WHITEWATER VS FLATWATER KAYAKS
Written by Denny Hugo, co-founder of Buoy Watersports
If you have been shopping for an inflatable kayak, you might have run into these two categories. You might be asking what is the difference?
Tracking vs Maneuverability
Tracking describes a boat’s ability to travel in a straight path, and is important for making sure that each paddle stroke you take helps you travel in the direction that you wish to go. A boat’s length, depth, and fins or rudders all contribute to its ability to track well.
For flatwater paddling, paddlers often prioritize tracking, as they want to be able to stay on track for longer distances, and don’t want to waste time or energy traveling in a zig-zag pattern. Whitewater paddlers, on the other hand, need to be able to change directions quickly, to move around rocks or other obstructions and to hit waves at the correct angle.
Whitewater kayaks will often be shorter, have flatter bottoms, and avoid having any tail fin to increase their maneuverability. Buoy Kayaks are all designed to track well, and are meant to primarily be paddled in flat water. While they can be paddled in up to Class II whitewater, they should not be mistaken for whitewater kayaks.
Draining vs Dryness
Inflatable whitewater kayaks are often referred to as Self-Bailing kayaks. This means that there is an inflatable floor with holes that will allow any water to drain out. For whitewater, this is ideal, as any wave that crashes over the side of the boat will quickly drain out of the bottom, and the paddler will not need to bail the water out by hand or dump the whole boat over.
For flatwater paddling, the holes in the bottom will allow small amounts of water to seep up from the floor. If you are carrying a lot of weight in the boat, there may be a small puddle, and any gear that you are storing in the bow or stern may get wet.
Buoy Kayaks are designed with drain plugs. For most flatwater paddling sessions, you will not need to worry about waves crashing over the sides of the boat, and the plugs will help you and your gear stay dry inside. For more intense whitewater, you will want to use an inflatable whitewater kayak with more bail holes, as it will let the water drain faster than a Buoy Kayak can.
Weight vs Durability
In general, the thicker the material, the more durable, and heavier, it is.Buoy kayaks are designed to balance weight and durability for flatwater paddling. This means that they can easily be lifted by almost anyone and can handle all of the normal rocks, bumps and drags that go along with a day on the water, however they are not designed to stand up to the demands of serious whitewater. Because the consequences of a leak are much higher, potentially life-threatening, on whitewater rivers, inflatable whitewater kayaks are built with much thicker, heavier material. For this safety reason, you should avoid testing the limits of a Buoy Kayak in dangerous, swiftwater scenarios.
Buoy is dedicated to making the best value premium flatwater kayaks on the market. Rocky Mountain Rafts, a sister company to Buoy Watersports, is the fastest growing whitewater raft and kayak manufacturer over the last decade. If you are looking for a Kayak to primarily paddle whitewater, you should look at the Animas or Taylor Kayaks, both of which are ideally suited to whitewater and exhibit all of the whitewater qualities mentioned above.