Last Updated on June 28, 2022
Are you afraid of extreme rapids but somehow encourage yourself to whitewater rafting? Don’t worry.
For as long as I remember during my first kayaking in whitewater I can’t control my excitement and after paddling for two or three minutes I capsized my kayak. A big Thanks to GOD! I bought a sit-on-top kayak without knowing its features and it saves me that day. After that, I found the kayak is a whitewater kayak.
Before writing this article I spend hours researching so that no one will have to face this ever in whitewater again.
Whitewater kayaking in extreme rapids is perhaps the most daring adventure waiting for you. Since you have to deal with the harshest water conditions with extreme turbulence a whitewater kayak is the best choice.
If you are a first-time kayaker then I recommend whitewater sit-on-top kayaks. As a beginner, you will feel safe as it is wider than other kayak types which makes it easy to maneuver and have better control in rough water.
The sit-on-top whitewater kayaks have:
- large cockpit with easy entry and exit
- self-rescue and increased stability
- reducing drag in the water
- top to bottom is sealed completely (After flipping in water, instantly you can flip back upright on top)
The demerits are that these kayaks are quite heavy compared to sit-in kayaks and I do not recommend them for long trips. Some sit-on-top kayaks are difficult to transport via car.
For expert kayakers, some advanced whitewater kayaks are best suited for touring, fishing, paddling as well as recreational use. I also include some additional information that will help you to choose the right one.
Quick Answer: A List of Best Sit-on-top Whitewater Kayak
- Best Overall: Pelican Sentinel
- Best Solo Kayak: BKC FK184 9′
- Best Affordable Kayak: Intex Excursion Pro K1
- Best Durable Kayak: Sun Dolphin Journey
- Best For Shallow & Deep Water: Lifetime Lotus
- Best For Whitewater Fishing: Lifetime Tamarack Angler
- Best For Storage Capacity: Perception Pescador
This article covers
- 1 The Seven Best Sit on Top Kayak For Whitewater
- 2 1. Top Pick: Pelican Sentinel
- 3 2. BKC FK184 9′
- 4 3. Intex Excursion Pro K1
- 5 4. Sun Dolphin Journey
- 6 5. Lifetime Lotus
- 7 6. Lifetime Tamarack Angler
- 8 7. Perception Pescador
- 9 How to Get the Best Whitewater Kayak: A Detailed Buying Guide
- 10 The Unknown Information About Whitewater Sit on Top Kayak
- 11 Lightweight VS Heavyweight Sit-On-Top Whitewater Kayaks
- 12 Types of Whitewater Kayaking
- 13 Top Three Recommendations for Whitewater Kayaks
- 14 How To Maintain Whitewater Kayaks
- 15 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- 16 Conclusion
The Seven Best Sit on Top Kayak For Whitewater
Whitewater rafting is divided into different categories. It includes river running, creek-ing, playboats, and salmon. But, getting a sit-on-top kayak for all various whitewater rafting can be a difficult task. I make it easy for you, keep reading.
1. Top Pick: Pelican Sentinel
If you are a recreational paddler and want a stable kayak in the mid-budget range, I offer you the Pelican Sentinel kayak. It is versatile, comfortable, and highly durable, which adventurers and beginners will love wholeheartedly.
The recreational kayak was made with the protection and comfort of kayakers in mind. The sit-on-top kayak has ErgoLounge Seating System. It is made with mesh fabric, and it is adjustable. So, you will not experience moisture and sweating on the seat.
Plus, the kayak surface has an anti-slip carpet. It allows you to take a paw or furry friend with you if you are confident about kayak skills.
Its hull features multi-chin and twin arches. It improves agility and tracking even in the harshest conditions. Also, its agility offers outstanding maneuverability, while improved tracking offers speedy movement.
If you want to cover a massive distance shortly, this is the kayak to go for every paddler without reducing safety and comfort.
For durability, the kayak is made using RAM-X material. It is a patented material of Pelican and offers puncture-resistant functioning. Its triple-layer molecular construction withstands hits from rocks and strong currents successfully.
So, you will remain safe on the kayak while you enjoy challenging rafting sessions.
Next, you will love its massive storage space as well. For instance, you get a 13L ExoShell-made storage compartment. It is watertight and removable. Plus, it offers additional bungee cords to store items that you may allow to get wet.
