8 Popular Whitewater Kayak Brands

Colorful kayaks in a row.
Fran Polito / Getty Images

Since about the middle of the 20th century, whitewater kayaking has been an activity that has increased in popularity with each passing decade. The growth of the sport is, in large part, due to the invention of new materials and manufacturing processes. With the advent of plastic, mass-produced boats now on the scene, many whitewater kayak brands also sprang up.

Plastic whitewater kayaks now account for over 95% of the kayaks being paddled in rapids on rivers. Each year, the major companies come out with new designs and features that affect both boat performance and boater comfort while on the river. When choosing a kayak, it should be noted that the difference between the brands of kayaks is mainly one of preference. Here are the most popular whitewater kayak brands to choose from.

Dagger Kayaks

Canoeist in red Dagger kayak negotiates rapids.
Tim Makins / Getty Images

In 1988, the Dagger Canoe Company was started in a small workroom in Tennessee with a few friends. This was right at the beginning of the surge in whitewater kayaking popularity. They have been a major player in the whitewater kayaking market ever since. In 1998 Dagger Kayaks was bought by Confluence Holdings. In 2001, Dagger moved its location to Confluence Holdings in South Carolina.

Wave Sport Kayaks

Man in kayak on rough waters.
Henry Georgi / Getty Images

Wave Sport Kayaks started their company in the late 1990s. They featured world-class whitewater boater, Eric Jackson (now the owner of Jackson Kayaks) paddling their boats. Wave Sport made its name for their superior and adjustable outfitting at a time when most kayaks had just a plain seat in their boats. Wave Sport was eventually bought by Confluence Holdings, the parent company to rival Dagger Kayaks, which likely provides for some interesting company meetings.

Jackson Kayak

Person kayaking in rough waters.
George E. Sayour

In 2003 Eric Jackson--known as “EJ” in kayaking circles--left Wave Sport kayaks to start his own company with friend Tony Lunt. Together they created the Jackson Kayak company. Located in Sparta, TN, Jackson Kayak has a 100,000 square foot manufacturing facility and employs 120 workers in this town of 8000. Jackson Kayak boasts that the vast majority of the components are manufactured on site, in Sparta, and every year they increase their ability in that regard.

Liquidlogic Kayak

Man standing next to upright kayak at water's edge.
Gaylon Wampler / Getty Images

With the famed Green River Narrows as their playground, Liquidlogic was born in 1999 in the town of Flat Rock, North Carolina. Owned and staffed by an eclectic group of individuals all who share a passion for whitewater boating and the outdoors. Indeed, many of their designs and prototypes are tested out on the Class V Green River and all the danger and technical ability that the Green entails.

Pyranha Kayaks

Man in kayak.
Tom Martin / Getty Images

Officially named Pyranha Mouldings, Pyranha was founded in 1971 and in 2011 they celebrated their 40th year of being in the kayaking business. Located in Great Britain, Pyranha is Europe’s largest specialty manufacturer of canoes and kayaks. Pyranha was to Europe what Perception was to the U.S.--really revolutionizing the kayaking industry with the invention of plastic kayaks. Pyranha has sold whitewater kayaks in the U.S. for many years, but it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s when they really began to become popular.

Bliss-Stick Kayaks

Man in kayak on river.
Stefan Schmitz / flickr 

Bliss Stick Designs are made in New Zealand and are known all over the world. Bliss-Stick U.S. is owned by John Gordon and Sam Fulbright and located in Clover, South Carolina. Still, sort of a niche brand of whitewater kayaks, Bliss-Stick prides itself on growing their kayak business in the U.S. through grassroots efforts, whitewater festivals, and word of mouth.

Riot Kayaks

Man kayaking on rough waters.
Zevotron Scot Campbell / Wikimedia Commons

Riot kayaks began in 1996 and has since created whitewater kayaks that push the envelope with such innovations as installing skegs on some models of their whitewater boats. Based out of Canada, Riot Kayaks is located in Saint-Hubert, Quebec.

Prijon Kayaks

Kayak on display in parking lot.
 Christoph NEvie / Wikimedia Commons

Prijon Kayaks is a German-based kayaking company. While rare in the U.S. compared to the other brands, Prijon kayaks can still be found on our rivers and streams and are can be found in a limited number of kayaking outfitters across America.