Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 15 years, then it’s likely you’ve heard about, seen or come across stand up paddle boards (SUPs). And of course you know what a kayak is, right? But it would be no surprise at all if you’ve never heard of a paddle board kayak hybrid, also known as a SUP-kayak hybrid.
The discerning amongst you can probably come up with a pretty good picture of what a paddle board kayak hybrid may look like, even if you’ve never seen one before. And there’s probably a good deal of you who are currently scoffing at the idea of yet another type of floating vessel to crowd your local waterways each weekend. Either way, there’s potentially more to paddle board kayak hybrids than meets the eye. There are different types which are designed with different things in mind. Plus, surely a kayak paddle board combo reduces the need for multiple vessels in your life?
If you’re still a little unclear about what a kayak is, compared to canoe (they’re very easily confused), then read our guide help you understand the similarities and differences of kayaks and canoes.
This article explores what paddle board kayak hybrids actually are, their pros and cons, and some different types of SUP-yaks.
- What is a paddle board kayak hybrid?
- Types of paddle board kayak hybrids
- Paddle board kayak hybrid pros
- Paddle board kayak hybrid cons
- SUP kayak hybrid paddle
- Conclusion: are SUP kayak hybrids for you?
What is a paddle board kayak hybrid?
So, what is a hybrid SUP? Before we go any further, and just to ensure we’re all on the same page, it’s probably a good idea to answer this question.
Hybrid SUPs are also known as paddle board kayak hybrids, SUP kayak, SUP-yak hybrids, SUP-kayak hybrids, SUP-yaks, stand up paddle board kayaks, stand up kayaks and probably a number of other combinations of the words kayak, SUP and hybrid!
As you may have guessed, a SUP-kayak hybrid is a cross between a kayak and a paddle board. They are stable with a wide and open deck – like paddle boards – and you can paddle them from a standing position. SUP kayaks also have a seat from which paddlers use a double ended paddle (kayak paddle) to move the vessel through the water. Some SUP kayaks have seats molded into the deck whilst others sit on top of the deck. Additionally, there are types of SUP kayak hybrids with a hull (bottom of the board) which adopt characteristics similar to kayaks for superior paddling performance.
Some SUP-yak hybrids could easily be mistaken for kayaks at first glance, whilst others are little more than paddle boards with seats! The presence of a seat, however, does little to take away from a true paddle boarding experience. Rather, it adds a degree of versatility and comfort to paddle boarding.
Types of paddle board kayak hybrids
With a clear(ish) picture of what a paddle board kayak hybrid is, it’s important to note that not all SUP hybrids are born equal, as mentioned. Here are a few different styles that are available:
Inflatable SUP kayak hybrid
Unless you need a paddle board kayak hybrid for something very specific, like fishing, the most common and accessible option is an inflatable SUP kayak hybrid. These are relatively affordable and are little more than an inflatable paddle board with a removable seat. But the addition of this seat changes everything in terms of the versatility, enjoyment levels and practicality of a SUP. And in my opinion, if you’re in the market for an inflatable SUP then it’s definitely worth opting for one with a SUP to kayak conversion kit.
With a SUP to kayak conversion kit you can easily secure a simple seat onto a SUP that is compatible with a kit. SUP seats usually sit directly on the deck of a board with little height gained to sit on. This can make it a bit of a tricky position to sit in if you have tight hips and hamstrings! Flexible folk will find it perfectly comfortable. However, adjustable straps, which secure the seat to the SUP, can be loosened for a more relaxed seating position, if needed.
As mentioned, the removable seat has straps that clip onto D-rings or attachment points on the edges of the SUP deck. This is where conversion kit compatibility comes in. Not all SUPs have D-ring attachment points in the correct or appropriate places to accommodate attaching a seat. So, your best option is to choose a paddle board that comes with a SUP to kayak conversion kit.
Other styles of SUP kayak hybrids
Inflatable SUP kayak hybrids may be a pocket-friendly, simple and straightforward option, but there are other styles available too.
SUP-kayak hybrid with foot pegs
Body Glove has taken the simplicity of the inflatable SUP kayak concept and added footrests. These help to provide a more kayak-like feel about the seating position and add a degree of control over the board when paddling seated. Plus, because the board is suited to surfing as well as touring in a stand up position, it also means that it can be surfed seated too. The versatility rating of this board is up there with the best!