Also, the package includes a bottle holder, drain plug, and paddler locking. It makes kayak and accessory management easy.
Lastly, at 42lbs weight, the kayak is pretty lightweight. It comes with a carry handle. So, you can take the kayak from the car to the rafting spot and vice versa without stress and fatigue. It further adds to the overall benefits and performance of this incredible kayak.
- Foam blocks make it rigid and durable
- Super comfy seating arrangement
- Anti-slip carpet for the safety of kayakers
- Agile, speedy, and stable recreational kayak
- The seat position is a little awkward
Why do we choose the pelican sentinel kayak over other models of the same manufacturer?
Because of its price, premium color design, and agility. The price of other pelican products is too high for a beginner. Though all of their products are safe to maneuver even kids can control the kayak easily.
2. BKC FK184 9′
BKC is like Cobb Bryant in the kayak industry. Yes, the legendary kayak manufacturer has offered rafter and adventurers many great sit-on-top kayaks, and this fishing vessel is one of them. Once you start whitewater kayaking on it, you will be overwhelmed with its practical benefits.
To begin with, the kayak offers everything a solo and beginner kayak would want, nothing more or less. The kayak package is generous and includes all essential accessories. For instance, you get an adjustable seat.
It has memory foam which will replicate your body movement to provide maximum comfort. It also has an adjustable footrest and aluminum paddle. Therefore, you will love paddling the kayak through strong currents confidently.
The kayak is crafted using HDP (High-density polyethylene) and features a one-piece design. Also, its roto-molding construction offers incredible durability. In fact, it is durable enough to withstand the abuses of the ocean even.
And with such premium design and safety, this is the kayak you would want for the rough whitewater kayaking experience.
Next on the list of this kayak’s benefits is its incredible storage capacity. It comes with two waterproof hatches. Also, it includes a spacious cargo area.
It means you can bring all of your personal and kayaking accessories when you plan for multiple days of weekend adventures.
On top of it, the kayak also has a bungee cord. You can use the cord to store and manage fishing accessories such as fishing reels, rods, and baits comfortably.
- Versatile performance in ocean and inland water spaces
- More than sufficient storage space for all accessories
- Excellent tracking to take you in deep water safely and soon
- Comfortable paddling even for beginner rafters
- It lacks portability as it doesn’t have a carry handle
Intex is a familiar name to kayakers and anglers for its uncompromising quality, comfort, and user convenience in the easy product. The Pro Kayak series is their top-of-the-line kayak made by professional and recreational kayakers in mind.
The kayak is made using laminated PVC. Also, it has a polyester core.
Therefore, the entire kayak is compatible with high impact with abrasion and UV resistance. It means the kayak will easily take the toll of rapid currents and still offer one of a kind performance as you dash through whitewater with style and confidence.
Also, this is an inflatable kayak. So, transporting the kayak from home to the fishing spot and back is easy and convenient.
On top of it, its high-pressure inflation offers maximum rigidity and stability. This is crucial since stability is the key to whitewater rafting.
The kayak package includes spring-loaded valves and a pump for quick inflation and deflation of the kayak. You will love how quickly the kayak gets ready for jumping into the water.
The seat is made of premium fabric and is easily adjustable. Plus, you can adjust the footrest. But that’s not all.
The kayak offers removable skegs and different mounting positions for GoPro, smartphones, and additional accessories. You can use the two skegs for shallow and deep water kayaking. Plus, the kayak also has stainless steel D-rings.
So, you can store different items at the stern and bow with the D-rings and set off for multiple days of excursion trip.
- Best whitewater kayak for 1-person with premium safety
- It even has space for rod holders for anglers
- Durable 30ga vinyl construction is UV, damaged, and impact-resistant
- The lightweight kayak is easily portable with carrying handles
- Only 220lbs carrying capacity
An official video of Intex Excursion Pro K1 from Intex
The Sun Dolphin kayak is so strongly built that sometimes experts call it a war tank moving on water. Yes, the kayak is one of the most rugged and durable whitewater kayaks you will ever find.
And it also features all the comfort that a whitewater adventurer would want to enjoy their rafting and fishing sessions to the fullest.
