7 Best Whitewater Kayaks For Rivers & Buying Guide

Whitewater kayaking is the next step that beginners kayakers take after learning the basics of kayaking. Though, choosing the best whitewater kayak can be intimidating as a process, as there are various types of kayaks out there to choose from; Creek boats, River running, crossover kayaks, etc.

When there are so many types of whitewater kayaks out there, choosing the best beginner-friendly kayak can be overwhelming and frustrating. That’s why we are here.

In this article, we’ll review the top best 7 whitewater kayaks you can buy at Amazon. Besides, we’ll also add a comprehensive guide to help you choose which one is the best fit for you and we also described the types of kayaks.

Make sure to stay with us till the very end, and you’ll definitely find the best fit for your whitewater kayaking passion!

Top 7 best Whitewater Kayaks for rivers 2023

If you want to buy a solid kayak for rough experiences, then you can go to Jackson kayaks, Dagger kayaks, or Liquid logic kayaks websites and buy from there.

However, if you’re a beginner, have space problems for your kayaks, then go through our list for the top 5 best Whitewater kayaks for river!

1. Driftson Rover 120

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Weight 2 pounds
Weight capacity 300 pounds
Length 8’6’’
Width 3’

First on our list comes the Driftson rover 120 inflatable kayak. Rover 120 comes with all the features you need for whitewater adventures. It can go from a 22 ponds package to an actual kayak in less than 5 minutes.

Since the kayak is inflatable, you wouldn’t have to face problems setting the kayak in the trunk. It in fact is a comfortable, rugged, and high-performance kayak with incredible simplicity and portability.

Durable, and sturdy on the water, the Rover 120 comes with 1000D reinforced PVC side tubes and a tarpaulin bottom for protection against rocks and other obstacles.

The kayak is suitable for class III up to class V waters. Due to its lightweight, the kayak is super easy to handles, making it the best beginners friendly kayak on our list.

Moreover, the kayak has an ample rock profile to attain maximum stability and control of the water.

It also comes with an adjustable phone mount, an EVA adjustable seat with high back support, a deluxe double-action handpump, a rear tracking fin, an adjustable 2-piece aluminum kayak paddle, and lastly a handbag.

Pros & Cons

  • 1000D reinforced PVC side tubes
  • Tarpaulin bottom
  • Lightweight and super easy to handle
  • Padded high back seat
  • Adjustable footrest
  • Adjustable foot mount
  • Front and rear handles
  • Multiple air chambers
  • Can’t attain high speed in flat waters



2. ORU Kayak Bay ST

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B06XNXSBHM&Format= SL500 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=kashidqwe 20&language=en USir?t=kashidqwe 20&language=en US&l=li2&o=1&a=B06XNXSBHMWeight 28 lbs
Weight capacity 300 pounds
Length 12’
Width 2’

The Bay ST ORU kayak is an appealing, lightweight, and sturdy kayak. Even in an inflatable position, it’s so lightweight that you can easily throw it on your shoulder. The best part is that each of ORUkayaks comes with a full 12-month warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Overall, the Bay ST is kind of a crossover kayak. It can perform great in calm waters, and can also catch much speed due to its thin and long framework.

However, handling class III and class IV waters with this kayak as a beginner can be more than a pain. That’s why we’d recommend this kayak only for those of you who have a better grip in whitewater kayaking.

In addition, the kayak can maneuver water waves with great ease. If you take this product to the sea, you’ll have complete strangers coming to you and asking about it. The kayak also comes with a handbag and grab lines for easy handling.

Pros & Cons

  • Skeptical outlook
  • High stability
  • Super lightweight
  • Great speed
  • Grab lines over the kayak
  • Isn’t suitable for class III or class IV waters



3. AQUAGLIDE McKenzie 125

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B0839PGMX4&Format= SL500 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=kashidqwe 20&language=en USir?t=kashidqwe 20&language=en US&l=li2&o=1&a=B0839PGMX4Weight 30 lbs
Weight capacity 600 pounds
Length 12’2’’
Width 2.8’

If you’re looking for a two-person kayak to take your friend on the water, then there can’t be a second match to the Aquaglide McKenzie 125.

The McKenzie is a versatile, well-rounded hybrid kayak. It can also be used for recreational paddling; meaning that you can use it for calm waters up to class III or class IV waters.

The kayak has an innovative technical build-up, and it’s super fun too. It has 2 adjustable seats for maximum comfort; one of the seats can also be removed, making it a solo ride. However, in both conditions, the kayak performs well.

Though it’s an inflatable kayak, you’ll feel pretty much solid on the water when it’s inflated completely. It only takes a couple of minutes to set up. With this kayak, you’ll also have an opportunity to tag a couple of gears and other accessories on the ride too.

