River Kayak vs Sea Kayak: What’s the Key differences

River kayak vs sea kaya

We all love to kayak whether it be a 50yr old adult or a 17yr old teenager since kayak doesn’t have any age limit. Kayaking is a very fun activity that doesn’t come with seasonal restrictions, meaning that it can be done anytime, all around the year. However, not everyone knows the proper places where kayaks can be used, and that is what we will be talking about today. So, buckle up and let us go on a journey to see what makes each of these kayaks special.

You can also learn more about longer kayak vs shorter kayak comparisons by reading our article on it.

Before we get started, let us take a quick look at a little comparison between river kayak vs sea kayak.

Comparison between river kayak vs sea kayak

Key DifferenceRiver KayakSea Kayak
Other namesCan also be referenced as the recreational kayakCan also be referenced as the touring kayak
SizeTheir length can kick off from 8ft and can go all the way to 13ft longTheir length begins from 14ft and can end all the way to 18ft long
SpeedIts speed isn’t much which lets you look around your surrounding a lot more.Goes at a rapid speed which lets it move past the strong waves of the ocean
MassIt starts from 16 kilograms and can go all the way to 18 kilogramsCan Start from 13 kilograms and could go all the way to 32 kilograms
StructureWider on the sides which  makes it more stable and easier to handleIt is narrower on the sides which makes it easier to go through the waves and makes it faster on water
PurposeMainly for getting the hang of it, sightseeing  and recreationalMainly for travelling at a far distance, racing and camping  
LevelFor beginners and those who are using a kayak after a really long time to make sure that they get adjusted on how to use it.For those who have experience and have been using a kayak for a long time
Location for usageAs the name suggests, rivers and big sized ponds where the water is calm and no strong water waves are presentAs the name suggests, mainly on lakes, sea, and the ocean where there are strong waves for the kayak to tackle
CostIts price can begin from $100 and can go all the way to a maximum of $1200Its prices can  from $2000 and go till $5000 and sometimes can even go higher than that if you are looking for making your own customized kayak

Deep Analysis of River Kayak:

Since river kayaks are talked about first in the table, let us start with that and go in depth about river kayaks. River kayaks are not only known as river kayaks but can also be called other names such as recreational kayak that can be used for sightseeing and exploring your surroundings on a regular speed that isn’t too fast since you will be paddling on calm and benign water on rivers and big-sized ponds.

Now let’s talk its build and the basic features. Firstly, one must look at its mass as mass is a very important factor because if the boat is heavy and then a much heavier person sits on it, there are very high chances of flipping over or even sinking down.

Therefore, we must make sure we focus on the mass first. River kayaks are not usually that heavy even though they are wide in structure, people think that they will be heavy but they aren’t. Their mass starts from 16 kilograms and ends at around 18 kilograms, which is basically the equivalent to the mass of an average coyote.

Secondly, the length of the boat must be considered even though river kayaks are not that long since their length starts from 8ft and can go all the way to 13ft long and to make it sound simpler, it has the equivalent length of a surfboard so now you know how long it is in reality.

Since we have now covered what river kayaks are in general, let us get down to talking about what makes them special and what makes them not so special.

Advantages of river kayaks:

  • Very easy to use

When compared to sea kayaks, river kayaks are very easy to use since they don’t require much skills and on top of that, you will be paddling and steering it on calm and gentle water where there are no strong waves or even waves, in general, will exist hence no force will be present that will set you back or attack you.

  • Budget friendly

When it comes to kayaks, one will think that they are very expensive and they are right if they are talking about sea kayaks, customized kayaks or even some sort of exclusive kayaks. However, river kayaks do not cost that much and known to be budget friendly as their cost price starts from only $100 and can cost a maximum of $1200 making it very cheap.

  • Perfect choice for beginners

When we start to go to school, we start with learning the alphabet first, then start to make words with those alphabets, and then make sentences with words and keep on going. Similar to that situation, a river kayak is the perfect and the most suitable option for beginners since they never kayaked before, and starting with a river kayak will let them understand all the aspects of kayaking and lean them more into kayaking. Without water waves going back and forth, it will be easier for beginners to paddle and steer and learn all about kayaking.

Disadvantages of river kayaks

  • Can’t go at a fast rate

River kayaks are only meant for recreational purposes and that’s mainly it because if you go a fast rate, then you won’t be able to enjoy the views and your sightseeing adventures. After paddling for some time, it can get tiring and since you are going at a slow speed, it will take a lot of time to reach the land making the whole process very time-consuming.

Since we have covered half of the aspects of the major difference between river kayaks and sea kayaks, let us hop on to the other topic of the comparison and that is the sea kayak and get into all kinds of detail about it.

Deep Analysis of Sea Kayak:

A sea kayak is not only known as a sea kayak but also as a touring kayak since a lot of people use it to go on aquatic tours and explore everything around them and beyond. However, for exploring with a sea kayak, a river isn’t enough, and it needs to be taken to bigger areas with lots and lots of water waves coming at you.

Using it in a river is a very boring activity since it proves no challenge as the waters are calm and gentle, but they are built for water waves and going at a rapid speed. To make sure you get the most out of it, always use them in lakes, seas, and oceans where it will prove to be challenging and exciting.

