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Home > Gear Guides > How big is a river kayak?

How big is a river kayak?

Before purchasing a kayak, consider the conditions in which you plan to use it. Your river kayak or recreational kayak choice will be different if you are planning to hit whitewater rapids or carrying camping gear across a lake. For river kayaking, look for a river kayak or whitewater kayak that can handle rapids. Some features that distinguish a river kayak include:

  • Size: A whitewater kayak is shorter than other types of kayaks, ranging from 4 feet to 10 feet long.
  • Style: The edges of a river kayak or whitewater kayak curve up at the ends to help you steer through rough rapids. This increase in manuverability comes at a cost to stability. More radical whitewater designs can be difficult to paddle in a straight line because they turn so eaily.
  • Skeg: A skeg is an adjustable, triangle-shaped plate under the stern (similar to a rudder, but it doesn't turn) that helps with tracking. They are especcially useful when you are on long open stretches of water with lots of wind such as on a wide slow river, lake or in the ocean.


If you plan on river kayaking, the right kayak is a good investment. If you only want to buy one kayak and your plans include both lake paddling and potential river running, check out the specifications of recreational kayaks for the versatility you need. For example, the Dagger Axis 10.5 recreational kayak is highly maneuverable and has the capacity to add a spray skirt and thigh braces for challenging outings.

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