The best part about the kayak is its lightweight design despite being such a heavy-duty vessel. It comes with removable carry handles. So, you should find transporting the kayak pretty easy.
Sun Dolphin has used UV-stabilized Fortiflex PVC to construct the kayak. It means the watercraft will cruise through rough water and rapid current without any damage.
Another top benefit of this kayak is the comfort it provides to anglers and kayakers. For instance, its large cockpit allows the easiest entry and exit. Also, its sitting on top position with such open space offers an incredible whitewater kayaking experience.
In addition, the seat is padded, which improves comfort. It even has thigh pads to protect your legs. Plus, you will also get an adjustable footrest.
There is a large watertight storage compartment at its back. So, you should be able to store everything at ease in it. If you still need more storage space, this kayak has a stunning feature for you. Yes, it comes with Portable Accessory Carrier (PAC) to allow you additional space.
Thus, you are never short of storage options with this kayak.
Finally, with comfortable seats, massive storage, and space for rod holders, this kayak also fits nicely in the mid-budget category. It means this kayak is the go-for option for those who want uncompromising performance but doesn’t want to spend extravagantly.
- Strongest kayak on the list with massive storage options
- Large and open cockpit with adjustable padded seat
- Affordable pricing despite being a high-end whitewater kayak
- Its olive color reduces visibility from a distance
Quality items don’t always need to be expensive. You can still get high-quality products at affordable pricing if you are choosy and crafty. Hence, I introduce the Lifetime Lotus kayak that will uphold our previous saying with perfection.
Yes, the Lotus kayak from Lifetime is one of the most reasonably priced kayaks in the market and still offers exemplary performance. To begin with, the kayak is made with HDPE (high-density polyethylene) material and features one-piece construction.
So, you will find it pretty reliable. Thankfully, it is UV and rust-resistant and is ready to take abuses and tolls for an extended period. It will enable you to take the kayak in rough whitewater for some extraordinary adventures.
Its narrow hull provides stability and quick navigation; It will allow you to reach the right kayaking and angling spot soon.
For convenience, you will also get a cushioned backrest. It is adjustable and offers a quick-release facility to meet kayakers’ comfort. Plus, it permits multiple footrest positions to allow different-sized kayakers to sit comfortably on the vessel easily.
Also, its open cockpit allows the easiest exit and entry to enjoy the rafting to its fullest.
You will also get two paddles; one short paddle for shallow water and the longer one for deepwater kayaking. It also has a cradle for resting the paddles when need be.
For storage, it comes with bungee cords and a tank well. You can use the bungee cords to hold loose items safely as you dash through rough water. However, it doesn’t have any watertight compartment, which is a drawback.
However, it has self-bailing holes. It helps the kayak and tank well to drain quickly to remain dry. It also has a carry handle which makes transporting this lightweight kayak a breeze task.
- Affordable whitewater kayak with high-performing features
- UV-resistant material is rust, fade, abuse, and crack-proof
- Self-bailing capacity improves the kayak experience for riders
- A great option for beginners and recreational adventurers
- Pretty simple design sometimes looks baffling
Lifetime is one of the leading and most dependable kayak manufacturers in the US market. It has a great legacy among kayakers and anglers. So, it is not surprising that our list of the best whitewater kayak includes two outstanding kayaks from the manufacturer.
In fact, any list for sit-on-top kayaks would be incomplete without Lifetime Tamarack.
Tamarack kayak is made of high-density polyethylene. It has UV and rust resistance which would easily withstand abuses and strong impact. Plus, its one-piece design enables the kayak to pass over rocks, gravel, and any piercing materials without any damage or puncture.
So, the vessel is ready to offer greater durability than most rafters will anticipate from it. The kayak, therefore, provides maximum safety on the water, and it is crucial for whitewater rafting.
Apart from durability and safety, this kayak also looks at users’ comfort closely. Thus, it includes a padded back and seat with adjustability. It combines with the open cockpit and multiple footrests to offer improved comfort to kayakers.
Also, multiple footrests will permit kayakers of different sizes to adjust their leg position easily and swiftly.
Its flattened bottom and streamlined hull enhance tracking and mobility. So, whitewater rafting at high-speed will become one heck of an experience for you. What’s more, this kayak is also made for anglers in mind.
