Is Paddleboarding Harder Than Kayaking?

Are you torn between the idea of paddleboarding and kayaking but not sure which one is harder? Well, you are not alone. With both water sports activities offering endless fun on the water, it’s essential to know what you’re up for before you dive in.

A lot of people who indulge in kayaking will at some point also check out paddleboarding (or vice versa). People who love one water activity or sport will typically try out other ones. Let’s dive into which one is easier and which one is harder.

Significant Differences Between Paddleboarding and Kayaking

Both activities involve navigating the water with a paddle and require a certain level of strength and balance. However, there are some significant differences in how each sport is executed, which makes one more challenging than the other.

#1. Standing vs Sitting

Paddleboarding requires keeping your balance while standing and maneuvering the board with your paddle while kayaking requires coordination between both arms to steer the kayak and maintain stability.

This, in turn, makes paddleboarding a little harder than kayaking, as it demands both physical and mental strength to stay balanced and in control. If you’re not good with balancing or your core is weak, you may have a hard time with paddleboarding.

#2. Stability

Another significant difference between paddleboarding and kayaking that affects difficulty especially for beginners, is the type of board and kayak.

Paddleboards are designed to be wider and more stable than kayaks, making it easier for beginners or those with limited experience to maintain balance.

As for kayaks, they can be less stable due to their narrow design and high center of gravity, which means it can be more challenging to stay upright and steering requires more effort.

However, this doesn’t necessarily make kayaking harder than paddleboarding, as experienced kayakers can maneuver their kayaks with ease.

#3. Type of Water

The type of water you are kayaking or paddleboarding on can also affect the difficulty level.

For paddleboarding, calm and flat waters like lakes and bays make it easier to maintain balance and control the board. But if you plan to paddleboard in the open ocean, you’ll face the challenges of the waves, currents, and wind and engage your core even more!

As for kayaking, depending on the type of kayak and skill level, you can navigate different water types including calm rivers, open waters, and rapids.

Ultimately, the difficulty of the water will depend on the skill level of the rider and the type of water they are planning to traverse.

#4. Exercise Levels

When it comes to upper body workouts, both paddleboarding and kayaking are great exercises.

Paddleboarding engages more muscles in your body especially the core, back, and legs, since you are standing and constantly balancing.

As for kayaking, it requires more focus on the arms, shoulders, and upper back, as you use the paddle to propel the kayak forward.

While both sports offer a good workout, the type of muscles worked can vary depending on the activity.

They both leave me sore and give me a great workout.

Is it Hard to Balance on a Paddleboard?

Yes, it can be hard to balance on a paddleboard especially if you are a beginner, if you don’t have any experience, or you have a hard time with balance. It takes some practice and patience to develop the balance and strength needed for this activity.

Your core muscles are what will help you to stay balanced and have better control over your board. It can be helpful to practice on land first by doing exercises like squats and planks that target the core muscles.

I personally had a very hard time with paddleboarding the first handful of times I tried it because I’m a very klutzy person and staying balanced is hard for me but once I got used to it, I love to go paddleboarding at least once a week!

What Muscles Do You Use Kayak vs SUP?

When it comes to the muscles used in kayaking vs. paddleboarding, they are quite different. While both activities engage your upper body, arms and core, the motion of each sport utilizes different muscles groups.

In kayaking, you use your arms and shoulders to propel yourself forward with a two-handed paddle and rotate from side-to-side for steering. Your core muscles will also be engaged as you twist and move your body to maintain balance in the boat.

On the other hand, paddleboarding requires more of a rhythmic motion with one-handed paddling and engaging your legs for additional stability. Your arms, shoulders, back and core are all used while paddleboarding but your abs and glutes get an extra workout since you need to remain upright in order to control the board.

They both involve balance, coordination, strength, and endurance so it really depends on your personal preference as to which one is harder for you.

What Burns More Calories Kayaking or Paddle Boarding?

Both kayaking and paddleboarding are great full-body workouts that will help you burn calories. However, when it comes to which one burns more calories, the answer a bit complex.

The number of calories burned depends on a variety of factors such as your weight, age, height, activity level, etc. as well as the type of water you are kayaking or paddleboarding in, the speed and duration of your activity, and how hard you are pushing yourself.

In general, a a person can burn around 500-800 calories during an hour of moderate kayak paddling.

For paddleboarding, the calorie count will depend on whether you are prone or stand-up paddleboarding. Stand-up paddleboarding is more physically demanding and thus, burns more calories than prone.

It is estimated that an hour of moderately-intense stand-up paddleboarding can burn up to 1000-1200 calories depending on the factors mentioned earlier.


To summarize, paddleboarding and kayaking are both exciting water sports with unique difficulty levels. I enjoy both of them and I advise you try both of them!

Lastly, did you know that now you can get a paddleboard that converts into a kayak? Yep! That way, if you love paddleboarding and wanna get into kayaking, you can purchase a hybrid!

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