Whitewater kayaking is one of the most exciting types of water sports you could ever experience. If you love the type of sport where you can really feel the adrenaline rush and you’re a fan of kayaks in general, then a whitewater river setting is your best choice. Few things can compare with rapidly gliding over the frothy water and feeling the misty spray over your face whenever your kayak successfully passes another obstacle.

Whether you’re here now shopping for your first whitewater kayak or you’re just browsing newer options for a potential upgrade, this post is for you. Here’s a look at the 8 best whitewater kayaks of the year, along with what to keep in mind when buying one.

How To Choose A Whitewater Kayak – Buying Guide

How_to_Buy_a_Whitewater_Kayak

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 whitewater kayaking adventures.

How to Buy a Whitewater Kayak

If it’s from a good, reputable brand (like the ones presented above in our list of whitewater kayaks currently on the market), 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 should only buy it from a brick and mortar store, so you can benefit from full guarantees.

In any case, you need to take a look at each of the criteria below, in order to choose a design that suits your needs best. Here is what you need to pay attention to:

Hull Shape

Lately, the most performant 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 is 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.

Speed

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: 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 whitewater 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 amoun 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 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. Also, if you’re not a very experienced paddler, we recommend choosing a whitewater kayak for beginners, since those are better geared towards putting safety first and performance second.

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. 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 kayaks.

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 whitewater kayak reviews is also a good choice, if it indicates that other beginners managed well with it.

FAQs

Q: How to Roll a Whitewater Kayak?

A: Rolling a whitewater kayak requires a bit more skill than the rolling of a regular kayak. Even the most accomplished river runners paddle experts may not get it right one hundred percent of the time. So, even after you learn how to roll a whitewater 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 a whitewater kayak. 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 Whitewater Kayak?

A: In the past, stereotypes often presented whitewater kayaking 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 river running responsibly nowadays.

That being said, people whitewater 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 whitewater 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 Whitewater Kayak?

A:. Among the basic river skills you must learn before you go whitewater kayaking are two simple ways to surf it. There is front surfing, which most whitewater 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 whitewater 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.

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 for adventure. It will teach you new and valuable skills of navigation and mettle, and it will also make rivers fun once again.

More Kayak Reviews:

Sources

  1. Risks and Safety Measures for Whitewater, AmericanWhitewater.org
  2. Safety Tips for Canoe and Kayaking, AmericanCanoe.org

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 Whitewater Kayaks Review

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Very informative and detailed article. Answered all my questions about whitewater kayaks.

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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!