Yes, it comes with one fishing rod holder and two pole holders. So, you can quickly transform it into a fishing machine if you like. It also has space for two storage compartments at its back and front.
You can store all of your kayaking, fishing, and personal accessories to set off for multiple days of adventure- happily and safely.
- Super-durable and one-piece design for kayaking in all conditions
- Carry handles to transport the kayak swiftly and comfortably
- Great storage space with the facility to mount two 6” compartments
- Padded seats and adjustable backrest and footrest for comfort
- At 52lbs weight, this kayak is seriously heavyweight
Who is the winner between Lifetime Lotus and Lifetime Tamarack Angler?
Apart from similarities Lifetime Tamarack Angler is perfect for the fishing experience, Lifetime Lotus has a better seating experience and is a perfect fit for big guys who can adjust within a minute.
The Perception Pescador was initially built for fishing. However, thanks to its outstanding design, comfort, and safety features, this watercraft easily meets the requirements of whitewater crafting in rough rapids.
It comes with a 12ft length which is enough for even the largest paddler to enjoy an extraordinary kayaking experience in whitewater. Also, its footrests offer quick adjustability to permit all-sized paddlers to use the watercraft.
Plus, the kayak is built well-rounded, ensuring comfort and safety at its very best. The seatback is adjustable and padded with mesh fabric.
So, you can enjoy sweat-free kayaking even after sitting for hours on the kayak. It also improves attention as you won’t need to focus on sweating and backache at all.
The construction of the kayak is also top-notch. It has been molded from one piece, so it is less likely to get punctured and damaged.
On top of it, it comes with built-in buoyancy. It further ensures safety. So, you can ride through rough whitewater and rapid current with confidence.
For convenience, the kayak has multiple storage spaces. It has two storage at the front and rear. The front storage is dry and waterproof for storing valuable items.
The rear storage allows you to access the cooler and crates easily. Hence, it is well-built to take a load of 375lbs. It should be more than enough to store food, beverages, and accessories for at least a few days of excursion.
And its beverage holder entices you to take your favorite drink and enjoy its sips while kayaking through rivers or lakes.
Also, it has two fishing rod holders. It permits you hands-free storage of the rods as you paddle through rough water conditions breezily. Lastly, a wide cockpit with a sit-on-top facility makes this kayak the watercraft to go for whitewater.
- Most heavy-duty kayaks for whitewater rafting and fishing
- It has improved protection thanks to its built-in floating
- Outstanding storage options for all kinds of accessories
- A longer kayak with multiple footrests suits large paddlers
- The kayak is extremely heavyweight and lacks portability.
- The watercraft is expensive.
How to Get the Best Whitewater Kayak: A Detailed Buying Guide
Getting a sit-on-top kayak is alone a difficult task. And when you limit the choice for whitewater kayaking, this selection becomes even more confined and confusing.
You will have to look at a few factors and consider the kayak worthiness for whitewater since it has a higher fatality and injury rate than most outer outdoor activities.
Design And Construction
You should make no mistake that whitewater kayaking is easy. This outdoor sport is considered one of the most challenging and risky activities.
Hence, you have to look at the safety and protection of these kayaks, which come mainly through premium construction.
Kayaks made with high-density polyethylene are the most durable. Also, it may come with multiple chambers or a one-piece design. Both have their benefits.
For instance, one-piece molding ensures leak-proof durability. On the other hand, multiple chambers make sure you remain safe even if one chamber gets punctured somehow.
Sit-on-top kayaks are available in an inflatable and standard one-piece design. Inflatable kayaks are easy to transport. One-piece vessels lack such portability but offer improved durability.
However, inflatable kayaks are safe since it has multiple chambers which are puncture-resistant.
If you want an inflatable kayak, ensure that it comes with a strong pump for swift inflation and deflation. Also, it should include a carry bag for quick transportation.
Since whitewater rafting is incredibly challenging, you would want maximum comfort to ensure attention on kayaking. Thus, you would want its seat to be comfortable too. A padded seat with an adjustable backrest will allow you to enjoy kayaking at its best.
Also, seats with mesh fabric keep sweating and moisture away. It further improves easiness as you move through rapid current.
Load Capacity and Storage
Whether you plan for weekend kayaking or excursions for multiple days, the kayak must offer spacious storage. Hence, you have to consider the load capacity and storage options of the watercraft.
