Short Kayaks VS Long Kayaks: Which One Do You Need?

In this article, I will discuss the pros and cons of short kayaks vs. long kayaks.

Kayaking is a great way to spend time with friends and family. You can go alone or in a group. You don’t need any special skills, just your body, and the kayak.

Different types of kayaks serve different purposes. This article will help you determine which type is best for you.

Are longer kayaks faster than shorter ones?

All else equal, the longer a boat is, the faster it can go. The speed of vessels varies by many factors, such as its length and whether or not one uses paddles to propel themselves forward on water. However, adding more “paddling effort” will increase how fast you are going in your kayak. Hence, shorter kayaks cannot be slower than their counterparts with greater lengths due purely based on hull speeds alone.

Long blue kayaks are ready to go on the lake

Consider a boat weighing 20kg, a paddler weighing 80 kg. How you displace 100 liters of water affects how the boat handles.

If your displacement is as a high cylinder at an angle close to 90 degrees (vertical), it increases maneuverability and low forward speed.

If your displacement is aligned fore/aft in widths closer together horizontally than vertically, providing high forward speed.

Why are long kayaks faster than short ones?

Long kayaks are faster than short ones because of drag. The long and narrow shape of the boat reduces its resistance to water. That means it moves more easily. The form also reduces the wind’s effect on the boat, so it is less affected by wind gusts.

  • The short kayak is more prone to form drag.
  • Long touring kayaks are highly susceptible to skin friction caused by the long, narrow shape of the boat itself.
Form drag or skin friction
Source: Wikipedia

For example, a shorter kayak row, a playboat (Length 168 cm Width 64 cm Weight 14 kg), will hit a low top speed where a wave has built up in front of and behind you, between which you are stuck. Most of your energy is going into moving water around rather than moving yourself forward.

If you were in a longboat, for example, a wavehopper (Length: 400 cm Width: 60 cm Weight: 18 kg), you would cruise past the kayak while doing less work and barely noticing that you cut through waves.

Final thoughts on kayak shape and speed

Longer, narrower kayaks outperform shorter, wider ones in speed and long-distance performance. One of the reasons is that a longer kayak has more volume.

It’s buoyant and floats higher on the water than its short counterpart. It creates less drag as kayaks glide over the surface, cutting through kayak wake like knives do – just faster.

Shorter, low-volume kayaks are perfect for white water and maneuverability. If you plan to take them into open water, be prepared to experience some turbulence since they won’t glide along the top of it as larger boats would.

However, if you maintain your craft’s hull and keep it smooth with wax, then friction shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Does kayak speed even matter?

If you want your kayak to go fast, then you should think about speed. But if you want it for long trips, stability is more important.

Some people like to do yoga or stretch when they are paddling. It can help you if you have pain from sitting too long or injuries from lifting heavy things and carrying them across rocks. You should use an inflatable kayak because it has more space for stretching.

You need to know the safe speed of the water. If you are traveling too slow, it can be hard to get back to land. And if you are rushing through waves, it can be tiring and maybe even make you lose your balance and fall in the water.

Is a longer kayak more stable than a shorter kayak?

A kayak’s length does not necessarily determine its stability. Longer boats, in general, might be more stable, but there are exceptions to that rule, including whitewater kayaks which can still balance even though they’re short.

The kayak width is what makes it stable. The wider the kayak, the more stable it is. However, you should not purchase a kayak that’s too wide for your skill level because then you will have to fight against its stability when paddling and tracking.

Sea kayaks are designed to pass through rough seas quicker than a WW boat. These crafts track better in the water and may be more stable for beginners who want to stay upright under tough conditions than a shorter recreational kayak.

But once you take the time to learn how to kayak properly, become confident in your skills, and start traveling in rougher conditions, then you’ll appreciate the benefits of each style.

How do I know what length kayak to get?

A kayak’s length does not mean that it is more stable than shorter kayaks. What you should be concerned about is the dimensions of the cockpit and how they compare to that of other boats, rather than just looking at physical size alone.

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There are times when it’s necessary to find the right kayak for a tall person. Kayaks can be made in both sit-in and traditional styles, but if you’re taller than six feet or so, there may not be enough legroom. Test out different types of kayaks at your local shop before committing to buying one online that doesn’t fit properly.

