Paddle Boarding vs. Kayaking: Which is Harder?

Paddleboarding and kayaking are both popular water sports that offer a fun and challenging workout. But which one is harder?

Stand up paddleboards are easier than kayaks for the average person with ordinary athletic skills and a decent fitness level. They also require less effort on your part which makes them more enjoyable. These boats can be carried, transported or stored simply at home without any difficulty whatsoever making this form of water sports accessible to everyone no matter where they live in the world.

That said, kayaking can be more challenging in rough water or when maneuvering through tight spaces. And while paddle boarding is generally easier than kayaking, it’s still a good workout that can help improve your balance, coordination, and core strength.

So whether you’re looking for leisurely activity or a challenging workout, paddle boarding or kayaking might be the perfect activity for you.

Paddle Boarding vs. Kayaking: Which is Harder?

What makes paddle boarding easier than kayaking?

Stand-up paddle boarding is a great way to get out on the water. Not only does it allow you more freedom than kayaking, but SUP’s smaller profile makes landing and getting back into your boat easier too.

The key difference between standing up in an open vessel and sitting down with bags of gear around me may seem subtle at first glance.

But many nuances make all this worthwhile, including reduced stress when picking things up or putting them away after use; no need to spend time looking for rocks jutting below low tide levels while trying.

SUP is great for shorter trips where you want to move around a bit more and enjoy the scenery.

The following are a handful of categories to help you decide which activity is more difficult:

Boarding and disembarkation

Boarding and disembarking can seem like simple tasks, but they can be quite tricky. When it comes to paddle boards, getting on and off is usually pretty easy because the boards float and move on the surface of the water. However, disembarking from a kayak can be more challenging because they don’t move as easily. Getting out of a kayak often requires more balance and coordination than getting on.

Boarding: SUP

Getting on a stand-up paddle board can be a little tricky, but with a bit of practice, you’ll be able to do it like a pro.

  1. Start by kneeling in knee-deep water, and situate yourself in the center of the board.
  2. Bring one knee up at a time, until you’re in a kneeling position.
  3. Then, slowly stand up while keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.

If this is your first time boarding, I recommend starting in knee-deep water. This will give you more stability and make it easier to balance. You can also kneel if you start to feel unstable or tired later on in your paddle session.

Boarding: Kayak

Getting into a kayak from the shore can be tricky, but it’s doable with a little practice.

  1. First, sit on the edge of the kayak and swing your legs over the side.
  2. Then, grab the paddle and put it in front of you.
  3. Next, use your arms to pull yourself forward until you’re in the middle of the kayak.
  4. Finally, put your feet on the footrests and adjust your seat so you’re comfortable.

If this is your first time boarding, I recommend starting in knee-deep water. This will give you more stability and make it easier to balance. You can also kneel if you start to feel unstable or tired later on in your paddle session.

Disembarkation: SUP

There’s something about the act of disembarking from a stand-up paddle board that just feels so empowering. It’s like you’re finally free after being tethered to the board for the past few minutes.

Of course, there are different ways to dismount depending on the situation. If you’re in shallow water, it’s as simple as stepping off the board and onto solid ground. If you’re in deeper water, you can either jump off to the side or perform the onboarding steps in reverse order.

No matter which method you choose, it always feels great to finally be free of that paddleboard. Soak up that sense of accomplishment – you deserve it.

Disembarkation: Kayak

Disembarking from a kayak is more challenging than disembarking from a paddle board. This is because you have to be careful not to tip the kayak over when you’re getting out.

There are two main ways to dismount from a kayak: jumping off to the side or performing the onboarding steps in reverse order.

  • If you choose to jump off to the side, make sure to do it quickly and carefully so you don’t tip the kayak over.
  • If you choose to perform the onboarding steps in reverse order, be extra careful not to lose your balance.
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Either way, it’s always a good idea to practice disembarking in shallow water first so you can get a feel for it.

After falling into the water, how do you get back on board?