Most kayaks provide 250lbs to 350lbs load capacity. It is suitable for 1-person kayaks since it won’t carry two persons. Most of the kayaks reviewed in this list have more than 250lbs load capacity, which should be enough for you.
However, you also have to check the storage options. It varies from one kayak to another severely. Waterproof compartments allow the safe storage of valuable items.
Also, some kayaks come with bungee cords permitting you to store more items.
Kayak length plays a crucial role in its comfort and speed. If you want speedy navigation, you should choose at least 10ft long or more. Longer kayaks also offer stable hulls, which are ideal for rapid current and whitewater conditions.
If you aren’t a fan of speed, choosing kayaks less than 10ft long will be a good option. These kayaks are easy to control and move through confined spaces superbly.
Also, note that kayak width doesn’t have any role to play in its safety or comfort. So, it doesn’t require any attention.
Although many people don’t look at kayak pricing closely, I don’t support it. You have to fix your budget for the kayak and then look for the right watercraft accordingly.
It is essential because kayak pricing varies substantially. You can get the sot on top kayaks from $300 t0 $1200.
So, fix your budget and stick to it. It will help you get the right kayak shortly.
The Unknown Information About Whitewater Sit on Top Kayak
Whitewater kayak is a pretty risky outdoor sports event. Hence, it is important to ensure maximum safety and comfort during whitewater kayaking. When you buy a sit-on-top kayak for whitewater rafting, it comes with numerous benefits-practical and functional.
For instance, sit-on-top kayaks have a wide and open cockpit. So, you can enter and exit it easily. Plus, the open cockpit offers more stability with ample footrest and adjustable backrest. On top of it, sit-on-top kayaks are more stable than sit-inside kayaks.
Since you can easily adjust your footrest and backrest, you remain calm and comfortable. It is important to be comfortable allows you to stay focused during whitewater kayaking.
Another benefit of sit-on-top kayaks is their stability and safe navigation. Since there’s no obstacle to moving the paddles, you will enjoy better navigation.
Also, these vessels come with a streamlined hull design that further permits the kayak to move swiftly in extreme rapid.
So, you will also enjoy speedy whitewater kayaking with the sit-on-top kayaks.
Lightweight VS Heavyweight Sit-On-Top Whitewater Kayaks
Honestly speaking, the weight of your sit-on-top kayak has pretty little impact on its overall performance. While lightweight kayaks are slightly easy to maneuver, heavyweight kayaks aren’t lagging behind either.
The best benefit of lightweight kayaks is their quick and easy transportability. Since these kayaks are lightweight, you can easily carry them from home to the car and then to the whitewater spot without much fuss.
However, with the modern-day kayak carry handles, you can easily transport even the heaviest kayaks on the go.
However, heavyweight kayaks are better stabilized. So, it is highly unlikely to trip over even in the strongest current. Hence, kayaks with heavier weights will stay calm even in rapids and shallow water, which is the key to whitewater kayaking.
Nonetheless, you also need to know the weight barrier between lightweight and heavyweight kayaks. For instance, kayaks under 45lbs are usually considered lightweight. But some people reduce the bar to 40lbs.
And kayaks over 45lbs are surely on the heavier side. So, when you go to get the best whitewater sit-on-top kayak, keep this weight consideration in mind.
Easy ways to re-enter in a sit-on-top kayak – See the video below
Types of Whitewater Kayaking
Whitewater kayaking is a broad category. Hence, depending on rapid and kayak style, it has different sub-categories as well. The whitewater kayaking types include-
- River Running: Expert kayakers tag it as the most crafted form of whitewater kayaking. It blends navigation skills and paddling as the base.
It allows adventurers to adapt to the continuously changing environment and rapids of rivers and prepare for advanced whitewater kayaking tricks in the future.
The kayak focuses on driving ability for the best maneuverability.
- Creeking: This kind of whitewater kayaking usually deals with challenging and technical rapids on the river.
The category commonly falls in Class IV to Class V whitewater, and so, is pretty difficult, especially if you are a beginner.
Its path includes smaller and tighter riverways with waterfalls, slides, and ledges on their way.
- Slamon: Slamon is included in the Olympics and is the most technical whitewater kayaking on the list.