SUP-kayak hybrid with a cockpit
New to the market is this Aqua Marina Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board. It is another adaptation of a regular inflatable SUP that, uniquely, features an open cockpit that is big enough to both stand and sit it. Sitting inside the cockpit gives the option of using a spray skirt for full protection. The usefulness of this is yet to be seen. However, if you prefer a more upright seating position then just attach the plush seat to the top deck behind the cockpit.
Molded SUP-kayak hybrid
For something robust and durable, a molded SUP-kayak is a great option, especially if paddling with dogs and kids! The Hi Life 11.0 from Perception Kayaks provides a ton of stability and loads of space for cargo and kids. The seat is positioned high up for maximum comfort making it a good option for fishing, too. The molded nature of the construction also means that there are lots of spots for accessories and storage.
SUP-kayak hybrid for fishing
SUP-yak hybrids are becoming increasingly popular in the fishing community due to their stability whilst standing without compromising on comfort and space. The Cresent Kayaks SUP+ Paddle Board Kayak is another molded board which boasts a catamaran-style hull for superior paddle performance. This style of paddle board kayak hybrid also features an upright and highly comfortable seat that is elevated off the deck and removable for use elsewhere.
Paddle board kayak hybrid pros
There’s no denying that kayaks and paddle boards, as individual vessels, both have their merits. They are suited to different types of paddling and ways of enjoying time on the water. If you want to explore the benefits of each in terms of personal suitability then read our kayak vs stand up paddle board article.
That said, combining the two also has huge benefits over one or the other. Here are the pros of paddle board kayak hybrids:
- A varied paddling position, either standing or sitting, makes comfort levels soar. As a result, this means more time out on the water and more enjoyment.
- You only need one vessel in your life, unless you are wanting to specialise in a particular area of paddle boarding or kayaking.
- Standing up gives you a better view, both of the scenery around you and of the water below you.
- Paddling from a seated position is generally easier in the wind than standing up.
- They are difficult to flip over which makes them child and pet friendly. This is thanks to a stable base which makes jumping on and off easy. There’s also lots of space to sit.
- Paddling in different ways decreases fatigue due to different muscles used and the ability to switch from one to the other.
- You can secure lots of gear which is easy to access whilst on the board.
- They are great for fishing due to their stable base and the ability to stand up from a relaxed seating position when the action begins!
- They are easy to transport thanks to their relatively low weight and ability to be stacked on a roof rack.
- If you get a soggy backside you can stand up to let it dry out! More comfortable, all round.
- The ability to sit down makes learning to SUP more appealing. This is especially important and less off-putting for those who don’t pick it up straight away.
Paddle board kayak hybrid cons
With all those wonderful pros to combining a SUP and a kayak in one single floating vessel, it’s hard to imagine why SUP-yaks aren’t more popular. Firstly, the concept is pretty new and not enough people know about them. But there are also some downsides to paddle board kayak hybrids, although not many. These include:
- They don’t excel at any particular area of paddling. They just do the basics well.
- Kayaking is simply not the same experience on a SUP-yak hybrid as in a proper kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks are the most comparable type of kayaking experience.
- SUP-yaks are generally limited to calm, slow-moving bodies of water.
SUP kayak hybrid paddle
As well as having the option to sit down, the success of SUP kayak hybrids is highly dependent on having an adaptable paddle. Recreational SUP paddles usually come in two pieces: the paddle end and the handle end. They slot together and are secured in place with a push button, and the handle end is usually extendable to suit the desired length of the individual paddler.
Paddling from a seated position with such a paddle is certainly doable, but it’s not easy, nor efficient. To fix this is very simple. Remove the handle segment of the SUP paddle and replace it with another paddle segment. And hey presto! You’ve got yourself a double-ended kayak paddle!
Conclusion: are SUP kayak hybrids for you?
Having paddled SUPs with and without seats as well as a variety of different types of kayaks over the years, I can certainly see the merits of having both a kayak and a SUP in your life. They perform very differently and allow access to different bodies of water, different types of paddling and different ways of enjoying the water.
If you are hoping to pursue a more specific type of paddling like sea or whitewater paddling, then opting for a specialist kayak is the obvious choice from a performance point of view. There are also SUPs available for both of these types of paddling.
If you’re going to get a paddle board whatever, then getting one with a removable seat is a no-brainer to me. It leaves you with more options for both comfort and efficiency. Plus, the existence of a removable seat doesn’t take away from the paddle boarding experience or performance of the paddle board.
If you’re looking for a recreational vessel for fun days out at the beach or lake with family and friends, then I highly recommend a SUP kayak hybrid above a kayak or regular paddle board. They offer a ton of versatility, fun and comfort, with the ability to pack them up with gear for occasional overnight camping trips.