think it’s best to always consult the white water kayak size guide and get a model that is ideally sized for your body frame. After you’ve picked among the different types of whitewater kayaks, you can focus on other aspects like cockpit shape, the type of seat you’ll be getting, and whether the boat has foot braces.

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Q: How to Roll a Whitewater Kayak?


Rolling a kayak designed for whitewater requires a bit more skill than rolling a standard kayak. Due to the environmental factors that you can’t control, you should expect to sometimes swim when rolling it.

This being said, the easiest technique is the C2C roll which is very similar to the move required to flip yourself back up if you capsize. Alternatively, you can sometimes use the sweep roll or the hand roll. Be sure to ask your instructor to show you the technique and practice it so you can react properly on the water.

Q: Why Do People Kayak Whitewater?


Even though the adrenaline rush is the main reason for kayaking on whitewater, it isn’t the only thing that draws people to the activity. In addition to the excitement it gives you, it also allows you to see incredible scenery from a unique perspective and fully enjoy nature.

Q: How to Surf With A Whitewater Kayak?


Owing to their unique design, surfing whitewater kayaks is fairly easy. If you wish to practice front surfing, creek kayaks will practically do this on their own without much skill required. On the other hand, side surfing in the best river runner kayak may require some practice. Either way, we suggest that you get an instructor if you’re serious about kayak surfing.

Globo Surf Overview

While it’s not for the faint of heart, whitewater kayaking can be one of the most amazing experiences you’ll ever have on the water. If you’re a little bored with the usual water sports, this is something you definitely need to try. We hope that our reviews and guide helped you find a whitewater kayak that will give you the adrenaline rush you seek.

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