Kayak or SUP? How to Choose.

Both kayaking and standup paddle boarding (SUP) are fun and will keep you exploring in the outdoors. If you have to pick just one, here’s how to do it.

Kayak or SUP? How to Choose.

Lakes, rivers and other bodies of water are some of the best places to explore while getting in a workout. As the weather breaks and quarantines ease up to some degree, you may be considering new ways to get in a workout.

Kayaking and stand up paddle boards (SUP) are both fantastic options, but if you’ve never tried either, determining which is the best fit for your personality and fitness level can be tough.

Both the kayak and SUP come in a variety of sizes and with various features suited to how you plan to use them. Some models are best suited for short outings, while others can take you on longer excursions and carry more gear. They also vary in terms of the type of water you’ll be launching into—a calm lake or a white-capped ocean, for instance.

If you’re in the market for one or the other, here are some considerations:

Fitness level: If you’re already fit and looking to add in another type of exercise, you’ll get a good workout from either, but a SUP will deliver more of a challenge. As the name implies, you’re standing up when using a paddle board. You’ll recruit muscles from all over your body and get bonus core work in as you fight to maintain your balance.

The kayak, on the other hand, is an activity you carry out from the seated position. Many people like this comfort level and vantage point while getting in a solid upper-body workout. Take all this into consideration when weighing the two.

Getting to the water: Depending on where you live in terms of accessibility to water, you’ll want to consider the weight and transportability of a kayak versus a SUP.

Both come with inflatable options, making them the ultimate easy-to-move models if you need to travel a distance, but in general, SUPs win here as they are slightly lighter and less bulky - if space is your ultimate concern. If you don't live on the water and need to drive to your destination, either the inflatable kayak or SUP can make getting out on the water much easier and more convenient. 

Stability: Kayaks come out in front here, so if you’re not super comfortable with your balancing abilities, skip the SUP. That said, you’d be surprised at how quickly you can learn to feel stable—and improve your balance—on a SUP. Don’t rule it out, but for getting accustomed to being on the water, a kayak might be the best entry point.

Going long: If your favorite thing is to spend all day Saturday outdoors exercising, either a kayak or a SUP will fit the bill, depending on which option you choose. But consider factors like how much gear you want to bring along for the journey, your comfort level for the long haul, and your preference for sitting versus standing for a period.

By most measures, a kayak comes out on top here, but again, don’t cross a SUP off entirely if you like a challenge.

Versatility: Like to bring Fido along on your adventures? How about the kids? What about jumping in and out of the water? Fan of yoga? In all of these cases, a SUP tends to win over the kayak. You can add in a dog or child seated at the front of your board and they can enjoy the view right along with you (of course, you can always choose the 2-3 person kayak to allow more space for Fido, friends or family members.

If you’re a yogi looking for a session of Zen on the water, there’s no contest at all: a SUP is your answer.

At the end of the day, there’s a lot of personal preference that goes into choosing between a kayak or a SUP.

Make a list of pros and cons for your lifestyle, then make a choice accordingly. You won’t regret doing your homework as your new watercraft will deliver fun for years to come. 

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