Tall people typically have:

  • A higher center of gravity means that long kayaks are harder to maneuver and more likely to tip while sitting in them.
  • Taller people usually have longer legs.
  • Longer kayaks have larger foot space, which is especially beneficial for taller male paddlers.

To make your kayaking experience safer, you need to consider the dimensions of cockpit openings. People with taller legs and wider hips might have a higher center of gravity, making it difficult for them to keep their balance when sitting in the boat.

So be sure that there is enough clearance around these areas before agreeing on any given design options for new boats or kits.

These let you know whether sitting in the kayak is comfortable and easy for you without scraping your knees in the process. If it’s not, then it means that the opening is too small for you.

short kayaks vs long kayaks

What should I get: a long or short kayak? How about medium-sized kayaks?

The benefits of both shorter and longer kayaks are undeniable, but no single recommendation exists. For example, some kayaks work better for long journeys on steady waters, while other kayaks are more useful for venturing down through white water rapids.

How long should a recreational kayak be?

A recreational paddler is anyone that enjoys a smooth, casual, and peaceful kayaking journey for the sake of having fun or being in nature. A simple paddle down your favorite body of water can be an exhilarating experience.

There are many types of kayaks to choose from. You can find one fast on the open ocean, or you can find a secluded kayak.

A recreational kayak is perfect for someone looking to paddle on calm water:

  • As a kayak tends to steer more easily and turns quickly, it’s easier for beginners to maneuver these boats.
  • Craft is pretty stabilized and doesn’t usually topple over.
  • Recreational kayaks are ideal for shorter distances.
  • Lightweight kayaks are simple to transport.

A general guideline for recreational kayakers is to look for the length of a kayak between 9 feet and 12 feet.

How long should a touring kayak be?

A touring paddler enjoys open water kayaking because they can paddle at higher speeds with greater efficiency. The perfect boat for this kind of activity is a touring kayak, specifically designed to work in large bodies of water like bays or oceans.

  • A more stable kayak in rough water conditions is a must-have for long trips.
  • Excellent tracking is what makes this kind of kayak perfect for longer treks.
  • On long journeys, you want a kayak that will provide both stability and comfort.
  • Can protect against overturning by neutrally buoyant qualities.

An ideal kayak size for touring paddlers is between 12 feet and 24 feet, and this length can vary based on your height, weight, and preferences.

How long should a whitewater kayak be?

A kayaker is a person who paddles through white water rapids, maneuvering waves and other obstacles. A whitewater kayak has features like speed, safety guidelines for the user, comfortable seating to keep you in your seat as you paddle down these dangerous rivers that can be up to 10 miles long.

  • Whitewater kayaks are capable of dealing with challenging water.
  • It is easy to get back on the kayak if it falls over.
  • Great for the back.
  • These boats are ideal for maneuvering tight areas and navigating the rockier waters.

Kayaks with shorter lengths are better for whitewater paddling because of their maneuverability, but most people consider long kayaks better for other purposes.

What is the best size kayak for a beginner?

Beginner kayaks are great for those just getting started with the hobby. For most adults, recreational kayaks come in at around 10 feet long and will be a good fit up to 6ft tall. If you’re taller than that, though- say 6’3″- then it’s worth looking into longer models of 12′.

These can easily accommodate people who enjoy paddling from time to time but aren’t experts themselves yet.

Should I get a longer or shorter kayak?

What’s the perfect kayak length for you? Many considerations will help you decide, including what type of paddling and water conditions you need.

For instance: sometimes a shorter boat is better because it can get through narrow passages or sharp turns more easily than longer boats.

While You may prefer other times, a wider hulled vessel with deeper keels to traverse open waters without worrying about tipping over during rough weather, and if speed matters most, then try our speedy touring crafts.

When making a decision about which kayak to buy, you should consider the four factors below:

Kayak speed

If you’re looking for the fastest boat on the water, there are a few factors that you should consider. How often do you plan to use your vessel? What is its intended purpose (e.g., touring)?

If those two questions are the same and speed is also important, it may be good to buy something faster. It can be expensive and not as fast, but it will work better when you need to go fast.

If you want to paddle around beautiful scenery and go on outdoor adventures leisurely, then a recreational class or light-touring kayak will do.

If you want to travel many miles in one day or race your boat down the river, you should have either a touring or racing kayak style.

Kayak maneuverability

There are two important types of bodies of water, with obstacles like rocks or without barriers. If you want something more stable, get a kayak for the water without obstacles. But if you want something with excitement and speed, get a kayak for the water with barriers.

