the SUP guru

man on a paddle board next to a woman paddling a kayak in the ocean inlet

Paddle Board VS Kayak: Which is Best for Fishing & Touring? Pros, Cons & Speed Test

“The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else.” Wise words said indeed, and it’s the same for water sports.

Comparing kayaks and SUPs is like comparing apples and oranges, potatoes and sweet potatoes, horses and cattle – well, you get the point.

But, if you’re determined to make the most your water vessel buy and you can’t decide between the two, let’s help you out. You might not have to choose one over the other just yet! Because this summer we’ve taken an in depth look into both so we can give you lowdown on each

man on a paddle board next to a woman paddling a kayak in the ocean inlet

SUP VS Kayak Pros & Cons

While there’s a lot of similarities between the two vessels, they each have their own benefits and drawbacks to offer. Let’s explore where the two meet and greet and where they boast their unique attributes.


Pros & Cons of a SUP

  • Cool factor/Aesthetic appeal
  • Easily portable
  • Allows for multiple riders and pets on deck
  • Offers full-body workout
  • Versatile for many activities – paddling, surfing, racing, fishing, yoga, etc
  • Can tour and sightsee
  • Maneuverability
  • Can attach kayak seats

  • Prone to damage
  • Requires bungee cords for on-deck storage
  • iSUP models require inflation for use

Pros and Cons of a Kayak

  • Very stable
  • Easier for beginners
  • Has more storage compartments
  • Offers double-blade configuration
  • Allows for comfortable sitting and relaxing with back rest
  • Can tour and sightsee
  • Very durable and less prone to damage
  • Maneuverability

  • Not very portable and convenient to tote
  • Not as “cool” or popular as newly discovered SUPping
  • Limited to sitting down
  • Activity-limited

Even with the striking differences made obvious, there’s some benefits that the kayak and SUP share. Where do they meet in the middle?

They both offer:

  • Maneuverability
  • Sightseeing and touring benefits
  • Comfort
  • Price comparisons

SUP VS Kayak Speed Test

This is a very difficult comparison to make. When it comes to speed, it all comes down to type of vessel, water conditions, weather, and skill level of the paddler. Kayaks seem to offer more when it comes to obvious advantages. Let’s take a paddle through the choppy waters of this debate.


Wind Resistance

Wind resistance is a big disadvantage to SUPpers because they’re standing. On a SUP, your exposed body catches the wind and slows you down. In a kayak, you’re lower to the water, catch less wind, and experience less drag.

  • Winner: Kayak




Unfortunately for SUPpers, kayakers are at an advantage with their double-blade oars. However, an experienced SUPper can offer mean competition for the kayaker if water and wind conditions are ideal. A SUPper does have to take into consideration their forward stroke technique and the design of their race SUP such as displacement versus planing hull. A kayak that employs a retractable skeg does have another advantage, saving stroke time and energy against unfavorable conditions.

  • Winner: Kayak



What are you SUPping on and what are you kayaking on? As a general rule of thumb, the longer the kayak, the faster it is. For a SUP, it’s got to be slim and long to maximize speed. Displacement for flat water, planing hulls for downwind speed, and board weights are all vital aspects of selecting a fast racing SUP. Kayaks on the other hand are much faster when they’re made with composites like Kevlar, Carbon, Fiberglass, and other variants. They should also be very slim and without much cargo on board to maximize speed.

  • Winner: Tie


Average Speed

Undoubtedly, the highest speeds attained with a SUP or a kayak is only going to be achieved by a strong, experienced paddler. The bottom line is, the comfortable, average speed a SUP covers is about 3-4 knots on an all-purpose SUP, and a speed of up to 8 knots on a pimped-out race SUP. The comfortable, average speed a kayak covers is about 3 knots. Beginners start out at about 2-2.5 knots. However, an experienced kayaker can “jog” at a 4-5 knot pace.

  • Winner: SUP

stand up paddle boarding tips


Bottom Line on Speed:

The kayak is notorious for being faster than a SUP. However, there are so many control methods that still need to be accounted for as well as many other variables that are out of our control. If you’re going to compare speed between the two vessels, you’ll have to match the appropriate comparisons with the same skill-level participants for a fair match.


SUP VS Kayak Activity Versatility

As we’ve already established, the SUP is the winner when it comes to activity versatility. You can do a lot with just a paddle board and a paddle. But, how does the kayak hold up against the SUP? What if you only plan to do one on-board activity for the rest of your paddling life?


YAK & SUP Fishing

Kayak fishing is often called “YAK” fishing! It’s been done for a long time, well before SUPs came around. However, SUP sales for fishing are quickly closing in. With a high quality, stable SUP, you’re obviously standing. The advantage? See more fish, catch more fish! While you can stand on a kayak and fish, many anglers only do this to get to their spot before sitting down. If you’re standing all day long in your kayak, then you should definitely consider a paddle board – just sayin’.

Besides, SUPs are easier to transport and haul one-handed versus a YAK. A SUP also supports more natural movement and exercise because you’re standing. The workout is tiresome and can be awkward when exercising sitting down for long periods of time. When it comes to the paddleboard vs kayak for fishing debate, the SUP definitely has an advantage here.

  • Winner: SUP




SUPs have come a long way to compete against a kayak when it comes to long-distance touring. They’re both outfitted to last an entire day out on the water. When it comes to sight-seeing, they’re both very apt vessels to get you to a spot where you can enjoy that breathtaking view. However, extreme long-distance paddling is more comfortably done with a kayak.

A kayak also has more storage compartments to pack all your gear and necessities, the double-blade oar gets you where you want faster with less fatigue, and you’re sitting which also decreases paddling fatigue.

  • Winner: Kayak



On-board Activities

Yup, we’re talking about yoga, sun-bathing, and all of the like! The flat surface of a SUP ensures that you can maximize as much on-board space for any activity that you would like to brave on water. Who says you can’t take a pal and a game of Yahtzee on board? What about piling on a couple kids and the dog?

The space and balance for multiple riders for on-board activities is certainly in the winning field of the SUP. With a kayak, you’d miss out on all the cool SUP games like Paddle Polo, Paddle Golf, SUP dodgeball, and capture the flag SUP style!

  • Winner: SUP

health benefits of stand up paddle boarding


SUP Kayak Hybrid

After everything that we’ve discussed, we’ve probably made the decision even harder for you to choose between the SUP or the YAK. But, we have some good news for you. Have both! If you can’t afford to buy one of each, then consider a SUP kayak hybrid. We see the floating question marks hanging around your head. Let’s clear those up.


What is a SUP Kayak?

A SUP-YAK combines the best features of both a SUP and a kayak. They often sport kayak seats and storage compartments, however, they maintain the feature of being able to stand and paddle just like a SUP. Some fancy versions even sport spring-loaded skegs, built-in wheels, and thermoform ABS plastic. They can be really unobtrusive like the Ocean Kayak Nalu Hybrid and the Sun Dolphin Seaquest, which we reviewed.

SUP-YAKs can even be activity-specific. Take the Imagine Surf V2 Wizard Angler SUP Stand Up Fishing Paddle Board for example. You can even save yourself some extra cash with a stand up paddle board kayak combo like this Burke 10.5 ft Stand up Paddle-Kayak Board Package.

man and woman paddling on ocean kayak nulu paddleboards small


SUP it Up!

To SUP it up, you don’t have to replace or reduce the value of either the kayak or the SUP to decide between the two. While SUPs are new in the race, they’re a complement to the kayak, and with the SUP-YAK hybrid, you can have the best of both worlds.

At the end of the day, you’re still getting out, seeing some sun, and hitting the water. You really can have it all!