When it comes to falling off your paddle board or kayak, the best thing you can do is stay calm. It might be tempting to thrash around and try to swim back to the board as quickly as possible, but this will only exhaust you and make it harder to get back on.

Let’s take a look at how it differs for SUPs and kayaks.

Getting back on a SUP

Falling off of a paddle board is inevitable, even for the most experienced riders. Luckily, getting back on the board is a relatively simple process.

  1. Grab hold of the center of the board.
  2. Allow your legs to float up and kick while pulling the board toward you.
  3. Slide yourself back onto the board.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be back on your paddle board in no time.

Getting back on a kayak

Capsizing, or flipping over, is one of the most common accidents in kayaking. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic. There are a few things you need to do to get back into your kayak safely.

  1. If the kayak has flipped over, right it upright.
  2. Grasp the cockpit rim and kick your legs as you climb onto the kayak’s stern (back) side.
  3. Begin by pushing your feet into the cockpit, then corkscrewing your body and legs while sliding them in.
  4. If the kayak became waterlogged as a result of the incident, use a bilge pump to get rid of any water from within the cockpit.

Taking off and landing SUPs and kayaks

Unlike kayaks, which require a lot of careful maneuvering to get them into and out of the water, paddle boards are incredibly easy to launch and land.

All you need is some ankle-deep water to push off from, and then you can easily paddle over to deeper waters. This makes paddle boarding the perfect activity for those who want an easy way to get on the water without having to worry about tricky maneuvers.

On contrary, kayaks require a bit more effort to get into and out of the water. You’ll need to find a place where you can launch and land without getting stuck, which can be difficult in shallow waters.


Any serious kayaker knows that one of the main advantages of stand-up paddling is its vantage point. Because the rider is standing as opposed to sitting, not only in the field of vision far wider (practically 360°), but forward visibility is much greater. Any obstacles or conditions can be seen much further in advance than when seated inside the cockpit of a kayak. 


When it comes to paddling, there are a few things you need to keep in mind with SUPs. First of all, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right paddle for your height.

  • Paddles come in a variety of sizes, so it’s important to find one that’s comfortable for you. If the paddle is too long, you’ll have to hunch over to reach the water, which can be uncomfortable.
  • If the paddle is too short, you won’t be able to generate enough power to move the board.
  • Another thing to keep in mind is your stroke. When paddling a SUP, you’ll want to use a wide, sweeping stroke. This will give you the most power and help you move through the water more efficiently.
  • Finally, be sure to keep your paddle close to the board. If it’s too far away, you’ll lose a lot of energy trying to reach the water.


Paddling a kayak is a bit different than paddling a SUP.

  • First of all, you’ll be sitting down, so you won’t have to worry about balance as much.
  • Secondly, you’ll want to use a narrower stroke since you’re working with two paddle blades instead of one. This will help you generate more power and move through the water more quickly.
  • Finally, be sure to keep your paddle close to the kayak. If it’s too far away, you’ll lose a lot of energy trying to reach the water.


When it comes to maneuverability, kayaks have the upper hand. Thanks to their slim design, kayaks can easily turn and move through the water with ease.

Paddle boards, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to maneuver. They’re wider and heavier, which makes them harder to turn.

However, paddle boards are still relatively easy to maneuver, especially compared to other watercraft.

With a stand-up paddle board, you can go anywhere your heart desires. You’ll have the same freedom of movement as if not more than sea kayaks with their experienced rider holding onto an ample supply leash that will let them take off like they’re flying over water.

SUP is the perfect way to spend your time when waves are not cooperate. The stability and exercise make it a great cross-training for any surfer, even those with difficultly balance or who suffer from arthritis in their joints.

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Stability on the water

When it comes to stability, paddle boards are the clear winner. Thanks to their wide design, paddle boards are incredibly stable on the water.

Even beginners can hop on a paddle board and feel confident that they won’t fall off. Kayaks, on the other hand, are much less stable.