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Open rivers and lakes provide a great opportunity for light-touring or touring kayakers. These types of boats are made to glide through the calm, flat water with ease without being too difficult to paddle upstream against currents. The last thing you want is an obstacle that might flip your kayak.

Recreational kayaks, usually made of fiberglass, plastic, or composite material, can be quite light in weight. They have a lower center of gravity than other types, so they’re easier to maneuver through rough waters with rocks and obstacles.

A recreational class kayak is a perfect choice for someone who wants an easy-to-handle vessel for water travel. The person will be able to use it in places where there may not always be a clear path ahead.

Size of your body

Safety will always be a primary concern, so even if you think the recreational class kayak that screams your name needs more room than most classes of kayaks on offer.

You also have the option of jumping up in length to light touring and sea-kayaking options as well. A different kind of paddle will depend on what you want. There are limits and restrictions, which you can find out in other places.

You should also consider mobility when looking for a sit-in kayak. A tight, immobile paddle can be more dangerous if the boat flips in any way. You should not have difficulty getting out of your kayak.

Kayak storage

You might use your kayak for a day trip to the great outdoors, or you may be planning on taking it along with all of its gear and supplies. Different factors should determine how much storage space is needed in any given situation.

If you are only going out for a few hours, you need to change clothes and some food and drink. If you’re going out overnight, bring more things with you because it will be more difficult. It is best to pack an extra set of dry clothes just in case something happens, like impromptu fishing trips.

You should consider the weight of your kayaking gear when narrowing down kayak options.

When you buy a kayak, it is important to know the length of it. You will need to store your new purchase. It is also important that a kayak not have too much weight in the front or back because this could be dangerous. 

What are the benefits of using a short kayak as opposed to a long kayak?

A short kayak is better suited for whitewater, easier to transport, and generally less expensive. A boat under 10 feet will fit in a minivan, under 8 in an SUV; additionally, it’s easier to lift on and off a vehicle roof rack.

Longer kayaks are faster because they require less effort per mile and should be good for solo trips on flat water. However, the trade-off is often weight and the difficulty in lifting it onto a vehicle roof rack.

A small length would be 8–12 feet in today’s standard, while a long would be 13–18. In 1970-2000 standards, the “small” kayaks are under 15 feet.

A wider kayak is more stable. It is less likely to flip over. A wide boat also moves slower and requires more work to move forward. If you have some experience in boats, go with a wider one. But if you are just going to use your boat on the water or are not very experienced in boats, go with a narrower one.

Short kayaks vs. long kayaks

Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore nature and get some much-needed exercise. If you search for your first kayak, then understanding what size will be perfect for you might leave many people confused. The length of a kayak can impact how well it performs, so finding the right fit is vital.

A shorter kayak is better for beginners who need to steer easily and have a lower budget. They are lightweight, easy-to-transport vessels that make it easier to get back up on the boat in choppy water conditions.

Shorter kayaks have less stability than longer ones. Inside they have more room, which makes them good for beginners. They can fit their gear inside without getting cramped.

You want a boat that is the right length. It should not hit waves on the front or back, and it should move easily across the water. If you are going through fast rapids, this will help.

Great landscape and quiet river for kayaking

Benefits of using long kayaks

Kayaks are not the same size. The longer kayak is for more experienced people, and the shorter kayak is for other people. If you have a lot of weight, then you need to get a long one.

Let’s go into some details about how these advantages may impact your experience as an inexperienced user.

Long kayaks promote a more efficient paddling

The narrower the kayak is, the less energy it will take to cut through the water. Longer boats are usually thin enough for efficient travel on rivers or open seas, and if you’re looking at a new ship, that’s your best bet.

The greatest advantage of longer canoes like touring kayaks is their width which means they require far less effort than wider models when paddling in rough waters or larger waves.

A longer kayak will require less exertion than a shorter one, which may be more suitable for longer trips.

A longer kayak will track more efficiently than a shorter one, even in rough water. You won’t have to use as much energy steering straight through waves with your paddle because the boat itself is taking care of that job for you. That means less effort when it comes time to skim over choppy waters and glide smoothly on top of them.

Stability is important for your safety on the water

The longer kayaks are not always the best option because they take up more space in storage and can be difficult to transport. When you are looking for a boat, the most important thing to consider is stability. Then you have to decide what type of boat will work best in different kinds of water bodies and with various conditions.