Pros & Cons

  • Durable and sturdy over the water
  • Easy paddling
  • Adjustable seats for comfortable riding
  • Hassle-free portability
  • Lightweight and easy to handle
  • Pump is not included
  • Can’t catch enough speed



4. Airhead Montana Kayak

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Weight capacity 500 pounds
Length 12’
Width 2’11’’

Next on our countdown for the top 7 whitewater kayaks for rivers is the Airhead Montana kayak. The airhead Montana kayak performs amazing over the water. Super light and super easy to handle, you’ll have quite a hassle-free experience with this kayak!

The Airhead Montana Kayak has a mixup of some amazing features. It’s lightweight, compact, stable, and has much maneuverability on the waves.

With this kayak, you’ll handle rough water waves with great ease. Moreover, it has grab handles on both sides, grab lines, an adjustable seat, and an adjustable footrest for your maximum comfort.

Since it is not a big kayak, you’ll find a ton of storage space for extra gears and accessories. There is also enough room for a drybag, plus, there are 5 D-rings for securing gears within the kayak.

Pros & Cons

  • Multiple air chambers
  • Adjustable seat
  • Adjustable footrest
  • Extra space for gears and other accessories
  • Lightweight, compact, and super easy to handle
  • UV and Water-resistant coating
  • Doesn’t come with storage bad
  • Tracking’s not the best



5. Intex Challenger K1

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Weight capacity 9’
Length 2’6’’
Width 220 pounds

Next comes the Intex Challenger K1. The Intex K1 has a variety of sister models too. The reason why we’ve chosen the Challenger K1 is that it is the lightest one, resulting in better stability, beginner-friendly, and maneuverability on the currents.

The sturdy and nimble kayak is made up of durable welded material with some eye-catching graphics. The Green color of the kayak makes it highly visible on the water.

The cockpit is designed for comfort and extra space. The kayak also comes with a removable skeg for exceptional directional movement.

In case you lose control of the kayak, the Intex Challenger K1 will help you in all certain ways. The heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl will give you a little help driving over sharp rocks.

Making this thing rollover is nearly impossible. That’s why it’s our number one recommended kayak for beginners to try out in mild rivers.

Pros & Cons

  • Easy pumpming and seting up
  • Durable bottom for avoiding punctures
  • Hard to roll over
  • Enough storage to store all your gears and drinks easily
  • 2 different air chambers
  • Quite comfortable to enjoy the ride
  • Low speed
  • Rinsing off and drying is difficult



6. Sevylor Quickpak K 5

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Weight capacity 250 pounds
Length 10’
Width 2’8’’

The Sevylor Quickpak K5 is the best kayak for going out kayaking in the winter season. This is because the kayak is covered with a spray cover, that block splashes help keep you dry on the way.

Its 5-minute easy setup allows you to spend some extra time on the water. The easy-to-carry backpack system turns into a seat. Moreover, the kayak has multiple air chambers to help you keep afloat even if one gets punctured.

The 24-gauge PVC construction makes it rugged for lakes and rivers. The tarpaulin bottom adds more durability and strength to the model, making it one of the best whitewater kayaks for rivers to buy in 2023.

Pros & Cons

  • 5-min easy setup
  • More space for extra gears
  • 24-gauge PVC construction
  • Trauplin bottom for durability and safety
  • Multiple air chambers
  • Easy drying up
  • Paddling can be a pain



7. Advanced Element Lagoon 1

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Weight capacity 250 pounds
Length 8’4’’
Width 2’8’’

The last one to be on our list for the top 7 whitewater kayaks is the Advanced Element Lagoon 1. This sporty kayak like all others on our list has a lightweight construction, making it stable and easy to control

The entire Lagoon 1 is made up of PVC material which makes it sturdy and durable over the water. Its inner tubes add more stiffness and durability to the build. In addition, the tough outer cover provides resistance to punctures in a lightweight design.

Advanced Element Lagoon 1 also has grab lines, and grab handles on both ends for easy control. It also has zippered storage to store your phone, sunscreen, or other accessories safely.

As we’ve mentioned, the Lagoon 1 performs equally well in different circumstances due to its lightweight design. Furthermore, it has a tracking fin to help you keep in a straight line while paddling.

Pros & Cons

  • Easy pumping and setting up
  • Lightweight, durable, and sturdy inflatable design
  • Integrated built-in seat for maximum riding and comfort
  • Tracking fin for easy handling
  • Rinsing and drying out can be a pain
  • So lightweight that it can be a pain handling in windy circumstances



What to look into before buying a Whitewater kayak?(Buying Guide)

The best advice that we can give you before buying a Whitewater kayak is that you should look for a kayak considering your skill level, instead of buying one that you’ll move onto after.

For your satisfaction with your bought kayaks, we’ve also added some features that you should look into before buying a Whitewater kayak.