They’re narrower and lighter, which means they can easily tip over. For this reason, kayaks are not recommended for beginners.


When it comes to transporting your paddleboard or kayak, there are a few different methods you can use. 

  • The first option is to drive your vehicle as close to the water as possible and then carry the board or kayak from there. This is the easiest option, but it’s not always feasible, especially if you’re trying to get down to the beach or launch site on a busy day.
  • Another option is to transport your gear by bike. This can be a fun way to get some exercise while also getting your gear to the water’s edge. Make sure you have a sturdy rack or frame that can hold the weight of your board or kayak, and take it slow on the bumps!
  • The final option is to use public transportation. This can be a great option if you don’t have a car or bike, or if you’re trying to avoid traffic. Just be aware that you might have to carry your gear for a long distance, so make sure you’re prepared physically.

However, there are some reasons why SUP is easier to transport:

Paddle boards are significantly lighter and shorter than kayaks, making them much easier to transport. Most paddle boards can be tucked under your arm and carried, or lifted over your head to mount on a car roof rack. Inflatable boards are even more convenient.

Kayaks require a kayak cart for transportation, which can be difficult to maneuver over sand or rocky paths. Paddle boards can easily be carried by hand, making them the perfect option for those who want an easy way to get on the water.

Demands for physical capabilities

Getting in and out of a kayak cockpit can be tricky, especially if you’re in open water. You have to be physically dexterous and strong to do it well. But getting on a stand-up paddle board is just a matter of practice.

If you can slowly stand up from a kneeling position and balance with your feet shoulder-width apart, you’ll be able to paddle board like a pro.

Why SUP is better than kayaking?

Let’s take a quick look at some advantages of paddle boarding:

It’s a better workout

There’s no doubt that SUP is a superior cardiovascular workout to kayaking. It rose to popularity as a cross-training method after surfers discovered it. Because balancing on a SUP necessitates the use of the core, every minute you spend on the board translates to additional muscle strength.

SUP also works your arms and legs, so you’ll be using a variety of muscles at once while paddling. Every SUP session will benefit your abs, triceps, biceps, quads, and back muscles (among others).

Kayaking, on the other hand, ignores your leg muscles entirely. You may get a substantial arm and shoulder workout while paddling as well.

It’s easier for newcomers

If you’re curious about SUP and want to give it a try, don’t worry – SUP is easy for beginners. In fact, with just a few hours of practice, you’ll be able to paddle around with ease.

Unlike kayaking, which requires some upper body strength and stamina, SUP is much simpler and can be enjoyed by anyone with basic balancing skills. So grab your board and get ready for a fun day out on the water.

It’s great for fishing

There’s no debate that paddle boarding is the superior choice when it comes to fishing. You have a greater range of vision and mobility, allowing you to throw your hook far and wide.

When you sit down to fish, you’re not exactly exercising at your highest possible intensity, so when you opt to polish from a SUP, you’ve created a thrilling alternative to all of that sitting. You can tone those muscles by getting out of the kayak and standing up while fishing on your SUP, as well as paddling over to your favorite fishing spot.

When you’re on a SUP, you can also use your paddle as a casting rod, giving you even more mobility and range. You can stand up and move around to get a better angle on your fish, and when you do hook one, you can easily reel them in without having to worry about balancing yourself.

Not only is SUP fishing more active, but it’s also more efficient. When you’re paddling instead of rowing, you can move faster and cover more ground. And because you have a better range of sight and movement, you’re more likely to spot fish in the first place.

It’s a great group activity

One of the most enjoyable aspects of SUPing with friends and pets is that you can bring a buddy or beloved one along without any additional equipment or planning! Simply make sure your SUP’s weight capacity can support both of you.

However, if you’re kayaking, things are a lot more formal. You have either a two-person kayak with designated seats or you don’t.

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If you want to bring friends on a solo kayaking trip, you’ll need to purchase another boat with specified seats. There’s no room for error!