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One problem is that the average kayaker tends to focus more on stability horizontally instead of longitudinally, which and plays different roles in your ability to stay upright while paddling your kayak.

A longer kayak can weather rough waters better and will be less likely to drag once submerged. It may also have secondary stability, which helps it perform under difficult conditions.

That means you can take a more angled turn of rough water without tipping, offering a better response to the conditions of rough waters.

It is possible to carry more weight without sacrificing mobility

Longer kayaks, typically 14 feet or longer, are generally ideal for larger and heavier people. You can expect some of these models to hold over 450 pounds (204 kg) without capsizing or negatively impacting your mobility.

Like one shorter person kayaks, most tandem kayaks also need this extra length. Rooms required are the only exception. They are made to be more compact so two people can fit in them and still paddle together if necessary.

Benefits of using short kayaks

Kayaks have been around for a long time. They were first used by the native people who lived on coasts and rivers. Now they are found in lakes all over America. The standard size is 12 feet, but there are also shorter kayaks in sizes from 6-12 feet long.

Those shorter kayaks make them easier to control than longer models because you can lean forward or backward as needed without tipping your boat too far in either direction.

The benefits of shorter kayaks are that they can be more easily stored and transported, require less time to steer, often have a lower price tag than their longer counterparts, and come equipped with a roof rack fitting. Let’s look at these features in detail.

Easier to turn

The major benefit of a shorter kayak is that it makes navigating difficult waters much easier. Changing directions in the water and steer around obstacles is easier because of its low speed. You can turn with one stroke on either side of the boat.

Short kayaks are good for beginners. They are easy to turn, and they feel more stable than long kayaks. It is also easier to slow down or change directions. Short kayaks are good for short trips and casual use.

Less expensive

Kayaks are fun. They can be expensive, but it is up to you what type of kayak and how long. For example, you might like an inflatable one because it is easier to carry. But another person may find that limiting because they can’t go very far from shore or explore new locations when they have an inflatable kayak.

Kayaking as a sport is one of the most challenging yet rewarding activities you can do. But it’s not for everyone! If kayaks are new to you or if budget constraints make buying something expensive impossible, then shorter and cheaper kayaks might be your best bet.

It is also good for beginners. You can try it without spending a lot of money. But don’t think that these are not good products because they are cheaper than other models. They still offer great value, no matter what skill level you have.

Kayaks are a great way to get out on the water and experience the joys of boating. However, there are many different types of kayaks with many additional benefits for varying activities. Take your time when you try them out at the store because price does not always equal quality (or lack).

A lighter kayak is good for transportation

Though usually a few inches broader than a longer kayak, shorter kayaks tend to be several feet much less long and are far more lightweight. It’s not unusual to find a recreational kayak weighing beneath 100 pounds (45.4 kg), weighing as little as 35 pounds (15.9 kg).

The lighter build makes for short lengthy boats simple transportation both on the water or off of it- that is one crucial benefit outside of the water.

A small kayak is much more convenient to transport and can easily be carried by a single person without any difficulty. A heavy, bulky boat will likely damage your truck’s paint or put undue pressure on your back when you must lift it overhead onto the roof rack.

If you enjoy going out alone, this lightweight build may make life easier for you.

Random facts about short and long kayaks

  • Sit-in kayaks are typically shorter than recreational kayaks and weigh less.
  • Beginners can find recreational paddling easier to control because they are maneuverable and easy to paddle.
  • If you need a maneuverable kayak for fishing or exploring, a short kayak will be your best option.
  • Kayak hulls are not the same as boat hulls.
  • Get a wet suit to protect yourself from the cold water.
  • Bow of kayak is typically used to maneuver them through water, and this is also where the kayaker sits.
  • Lakes and ponds are the perfect scenery for short kayaks.
  • The best kayak position for your body is the one that feels comfortable.
  • To avoid the risk of a kayak breaking, you should check periodically for cracks and leaks.
  • Jump in and have a good time!


If you’re trying to decide between a short kayak or a long kayak, then the length of your body should be one of the main factors in your decision.

The type and size of waves you’ll face are also important considerations when choosing which boat will work best for you.

You may want to try both before making a final decision on what’s right for you.

Last updated on June 19, 2022 by Duncan Barrett

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