Pick Your Paddle – How to choose the right vessel for your lifestyle

Photo by  BOTE .

Photo by BOTE.

What’s the difference between a kayak and a paddle board? The two options might seem interchangeable at first glance, but choosing the right vessel can make or break your paddling experience, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Both are fun to paddle and available in a variety of sizes and styles, but there are a few factors to consider before making your choice.

Originally developed by the Eskimos, kayaks are basically enclosed canoes. Recreational kayaks are stable, beginner-friendly, and ideal for long-distance endeavors. The simple nature of the kayak paddle stroke makes them suitable for people who are new to the sport, or those with physical limitations that prevent them from engaging in other forms of water recreation. Kayaks can carry a lot of gear, which makes them perfect for an afternoon at a secluded beach or an expedition, and multi-passenger models are an excellent choice for families.  

Paddle boards are flat, buoyant boards that evolved from surf boards. Easy to transport and carry, these vessels also provide increased visibility, since the standing paddler is positioned high above the water, making them the preferred paddling platform for wildlife enthusiasts. Because paddle boards require a more complex paddle stroke, they provide an excellent full-body workout. Certain paddle board models are designed to accommodate children or pets as passengers, or include a special platform for yoga practitioners.  

If your priorities are exercise and easy transport, stand-up paddle boarding is for you. There is a small but worthwhile learning curve involved. If you are primarily interested in days on water with family or long-distance adventuring, kayaks are your best vessel. Yes, they can be heavy and cumbersome, but they are steady and reliable adventure partners. If you’re still not sure which to choose, consider a rental or lesson before making a commitment.

Walter Cheatham is an experienced paddler and ACA-Certified Paddling Instructor. Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club founded by Sanibel Sea School to help the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit oceantribepaddlers.org or follow us on Facebook to learn more.