Paddle vs. Pedal Kayaks: What Do You Need?

the big debate on Paddle vs. Pedal KayaksIn the kayak market, the big debate is Paddle vs. Pedal Kayaks. There are generally two forms of propulsion that can be selected: paddle-propelled kayaks and pedal-propelled kayaks. Both propulsion methods have their advantages and drawbacks depending on factors such as what you plan to do in your kayak and the water conditions you want to traverse. For example, you might want different styles of kayaks if you plan to cross a shallow pond as opposed to a fishing trip in the windy ocean. Some sportsmen might prefer a solid body kayak whereas others might want a folding kayak. Below, we will touch upon each of these kayaking methods, highlight where each style excels, and guide you toward the optimal kayak for your life.

Paddle Kayaks

The paddle-propelled kayak is most likely what you’re used to. Utilizing a paddle to push you through the water is traditionally the method of operation for a kayak; this method is tried and true. Here are some of the pros of using a paddle on your kayak:

  • Cheaper and more available – When compared to their pedal counterparts, paddle kayaks are generally cheaper and more readily available for purchase. This stems from the fact that paddle kayaks are the traditional form, meaning there are more models of paddle kayaks and these models are more widespread.
  • You can stand – A paddle kayak gives you the ability to stand up on your boat and survey your surroundings. Whether you are trying to get a better angle to see any fish in the water or you’re standing up to take in the scenery around you, having the ability to rise above your kayak is a great benefit to have.
  • Paddles allow you to access more water – the low profile of the paddle kayak in the water makes navigating shallow or tight water much more practical compared to the pedal kayak, whose extra equipment in the water can cause you to get stuck in shallow areas.

While there are plenty of reasons to choose a paddle kayak, there are some drawbacks to using these watercraft as well:

  • They are slow and less maneuverable – the simple fact of paddle kayaks is that they are slower and bulky in the water. The paddle generally falls short of its pedal counterpart in terms of speed and efficiency. Turning can be slow and difficult and top speeds will be low. This can make traversing some water conditions, such as a windy, wavy down on the ocean, much more difficult, though not impossible.
  • Your hands will be occupied – needing a paddle to move means that you need to keep the paddle with you at all times. Even when you’re sitting still in your kayak, your hands still need to be set aside to hold the paddle. This is especially detrimental if you want to fish or do other activities that require free hands.

Pedal Kayak

The pedal kayak compared to the paddle kayak provides a great opportunity to get a reprieve from the downsides of a paddle kayak. Let’s dive into the positives behind getting a pedal kayak:

  • Speed and efficiency – The calling card for pedal kayaks is their speed through the water. What’s more, this ease in propelling a pedal kayak means that you, the operator, have to expend less energy to move the kayak along. This is especially important if you plan to traverse large lakes or the ocean.
  • Easier – While not the traditional kayak motion, propelling a pedal kayak is quite simple. The pedals are user-friendly and feel like riding a bike. Anyone can get into a pedal kayak and cruise across the water. There is no need to learn optimal paddle movements to move quickly and efficiently through the water.
  • You use your feet to move – Without a paddle to hold, your hands become free. This is especially appreciated with activities like fishing where you can cast and reel while continuing to move your kayak.

While the pedal kayak does excel in certain aspects, there are downsides to utilizing this style as well:

  • More expensive – When compared to their paddle counterparts, pedal kayaks are generally going to be more expensive to obtain. These models are generally less available, require more material, and have an added layer of complexity in manufacturing that makes the price increase. However, the price increase brings with it speed and efficiency increases as well – something to keep in mind.
  • Heavier – Pedal kayaks are bulkier, heavier, and therefore can be harder to move. Maneuvering your pedal kayak into the water will be more difficult than your standard paddle kayak.
  • Not always great for shallow water – The pedal attachment below the kayak makes maneuvering into shallow, tight areas of water more difficult and may result in damage to the craft or getting stuck.

At the end of the day, both styles of kayaks can be extremely effective watercraft for all sorts of activities including fishing and leisure. Analyzing both the body of water you wish to traverse along with what activities you plan to do with your kayak are key factors in deciding which propulsion method is best for your kayak. Either way, all styles of kayak will set you up for a fantastic day on the water!


Salt Life