SUP – Kayak Hybrids : What You Need to Know

All About Paddleboards that Can be Rigged Like a Kayak

SUP - Kayak Paddleboard
Paddling a cross between a paddleboard and a kayak. Photo © George E. Sayour

With the groundswell of popularity that standup paddleboarding has enjoyed in recent years, many kayakers have decided to cross over to SUP.  Of course they would never permanently hang up their kayaks.  But rather, standup paddling gets added to those kayakers paddling repertoire.  In the process another phenomenon has surfaced surrounding kayaking and paddleboarding.  That is there are now standup paddleboards that can be paddled like a kayak.

  Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of SUP – Kayak Hybrids.

What Type of SUPs are Used as Kayaks?

I fully anticipate each segment of the SUP market will eventually develop their own version of a SUP-kayak hybrid.  However, at this point they are really only available in the plastic board market.  This is probably because of the ease of molding in the desired contours and do so efficiently and affordably.   It might also be because plastic SUPs are considered entry level products into the paddleboarding industry and this is mainly the segment of the market that has a need for a hybrid between kayaking and SUP.  Also, if you are considering converting your SUP into a hybrid, the plastic ones are the easiest ones to do.

Pros to Paddling a SUP- Kayak Hybrid

The pros are rather obvious.  By having a SUP that can be paddled like a kayak you have the best of both worlds.  You can be standing when the water’s calm and the wind and current are in your favor.

  You can also stand when you want to see down into the water or are sealife watching.    During the times when you are paddling into a headwind or when you just need a break from standing, you are able to sit down in a seat.  People who paddle these SUP-kayak crossovers often change positions frequently throughout one paddling trip.

  Also, one advantage to buying this type of paddling vessel that is not lost on the thrifty, is if you only have the money for either a kayak or a SUP you don’t have to make that choice.  With one purchase you can end up with both.

Kayaking Cons of a Kayak-SUP Hybrid

With any option for versatility you also give up something.  In the case of kayak – SUP hybrids because they need to serve both functions, they don’t do either at a very high level.  The seated position on a SUP, even one rigged with a back rest, really isn’t that comfortable.  It is doable, but if the majority of the paddling you do is kayaking you’ll really just want a kayak.  Also, since many of the kayak-SUP hybrids are new concepts, they really haven’t worked out the foot supports yet for the kayaking application.  This means when paddling a SUP like a kayak, your feet are either straight out in front of you or flat on the deck of the board.  Either option is not desirable from a paddling efficiency standpoint nor from a comfort perspective.

Cons of Standup Paddleboards as a SUP- Kayak Hybrid

Given that at this point these kayak-SUP hybrids are almost all plastic, this makes them heavier than their composite counterparts.

  It also makes them slower on the water.  The sluggish nature of plastic paddleboards is a real turnoff to advanced standup paddleboarders.

How to Convert Your SUP to a Kayak

If the idea of a SUP-kayak hybrid intrigues you and you already have a SUP, you may be able to avoid buying another one for this purpose.  There are two main components that are required when converting a SUP into a kayak.  The first is a way to sit on it.  The next is a way to paddle the SUP.  Both will require attachments being secured to your paddle board.   Be sure to learn how to convert your SUP into a Kayak or take it to a paddling outfitter to get all rigged up.

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