Hybrid Paddleboard Kayaks: what are they, what are the pros and cons, are they any good?
Hybrid paddle board kayaks, which some people call SUP-Yaks, paddle board kayak combo, or just “hybrids”, are two-in-one watercraft that allow you to both paddle board or kayak (specifically sit on top kayak) with one product. They've become a lot more popular these days, however the question becomes what are the pros and cons of this type of watercraft?
Yeah we know, super obvious, it’s a two in one so you get two products for one! That's a great benefit, but we need to know what are the trade-offs in performance for each of the two activities, because a two-in-one product is only as good as it is at each of those activities. If it doesn't do either well then that's not really a great product. It does matter which one you get because it will affect factors for performance in addition to versatility. In particular pay attention to the kayak seat and foot brace and how they are able to be positioned to ensure proper posture and comfort for a wide range of users.
Sit OR Stand
Another key thing about hybrids is the fact that you are able to sit down if you don't want to stand up. A lot of people are learning to paddle board or interested in learning to paddleboard but they're not sure if they're going to be successful. Hybrids offer a great way to purchase a product knowing that you're going to be working on standing up, but you can always sit down and enjoy it as a sit on top kayak!
Use the Entire Deck Area
Another Pro is the fact that unlike a traditional kayak you can use this entire deck whether it's a paddle board or a kayak. You can move around on the deck, you can have a dog or a kid on the deck, add gear to the deck and generally just have a lot more flexibility in how you use this wide open area. Traditional kayaks do not offer this since the deck is curved and not very comfortable.
Can’t Fill Up With Water
Traditional kayaks have an internal space that can fill up with water if you tip it or water splashes inside. It can sink and you have somehow get back to shore! With a hybrid you don't have to think about that at all, the water will just shed right off the top of the deck.
Don’t Feel Trapped Inside
Lots of people are turned off by kayaking because they don't like the feeling of being trapped inside a kayak cockpit. This is not the case with a hybrid, you have a sit on top kayak with gear on top, and you don't have that feeling of being trapped inside.
Super Portable, Two Products in one Bag
The final Pro is the fact that these are inflatables that pack up into a travel bag, and so they're super portable. Not only are the benefits of a traditional inflatable, but the benefits of a two in one mean you're getting two products in one bag, super portable!
Watch out for Poor Design
Keep in mind the quality and functionality of the specific model you’re considering will impact performance, comfort and the overall experience on and off the water. You want to look for one that has a system to allow you to attach your seat and a foot brace to the board to turn into a boat, and has a lot of versatility because each person will want to trim out the boat differently (we talk about trimming a separate video so check that one out). You're going to want to position the seat and the foot rest differently if you're taller or shorter and depending on how much gear you’re bringing, so that is definitely something that you have to consider when you're looking at hybrids. Be careful because if you don't have one that's designed properly it can be a poor experience all around.
No Internal Storage Space
Another con is the fact that you do not have the internal storage space that comes with the traditional kayak, so you're not able to put that gear inside. This means you have to use dry bags, and ideally you have attachment systems to allow you attach your your dry bags to the deck. But it is a con if you’re looking to store stuff inside, you're definitely not going to have that option with a hybrid sit on top paddle board kayak.
The opposite of people feeling trapped inside a cockpit of a traditional kayak is that some people just like to have a sidewall because it makes them feel secure. It can also prevent some of the splash of water from coming on the on on the deck. Water can come over if you're in any kind of waves so you have to be willing to accept the fact that you might get water splashing over the board, you might have water splashing on you a little bit more than with a decked kayak or kayak with sidewalls.
Planing Hull vs. Displacement Hull
Lastly we do want to consider the fact that these are planing hulls so on these inflatable hybrids. A flat planing Hull performs great however there are specifics of the technique for paddling these, especially as a kayak (we have a series of videos covering paddling technique for these hybrid paddleboard kayaks so check that out). When you're out in choppier Open Water there can be a disadvantage to these flat planing holes versus what we call a displacement Hull where the hull has more of a shape that sits in the water, because in this case you're sitting on top of the water and the board tends to slide around, and the fin at the back is what allows it to track and that is going to perform differently than a kayak with a displacement hull. It can be a con depending on what you want to do with it, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time in open water with significant waves and choppy water.
So those are some of the pros and cons of hybrid paddleboard kayaks. Check out our video covering this topic and let us know what you think in the comments section!
Interested in purchasing a SUP-kayak hybrid, check out our Switch and Pro Series models.