It has a better design

SUPs have been gaining in popularity for years now, and for good reason – they’re just plain cool. When someone glides up to you on a SUP, sunglasses on, and hair looking fly in the breeze, you want to know more about that person. You want to be that person. The vibe is undeniable.

Think about it: when was the last time you saw a kayak picture on your social media feed draws as much awe, aspiration, and wonder as a SUP shot?

Forget the club: the cool kids these days can be found on the water paddling a SUP. If you want to join them, you need to learn how to ride one yourself. Luckily, SUPing is a breeze – with just a few hours of practice, you’ll be ready to hit the water and enjoy all the benefits of this fantastic activity.

It’s a lot of fun

SUP is one of the coolest activities around – there’s no doubt about that. But what’s even better is that it’s just as much fun as it seems. Whether you’re young or old, fit or not, experienced or a beginner, SUP is a great way to spend an afternoon.

You can bring anyone with you, and have a blast together.

What burns more calories: kayaking or paddleboarding?

When it comes to calories burned, kayaking and paddleboarding offer similar calorie burn rates. However, the number of calories you burn while kayaking can vary depending on the intensity of your workout.

For instance, if you are paddling at a leisurely pace, you can expect to burn around 330 to 460 calories per hour. If you paddle faster or against strong currents, you can burn up to 500 calories per hour.

As with any water activity, the number of calories burned also depends on weather conditions and water temperature. Paddleboarding is a great way to get a full-body workout and improve your cardiovascular health. Not only does it tones your arms and legs, but it also strengthens your core muscles.

And because it is low-impact, it is easy on your joints. Whether you are looking to burn calories or improve your fitness level, paddleboarding is a great option.

Which is the faster paddle board or kayak?

SUPs and kayaks have been around for centuries, each with its unique advantages and disadvantages. But when it comes to pure speed, the kayak has the advantage over the SUP.

That’s not to say that SUPs can’t move quickly – they definitely can – but when it comes to a race between a kayak and a paddle board, the kayak is going to win every time.

There are a few reasons for this: first of all, kayaks are narrower than SUPs, meaning they cut through the water more easily. They also have pointed bows which help them slice through the waves. In addition, kayaks tend to be longer than SUPs, meaning they have more surface area in contact with the water, making them more efficient.

So if you’re looking to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, a kayak is going to be your best bet. But if you’re looking for a leisurely paddle through calm waters, a SUP is the way to go.

Can you use a paddle board like a kayak?

You’ve been wanting to try kayaking for a while now, but you’re not sure if you’re up for the challenge of learning how to use a paddle and navigate through moving water. But what if there was a way to make using a SUP board feel more like kayaking?

Turns out, there is! All you need is a SUP board that’s specifically designed with a kayak seat attachment, and you can easily modify your paddle so it feels more like using a kayak paddle.

With just a few simple changes, you’ll be able to enjoy the stability and easy transportation of a stand-up paddleboard, while feeling like you’re paddling in a traditional kayak.

Is it easier to kayak or paddleboard with a dog?

When it comes to kayaking or paddleboarding with a dog, there are pros and cons to each. Kayaks can be more difficult for dogs to get in and out of, especially if the boat is full of gear. And while dogs have more freedom to move around on a SUP board, they can easily fall off if they aren’t paying attention.

So which is better? For most dogs, SUP boards are much easier than kayaks and canoes. They are less restricted on a SUP board and have more freedom to move around. This makes it a great option for those who want to take their dog along on their adventures. Just be sure to keep an eye on them at all times!

Wrapping up

Overall, both kayaking and paddleboarding offer a great workout and can be a lot of fun. But which one is right for you? It depends on your individual goals and preferences.

If you’re looking for a challenging workout, kayaking is the way to go. But if you’re just looking to enjoy a leisurely paddle through calm waters, a SUP is the perfect option.

Whatever you decide, get out there and enjoy the water.

Last updated on July 16, 2022 by Duncan Barrett

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