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River kayak for lake

Considering buying small whitewater kayak for small lake

for better maneuverability and different types of workouts

dont care about speed or distance

not sure if that would be a mistake 

I already have a regular recreational lake kayak


3 Replies

Hey @Laps!

Just a couple weeks ago, I met a friend on a local flatwater lake after a river paddle in my whitewater kayak! It isn't impossible and it certainly is a workout, so it might be right for you if that is your main goal. Many people learn and practice different whitewater skills on flatwater, so that could add to your types of workouts. If you get a sprayskirt and are comfortable wet exiting or rolling (or learn to roll), you open up your world to a lot of new kayak based workouts!

As for maneuverability, it is certainly more nimble and responsive to paddle a whitewater kayak, but on flatwater that means you have to correct yourself with almost every stroke. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't end up spinning my boat once the other day! Most whitewater boats are flat on the bottom and designed to slow you down, so you have time to make your moves, this means they have nothing to get you to track, meaning go straight. If you are used to a recreational kayak, you will have a long time adjusting to how to paddle this type of boat on flatwater. I wouldn't necessary call it maneuverability that you gain, but the boats are certain more responsive.

Lake Natoma in Folsom, CALake Natoma in Folsom, CA

Here are a few other things to consider about a whitewater kayak:

  • Whitewater boats have lower primary stability. This means it will feel a lot more likely to tip over than your current boat when you get into it and until you get used to paddling it, you are more likely to fall in and get wet.
  • Whitewater boats have extra structural pieces to stand up to the forces of whitewater. This means the boats are heavier and you will pay a higher price point for a new boat. For the new current versions of the boats picture above, the pink whitewater boat is 2.5 times the cost of the rec kayak.
  • The cockpit of the boat will be very different from a rec kayak, more like a sea or touring kayak cockpit. Whitewater boats are meant to be a tighter fit than a rec boat, with many contact points (hips, thighs, knees, feet) for lots of control. If you like a roomier fit or space to stretch out, then a whitewater kayak won't be as comfortable for you.
    • That all said, many current kayak models have ergo molded seating designed for long days on the river, that are much nicer than most recreational boats.
  • Depending on your current paddle accessories, you may need to pick up some new gear. The best paddle for a whitewater kayak is a high angle paddle, and most rec kayakers use a low angle paddle. The difference comes down to how you use it and what types of strokes you take, which are different for each style of boat. You could probably use your current paddle, but you will lose some of the maneuverability you were looking for. Also, since whitewater boats are more likely to tip and get wet, many people use float bags to fill up unused space with air, and make it easier to right your kayak.

If it were me, then I would only go for the whitewater kayak, if I had interest in learning how to whitewater kayak. Otherwise, a short recreational boat would be best. Good luck and hope this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thank u!

Happy to help! 😊 Let me know what you decide to go with or if you have any more questions!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.