Is there a single kayak for all purposes? (whitewater and lakes)
Today’s topic is one that so many of my customers frequently ask about. Crossover kayaks (the industry marketing term) are pretty popular and seem like they really HAVE found the perfect combination. As an unaffiliated industry pro, and one who has demoed them, let me explain why appearances are deceiving.
- In whitewater, or moving rivers, you need the ability to make instant changes of direction. The best kayaks in this class have a planning, or flat hull design, which helps in quick changes of location in an instant. They are also usually 6-9 feet in length. Taking a 12′ crossover kayak on these rivers will be a challenge when you need to ferry from on side of the river to the other, quickly. In real terms, they are too slow to respond to instant course changes. They would be okay in a class 1 river, like the nearby Flint, for example, but for class 2 and above, with faster current and more obstacles to navigate around, they are just too big and bulky for that purpose.
- On flatwater, or lakes, the opposite effect holds true. Too small to paddle any distance efficiently. Even with a drop down skeg rudder, to help the kayak to track straighter, they are a beast to paddle, especially in comparison to a touring/sea kayak. I have paddled a crossover on the lake and it is like paddling a bathtub. And if you’re with other paddlers in longer kayaks (14′ and longer) The hull design of a crossover pales in comparison to a longboat, which are specifically designed for miles and miles of easy paddling. Accomplished kayakers in touring/sea kayaks can easily log 30+ miles in one day. 10 miles in a crossover will have your arms falling off.
What I have mentioned to many of my customers trying to do both types of paddling is this: Buy a low cost short kayak for moving rivers ( they will get pretty beat up on them) Then invest in a quality touring/sea kayak. Longboats (as we refer to them) are better made and have a much longer lifespan, if taken care of properly. I’ve had my Valley Aquanaut for over 7 years now and that kayak and I have logged thousands of miles together doing things like kayak camping and distance races. If you love exploring the wonders of nature like I do, you’ll never regret that investment. Long boating is a sport that you can do for a lifetime.
One last note: If you’re going to jump into kayaking with both feet, another critical investment will be in the type of lifejacket, or PFD to purchase. Thousand of them on the market, which will be the one you’ll want? Stay tuned to our next blog as we discuss that very subject! Until then, may your paddle always be wet, and your love of kayaking never diminish!