It has a designed section in a river where racers will try to come from the top of the river section to the bottom as quickly as possible.
In the Olympic Games, salmon usually has 15-20 gates that racers pass as they pass the riverways.
- Playboating: It is more associated with gymnastics than the traditional kayaking style. Its difference from the other whitewater kayaking is in its positioning.
Kayakers will have to stay in one position while displaying their styles. This is one of the most adventurous water sports you will ever find these days.
Top Three Recommendations for Whitewater Kayaks
Our review includes seven top-tier and dependable whitewater kayaks. You can quickly get the right kayak for whitewater adventure from the review.
However, I understand you might still be a little confused about which one to get promptly. So, here are our top three recommendations-
Editor’s Choice: Pelican Sentinel Sit-on-Top Kayak
“This Sentinel Kayak is best for whitewater and recreational activities. It has anti-slip carpet and adjustable backrest for improved comfort and great durability with foam blocks.”
Premium Pick: Sun Dolphin Journey Sit-on-top Kayak
“Sun Dolphin is the strongest whitewater kayak on the list and offers incredible features. Its longer cockpit will allow all paddlers to sit comfortably in it and enjoy the rapids.”
Most Affordable: Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak
“Lifetime Lotus is an affordable kayak with high-end benefits. At 96” in length, this kayak serves outdoor recreational people superbly. Also, you can depend on its durability.”
I looked at the kayak design, construction, budget, and most importantly, the safety of the kayakers. Thus, you will experience the best whitewater kayak session with these vessels. So, when will you set off for next weekend kayaking?
How To Maintain Whitewater Kayaks
Whitewater kayaks will take massive tolls due to strong rapids and water turbulence in the river. Therefore, it can get damaged despite being a durable kayak. And this brings us to the importance of maintaining the kayak properly.
You can follow these guidelines to maintain and take care of your favorite whitewater kayak-
- When you store the kayak for a long time, it risks damaging the kayak hull.
- So, when you take the kayak in rivers after a long winter, always check the hull. If it looks deformed or damaged, keep it in sunlight for one day. It will return to its original shape soon.
- You will also need to check the rigging, including bungees, hardware, accessories, and lines across the perimeter.
- Also, inspect the skeg if the kayak has any. Make sure every hardware is in proper condition before you head out for a whitewater adventure.
- When you carry the kayak from the car to the rafting spot, you should not drag it on the ground. It will weaken the bottom material.
- I recommend you use a kayak cart or carry handle for this purpose.
- Although most kayaks are made of UV-resistant elements, long exposure to sunlight can still impact their durability.
- So, you should never leave the kayak under direct sunlight for long hours after or before the outing, except after a long winter.
- Before you store the kayak, clean it properly.
- Your kayak doesn’t need to be shiny always. But it must be free of all debris and wastage.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What type of kayak is best for whitewater adventure?
A whitewater kayak needs to be stable and easy to maneuver since it will navigate rapid currents and turbulent water.
Most experts suggest using sit-on-top kayaks for whitewater as the watercraft offers improved stability on the water.
How do I choose a whitewater kayak?
When choosing a kayak for rapids and whitewater, look at its load capacity, safety features, and comfort mostly. Heaver kayaks may take up to 400lbs weight.
Also, check the rapid compatibility for the kayaks, which should be a Class III to Class V.
Sit-inside or sit-on-top, which kayak is the best?
If you want a kayak for recreational activities such as whitewater rafting and fishing, a sit-on-top is the best option undoubtedly.
Also, it allows you to paddle far into the river easily and even in oceans and coastal liens. So, you will enjoy a better kayaking experience.
No doubt, whitewater kayaking is challenging and one of the best recreational activities. You can go to the Arkansas River or Rouge River during weekends with family or friends and test your whitewater skills.
The whitewater sit-on-top kayaks on the list will enhance your comfort and protection in the rapids. On top of it, sit-on-top kayaks offer better viewing of the scenic beauty around you.
Therefore, I expect these kayaks to ensure you a great weekend with whitewater adventure to rejuvenate your energy and freshen up for some intriguing moments.
I have been kayaking since I am young & have extensive experience with different kayak brands. During every vacation of my children, we made camping and kayaking plans. My younger boy loves fishing but he scared of kayaking. I would love to share my experience throughout this blog.