What You Need to Know About SUP Kayak Hybrids

Paddleboards That Can Be Rigged Like a Kayak

People kayaking through a cavern filled with glowworms.

Waimarino36/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 1.0

With the popularity that standup paddleboarding has enjoyed, many kayakers have decided to cross over to SUP. Of course, they would never permanently hang up their kayaks. Rather, standup paddling gets added to their repertoire. In the process, another phenomenon has surfaced surrounding kayaking and paddleboarding. 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.

SUPs Used as Kayaks?

SUP/kayak hybrids are available in the plastic board market, 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 in the paddleboarding industry, and this is mainly the segment of the market that has a need for a hybrid between kayaking and a SUP. Also, if you are considering converting your SUP into a hybrid, the plastic ones are the easiest ones to do this with.

Pros to Paddling a SUP/Kayak Hybrid

The pros are rather obvious. With 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 you're watching sea life. 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 that 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

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 backrest, really isn’t that comfortable. It is doable, but if the majority of the paddling you do is kayaking you 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 that 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 Paddleboards as SUP/Kayak Hybrids

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 Into 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 secured to the paddle board. Be sure to learn how to convert your SUP into a kayak or take it to a paddling outfitter.