Can You Use A Whitewater Kayak On A Lake?

If you’re new to kayaking, you might be wondering can you use a white water kayak on a lake? In this article, we’ll answer your question about what a whitewater kayak is designed for and the difference between whitewater and lake kayaking.

Can You use A Whitewater Kayak On A Lake?

The short answer is yes, but you’ll struggle to get the kayak to go in a straight line. it’ll be slower, and less efficient, making it more tiring and harder for you to paddle in flat water.

If you’re going with a group of friends, be ready to have a harder paddle than other people who have recreational kayaks. You’ll likely be left behind, and extremely tired when you reach your destination.

So let’s take a closer look at why whitewater kayaks are not the best for lakes.

What Is A Whitewater Kayak?

They are much shorter than typical kayaks. Their short design is what makes them excel in maneuvering turbulent whitewater rivers, and the various classes of rapids, even class V’s. These kayaks are popular among people who love kayaking on rivers, oceans.

These kayaks have two types of hulls, a planing hull, and a displacement hull. Planing hulls are flat, therefore they create a wide footprint on the waters. The flat hull makes them more stable and can handle surf waves extremely well.

Displacement hulls are rounded hulls. These hulls aren’t easily found on new kayaks, as they’ve been replaced with the planing hulls. At one point, they were the standard for whitewater kayaks. However, it was found that they tipped much easier and are not as easily maneuverable and stable as the planing hulls.

That said, no matter whether you have a newer one with a planing hull or an older model with displacement hulls, you’re going to have a harder time using it on a lake.

What Is Lake Kayaking?

Just like it sounds, lake kayaking means your kayaking on a body of water that is surrounded by land. It’s one of the most popular methods of kayaking because for the most part it is considered safe.

With over 250 fresh-water lakes throughout the United States, no wonder it’s one of the most popular.

What’s The Difference Between Whitewater Kayaking and Lake Kayaking?

Whitewater kayaking is kayaking through fast, shallow stretches of water, that are classified as rapid classes, making it high-risk kayaking. This type of kayaking is better suited for people who are more experienced. That said, if it’s your first time on a kayak, you can take a guided tour, where a professional guide will take you through the rough water, ensuring you stay safe.

Lake kayaking consists of kayaking on flat water. It’s perfect for beginners or anyone who just wants to spend a casual day on the water. Since you’re kayaking on flat water, there’s a low risk of danger or falling out of the kayak. That said, you should always be aware of weather and water conditions, as it could cause a good day out to become a nightmare.

Even though lake kayaking is low risk, you should still take precautions and wear a life jacket and know what to do if you fall out of the kayak.

Why Whitewater Kayaks Are Not Suited for Lakes


Depending on the kind you get, they will be much smaller than a recreational kayak. Whitewater kayaks range from 7.5-8 feet long. This compact design makes it easy for paddlers to do a variety of tricks, loops, bow stalls, and cartwheels in turbulent waters.

Recreational kayaks are designed specifically for casual kayaking, therefore, will do much better on lakes, ponds, and other types of flat water.


The hull is designed for moving water, and in turn, is very responsive to turning strokes. It is not suited to go straight in flat water. This makes it extremely challenging to float or paddle in a straight line on a lake.

If you’re not paying attention, you’ll lose control much easier than kayaking in a lake kayak.

In addition, a whitewater kayak will go slower on a lake, making it challenging to keep up with other kayaks. These vessels are not designed for extreme paddling, instead, they want to be pushed by the current.

That said, you won’t have any problems keeping up with a paddleboard.

It’s Harder to Get Back Into

All whitewater kayaks are sit-in, therefore, making them more challenging to get back into if it flips. Why does this matter? Because the kayak will be more unstable when paddling on a lake, pond, or other flat body of water.

Before attempting to take it out on the lake, you’ll want to practice getting back into a sit-in kayak. You don’t want to be in a situation, where you fall into the water, without knowing what to do, or how to get back in the vessle.

What Kind of Kayak Is Best for Lake Kayaking?

Lake kayaks are kayaks geared more towards beginners. They are often referred to as recreational kayaks. These kayaks are less than 12 feet in length and more than 24 inches in width and weigh between 35-50 pounds.

There are a variety of different recreational kayaks to choose from such as:

  • Touring kayaks: These kayaks are more robust than the traditional sit-in or sit-on-top kayak. They are best suited for longer excursions, and provide plenty of storage, with excellent protection from the elements.
  • Recreational Kayaks: These are the most popular and are often referred to as “yaks.” They are designed for the casual paddler that is more laid back and just wants to enjoy being on the water. There are many different options to choose from such as sit-on-top, sit-in, or tandem. (two people paddle together.)
  • Inflatable Kayaks: Just like it sounds, these kayaks are require air before it can be used. They are less expensive than other types of lake kayaks. The downside is they are not as easy to manuever, especially, if you get caught out in a storm.
  • Fishing Kayaks: These are geared towards anglers, because they are perfect for lake waters. They are wider, heavier, and more stable than a recreational kayak. Because they are designed for fishing, they offer plenty of storage, and you can even stand up in one without tipping over (of course you may have to practice a bit first).
  • Childrens’ kayaks: They are much smaller than adult kayaks, usually 6 ft. The paddles have smaller diameter shafts, making it easier for a child with small hands to hold them. Some popular kayaks that come to mind for kids are Old Town Kayaks, Lifetime, Intex and etc.

Final Word

While it’s possible to use a whitewater kayak on the lake, however, be prepared to work harder. These kayaks are much shorter than other types of kayaks, making them easier to navigate turbulent whitewater rivers.

It doesn’t mean you can’t use it on a slow-moving or flat river. Just be prepared to get a good workout in. And you’ll likely get left behind because people will get tired of waiting for you to catch up.

If you usually spend your time on turbulent waters and don’t want to spend the money on a lake kayak, then it is possible. Just be cautious as the likelihood of tipping increases when paddling on flat water.

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