Whitewater kayaking can offer an enormous amount of adrenaline-fuelled fun. The waters that you’ll be navigating when you’re out white water kayaking will be far more dangerous than normal – they’ll be made vastly of fast-moving waters, and may include all manners of obstacles such as rocks and waterfalls.
It’s important though that, whether or not you’re a beginner that’s just starting out or a pro that’s been kayaking for years, white water kayaking can be a risky business and it’s essential that you’re properly equipped with a good kayak before you take to these faster-moving, obstacle-ridden waters.
In this guide, we’ve compiled a list of what we think are the very best white water kayaks available today. For each boat, we’ve reviewed it, highlighting its key features and what it has to offer. In addition to this, we’ve also included a small guide on what to look for generally when you’re considering purchasing a new white water kayak, and how to find the best for your needs and budget.
All About Whitewater Kayaks – What Are They & What Types Are Available?
On first thinking about buying a white water kayak, you might not think that there’s all that many available. However, you would be most mistaken. The white water kayak market is vast, with a huge number of different variations of white water kayak available. At first, choosing the correct one could be quite difficult. However, once you become informed of the types that are available and what they have to offer, it shouldn’t be all that difficult at all. That’s where we come in!
Let’s take a look at the different types of white water kayak available.
River Runner Kayak – River runners are towards the smaller end of the white water kayaks scale. They are short, typically between 6 and 8 feet in length, and are designed for those paddlers that want to jump around in or do tricks through the white water. The great thing about this style of boat is that it allows the paddler to stay in control of the boat whilst doing so.
Creek Kayak – Creek kayaks are slightly larger than river runners. They are typically sized between 7 and 9 feet, and are specifically designed for some of the harshest white water that’s out there. Think waterfalls, steep sections, and constant fast-moving waters. They have an extreme rocker that means the boat can be easily tossed around without capsizing. They also have an extremely good level of control.
Long Boat Kayak – Long boat kayaks are perfect for those more “in-between” white waters. What do we mean by this? Well, if you’re planning on heading down a river tha has a number of fast-moving white water sections but that also has some calm sections, a long boat kayak is perfect as it allows you to move through those calmer sections more easily, whilst still being able to tackle those that are faster. In addition to ease of paddling, longer boats also offer more luxuries, such as increased storage options.
Riot Kayaks Magnum 80 – Whitewater Creeking Kayak
The Riot Kayaks Magnum 80 falls into the second of the aforementioned boat types. Being a creeking kayak, the Magnum 80 is perfect for navigating down a fast-moving, tight river. It will handle bumps, drops, and getting thrown around very well indeed.
At just over 8 feet in length and almost 27 inches in width, the Magnum 80 has a relatively stubby design that, in turn, makes for a very high level of stability. This stability means that the boat is great for whitewater kayakers across a number of different levels.
The shape of the Magnum is amazing, both in terms of aesthetics and performance. The unique shape of the hull means that the Riot Magnum can blast through the obstacles that it comes up against. The Magnum 80 has a displacement hull, which allows it to blast through the water with minimal resistance. Although this does mean that boat can’t travel as fast on calm waters, this isn’t what it was designed for. The Magnum 80 was designed for the roughest of whitewater, and handles it accordingly well.
Some Key Points
- One seater, sit inside kayak
- 51.1 lbs in weight
- 8’3” long and 26.” wide – the boat’s short and round design make it great at cutting through the fiercest of waters
- Rated for use in class 3+ white water
- Can carry up to 230 lbs
- Hard shell kayak constructed from highly-durable Thermoform Plastic
Riot Kayaks Astro 58 – Play Boat Whitewater Kayak
The Riot Kayaks Astro 58 is another fantastic boat that offers a wealth of opportunity in terms of where it can be used, and the waters that it can be taken into. At just over 6 feet in length, the Astro 58 is what’s known as a play boat kayak. It has been designed specifically for doing tricks on fast-moving white water. It’s able to glide across the top of rough waters without any problem at all.
The design of the Astro 58 incorporates a displacement hull, meaning that the kayak’s ability to move through and over rough white water is second to none – the rough water is simply pushed off to the side as it collides with the rounded hull of the boat.
The edges of the Astro 58 are also rounded, meaning that whether the boat is being tossed around in the water or you are trying to make some tighter turns, it’s perfectly suited to doing either. More experienced paddlers will be able to make the best use of the design of this boat.
Weight is very important in a white water kayak. If the boat is extremely heavy, not only will it be difficult to carry around when it’s out of the water, but it will be difficult to move around with any agility whatsoever once it’s in the water. Fortunately, the Astro 58 is very lightweight at just under 40 pounds. Even though weight is kept to a minimum, the Astro 58 is still a comfortable place to be with a well-supported seat. It should be noted though that, even though this boat is perfect if you’re just one person that’s looking to go out on some fast waters, storage opportunities are poor.
Some Key Points
- One person, sit inside kayak
- Comfortable – your body is well-supported once inside the boat
- Displacement hull – the boat has been designed for use in class 3+ whitewater
- Lightweight and portable – at just under 40 pounds and being fitted with comfortable carrying handles, the Riot Kayaks Astro 58 is very portable and easy to transport
- 6.3’ in length
- 26” in width
- Fantastic for performing tricks/jumps in whitewater
- Fitted with an aluminium security bar for safety
Airhead Montana – Cheap Inflatable Whitewater Kayak
Of the three white water kayaks that we’ve taken a look at in our guide to the best available, the Airhead Montana is the most cost-effective. It’s not rated to waters that are as extreme as the others, but it still has a lot to bring to the table.
The Airhead Montana is an inflatable white water kayak. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a kayak that performs well, but you don’t have a massive amount of storage space available to you. The Montana can be folded up once deflated into a tiny amount of space – it can be stored in a cupboard, attic, and will easily fit into the back of a small car. It offers the ultimate in speed and convenience.
The Montana is extremely durable – it’s made from durable nylon and is comprised of 3 separate air chambers. In the unlikely event that your kayak was to puncture, the boat would be kept afloat since the other 2/3rds would remain fully inflated!
The Airhead Montana is staggeringly lightweight at 27.7 pounds. However, it’s able to support up to 300 pounds of load. The Montana offers all of the advantages that a hard shell kayak usually does, but in a cost-effective and portable inflatable package.
The Montana is designed for mild to moderate whitewater situations. It’s not rated for more extreme waters. However, even when on moderate waters the kayak still performs very well. It includes features such as a tubular I-Beam floor, spray covers to keep you dry, stainless steel hardware, and Boston valves for extremely efficient inflation and deflation.
Some Key Points
- 1 person, inflatable sit on top kayak
- Rated for use in mild to moderate waters – not suitable for use in extremely fast-moving white water
- Lightweight at just under 28 pounds and very easy to transport due to compact inflatable design
- Comfortable – the Montana is spacious and has some added comforts such as elbow pads.
- Legroom is ample
- Plenty of storage – there’s room for storing items behind the seat and in front of the seat
- Multiple Air Chambers – the Montana is split up into 3 separate air chambers
- 9’9” in length
- Extremely hardwearing – the boat is constructed from high-grade 840-denier nylo
- Excellent Tracking Capabilities – the 4 fins on the bottom of the boat make sure of this
- Inflation/Deflation is quick and easy
- Weighs in at 27.7 pounds, and can support up to 300 pounds