“Can you use a whitewater kayak on a lake?” is an essential question that many paddle craft enthusiasts struggle with. Frequently, people try to use their kayaks on small acreage lakes and find that their craft simply cannot maneuver the shallow waters of these lakes.
The answer to this question is yes, though it does not come without some challenges. Whitewater kayaks are much more maneuverable than regular recreational boats due to the nature of the design, but they still have limitations when used in small lakes.
What Is A Whitewater Kayak?
A whitewater kayak is a specialty watercraft designed for paddling and even surfing class III and sometimes IV rapids.
Whitewater kayaks are best suited to rivers and other large bodies of moving water while touring kayaks are usually better suited to flat or slow-moving waters or lakes.
Most whitewater kayaks come with a plastic skirt in front of the cockpit that includes a channel for diverting water that could otherwise flood the boat and an adjustable rear deck that allows for better balance during extreme turns.
Whitewater kayaks offer more stability than touring kayaks and can last longer but typically hold less volume of water.
What Are Touring Kayaks?
Touring kayaks are a type of kayak designed for use on touring rivers and lakes, with the capacity to carry heavier loads while still being maneuverable.
They usually have a large cockpit area and an adjustable stern rudder to help the paddler control their craft in tight spots.
These boats can be used for recreational purposes such as sightseeing, fishing, pleasure cruises on calm waters, or workboats during commercial operations.
Why Whitewater Kayaks Are Not Suited For Lakes
Whitewater kayaks are great boats that provide a wide array of water activities. They can be used on rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans. If you’re interested in buying a whitewater kayak on a lake or river near you, you might want to reconsider.
One reason is the different regulations on these waters that hinder the types of paddling that whitewater kayaks are designed for. That’s because whitewater kayaks are not built to be able to handle the strong currents, waves, and sandbar crossings that lakes and rivers provide.
Another reason is that whitewater kayaks are not suited for lakes. Many enjoy fishing on lakes, but those who want to go paddling will be restricted. Whitewater kayaks are not made for heavy usage, and their performance can only continue after several seasons of use.
Here are the three main ways that whitewater kayaks are not suited for lakes:
1. Whitewater Kayaks Are Not Sized For Lakes
Whitewater kayaks have a manufacturer’s weight limit based on their intended use. This means most of them to weigh more than 60 pounds when transporting the kayak and all the gear.
This can be a problem when traveling near lakes because you must transport the boat in the car or truck.
Carrying a boat that weighs as many as three people can be costly, take up lots of space, and cause you did not bring the necessary gear.
Whitewater kayaks are designed to handle waves, rapids, and currents: Whitewater kayaks are not the best choice for lakes because they are designed for rivers.
Lakes tend to be calmer with the wind than waves and currents. This means that whitewater kayaks are more likely to capsize or get stuck on the sides of the lake.
3. Whitewater Kayaks Do Not Typically Come With A Trailer
Most of the time, people who use whitewater kayaks travel by car rather than by boat. This means that most of their transportation needs to be handled by another vehicle.
That could be a recreational vehicle or truck, depending on your needs. If you plan to bring a whitewater kayak by car, ensure it is fully assembled and ready for transportation.
What Kind Of Kayak Is Best For Lake Kayaking?
The best kayaks for lake kayaking typically have a high length ratio to width. The kayak will be more stable and less likely to turn over when traversing waves or wind-driven chop. Additionally, the boat should be able to handle most types of water.
Since very few lakes exist in flat terrain, some variation in elevation is usually involved, which can drastically affect your ride depending on depth and slope.
It’s also essential to look for kayaks with a removable skeg or rudder. This will allow you to control your direction against wind and waves, and it can provide some stability in rough seas.
Most of the best lake kayaks are usually short, wide boats that are perfect for solo trips or tandem tours. A shorter length can turn on a dime, which is very handy when the winds pick up, and you need to change course quickly.
Kayaks with this low profile are also easy to transport, which is something to consider if you plan to use your boat on waterways with limited access frequently. Be sure to practice proper transportation methods and always correctly secure your boat.
How much gear you want to carry is essential in determining the right travel kayak for you. For example, if you’re planning a multi-day tour, then you’ll probably want a boat that has a large storage compartment.
The Bottom Line
Whitewater kayaking is one of the most dangerous sports due to the risky proximity of rocks and trees while paddling and falls and capsizes that can occur in high-speed rapids.
It’s not recommended for beginners or people who have never experienced whitewater kayaking. But if you’re a seasoned pro, you can try your luck at whitewater kayaking on any body of water, including lakes.
Even though there are no rapids to go through, you still need to be cautious of any trip hazards. Falling from a kayak into the water can result in injuries and even death if you hit rocks or other complex objects while falling.