Let us start off by taking it’s built and begin with its mass since that’s a major aspect that needs to be considered. It isn’t that heavy since the least it can weigh is 13 kilograms and the maximum it can weigh is 32 kilograms to compare it with real-lif eobjects, then in that case the least it can weigh is the average weight of a wolverine and the maximum it can weigh is the average weight of an adult dalmatian.

So, that should tell you that they are not that heavy in nature. Secondly, its length is enormous, but how enormous exactly? Well, the shortest sea kayak you will find in the market will be at least 14ft long in length and the biggest will be around 18ft long.

However, there are people around the world who will get even longer sea kayaks by making their own customized versions of it which makes them much more Mighty. To make sure you get an idea of how long it is, it is around the length of a ping pong table, so that should tell you how long it is. Now that we have covered the basic aspects of it, let us get down to see what is so unique about them and what sets them back.

Advantages of Sea kayak:

  • Can go really fast

If you ever want to travel like The Flash on water, then a sea kayak is the perfect option for you. Why is that? To start off with, it’s structure. It is very narrow in structure, which makes them very fast and lets them easily dodge and go through strong water waves without anything holding them back. They are so fast that they can pass through strong waves within seconds without any trouble at all. The can even go through waterfalls without any trouble while still maintaining the perfect balance.

  • Enormous length

Its length is enormous and that’s considerable since it’s a long kayak. But what makes it length so special? Well, the main reason why they are able to move really fast and go through waves while maintaining it’s speed is mainly due to it’s length. Usually while paddling back and forth, you will get hit by a wave and that might slow you down. However, that’s not a problem with sea kayaks since no matter how many waves hit it, it just won’t slow down unless you stop paddling.

  • Exquisite choice for experts

Unlike river kayaks, sea kayaks need a lot of training and paddling to become the best sea kayaker out there. You cannot become a professional just by using it overnight. If you have never used a kayak before, then you need to start with a river kayak to make sure you learn the basics and then get yourself a sea kayak and keep on practicing that until you learn all the basics about it while also learning about few tricks and tips in the middle. Once you have gotten the hang of it, then you can freely use it without being worried about anything. Therefore, for people who have kayaked for a long time or are professionals at kayaking, then this serves as an exquisite choice for them.

Disadvantages of sea kayak:

Small cockpit:

Unlike river kayaks, sea kayaks are not equipped with a big cockpit, which might make the kayaker uncomfortable if they are fat or tall since it will be hard for them to sit down properly and adjust. To properly adjust to the small cockpit, you will need to use it constantly and make your body adjust to that specific area of space. You also won’t be able to fit two people in your sea kayak since it’s so small.


Unlike river kayaks, sea kayaks do not come at a cheaper price, but instead it is way higher when compared to a river kayak. A sea kayak cost more than double when compared to a river kayak as the cheapest price for a sea kayak is around $2000 which is a lot of money, and it can go as high as $5000 just for it and if you want to build your own customized mighty sea kayak, then you will need to spend more than $5000 to get that sea kayak.

Final Verdict:

Now that we have discussed both river and sea kayaks and seen what makes them so special and what sets them back, which kayak would I choose for myself? To simply state it, I would choose a river kayak as it is very easy and comfortable to use and you can use it for recreational purposes which sounds very peaceful and pleasant to experience. You also don’t need to paddle hard to fight against strong water waves while using a river kayak, since you will be using it on rivers where the water is calm and gentle. On top of all these, river kayaks are very much cheaper when compared to sea kayaks.


Upon further analysis, we have seen what the major differences between river kayak vs sea kayak are and what makes so exciting and also dull at the same time. Since we are more peaceful and love spending time on calm waters, I would personally choose a river kayak, However, don’t let that hold you against getting a sea kayak since it is also a very interesting type of kayak that you can use for exploring the aquatic regions where the water is very harsh and rough and will try to make sure that you don’t pass through.

None of those will hold a sea kayak from going through them, and it’s not just only going through them as it will go at a very lightning speed that will make the water realize that it did not stand any chances against your sea kayak. But make sure that you have lots and lots of experience about kayaking before you get yourself a sea kayak, while also making sure that you have lots and lots of money to buy it. I hope that this piece of the article was able helpful in determining the difference between river kayaks vs sea kayaks. If you have any other questions about kayaking, then you can refer to our other articles which might help you. Good luck with your kayaking adventures!


What will happen if I take a river kayak and try to paddle that in a sea?

That is a huge mistake as river kayaks are not built to support the lakes, seas and oceans since they have strong water waves going back and forth and can easily throw you off it, and you might be big trouble since you might get stranded in the middle of nowhere if you are kayaking all alone and even if people try to help you, it won’t be easy since the strong water waves will keep on pushing back and forth.

What will happen if I take my sea kayak out and while I’m paddling in a spot with strong water waves, I decide to stop paddling?

You can stop paddling whenever you like but if you stop paddling while fighting strong water waves, that will be huge mistake as you won’t have any kind of attack or defense plan against the strong waves which can easily keep on hitting you and possibly throw you off your boat and the rest wil just get uglier.

Between River and sea kayak, which can take turns more easily?

A sea kayak can take quicker and easier turns since it has a narrow and long body to make sure that the kayak can easily take a turn without slowing down or hitting any sides.

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