Volume, typically measured in gallons when it comes to kayak, is a crucial thing in kayaking. You can find all kinds of kayaks ranging from low to high volumes.

The way how volume is divided among the kayak also performs a key role in some technical implications, as it affects the way you handle the kayak.

Low-volume kayaks, for example, float over the water and have a little more resurfacing time than high-volume kayaks. Contrary to this, high-volume kayaks tend to sit in the water, but have a shorter resurfacing time.

In addition, the volume of a kayak is pretty much used as an indicator of how many gears and accessories you can store in the kayak, and whether the kayak is comfortable with long paddles or not.

Typically, whitewater kayaks usually range from 45 to 95-gallon range volume-wise.

Kayaks lengths and other dimensions

There’s no particular size of a kayak. Depending upon the experience you’re looking for in a kayak, it can range from short length and wide body to large and narrow.

Whitewater kayaking in common includes kayaks of short length and wide-body, since you have to keep up with the water waves and quick turnarounds.

Other than the three primary elements of a kayak’s dimension (length, width, and volume), the other size factors like cockpit size, weight, weight capacity are to be considered too. These factors can affect crucial parts of your ride (like maneuverability, speed comfort, etc) greatly.

Whitewater kayak Buying Guide

The average length of a whitewater kayak is about 6 to 10 feet. Shorter and wider kayaks, like playboats, cannot catch much speed, however, they can perform some astonishing tricks on the waves.

Crossover kayaks on the other hand can’t take many turns. However, they can catch much speed on the waves.


Rocker is the degree of the curvature in the hull from bow to stern. A kayak with a larger rocker provides the ability to maneuver well on the water. On the other hand, a kayak with a little, or no rocker can track and travel very well but may face difficulties in maneuvering.

Whitewater kayaks generally come with more pronounced rockers. This ability makes the kayak competent enough to handle face water waves and quick turnarounds efficiently.


A chine is a line where the kayak’s bottom and sides join. They have a drastic effect on a kayak’s handling.

In general, you’ll find two different designs,

  •  Hard Chine

Hard chine offers more maneuverability when it comes to handling big water currents. However, kayaks with a harder chine tend to flip over, which may be challenging for most beginners.

  •  Soft Chine

Soft chine, on the other hand, makes a kayak more forgiving. As a beginner, you should go for a kayak with a softer chine, since it’s easy to handle minor circumstances. However, soft chines don’t offer agility to swift and sudden maneuvers.

Hull shape

Lastly, the hull shape of a kayak affects its performance and ability greatly. You’ll find two different types of designs in hull shape when it comes to whitewater kayaks.

  • Displacement hull

Displacement hulls are seen as beginner hulls since they’re more stable and easy to handle. A kayak with a displacement hull has a semi or fully carved bottom, which allows the kayak to push its way through the water.

Consequently, they’ll track batter in a line and will help you to cope with some minor mistakes readily.

  • Planing hull

Planning hulls, as the name itself indicates, have a plane hull. This feature allows the kayak to skim over the water, rather than cutting the way through it.

This results in greater agility and maneuverability, allowing the kayak to perform areal tricks. However, this hull shape may contribute to the speed of the kayak in flat waters.

Different Types of Whitewater Kayaks

First of all, let us have a look at the different unique flavors of whitewater kayaking.

River runners

River runners, also known as downriver kayaks are designed to be stable, and reliable when it comes to tackling big water waves. These kayaks are designed to tackle water waves effortlessly.

Moreover, they can go through turns and edges of rivers quite effectively. They are often seen as the best fit for beginners.

River runner kayaks vary from 7 feet to 9 feet in length. Modern longer models have a wide desk, while the shorter models, also known as river playboats can even surf and perform downriver tricks effortlessly.

The river runner kayaks may seem a little hard to paddle than the other types of whitewater kayaks, yet they have two major advantages to the other types; Firstly, they don’t get bounced off from big water waves and water boils, making them more user friendly for a beginner.

Secondly, they rely much on technique and good pedaling. So if you learn whitewater kayaking on a river runner, you are more likely to learn more refined techniques.

Creek Boats

Creek boats are highly maneuverable and high-volume kayaks designed to negotiate water twists and turns in an effective way. These kayaks, like the River Runner, also vary from 7 to 9 feet in length.

Their high volume is arranged equally around the cockpit. These longer desks of Creek Boats ensure that the ends won’t sink, and the kayak will resurface instantly.

Rounded hull shapes and aggressive rock profiles at the stern and bow helps to keep the kayak on top of the water. These features also help the paddler not to lose control, making the kayak best for long white water trips, quick turnarounds, and steep gorges.

More recently, Creek boats are designed with planning hulls or semi-displacement hulls, coupled with altered rock profiles. These features still excel Creek boats in steep gorges and high-grade or low-grade rivers where quick turnarounds are crucial.


Playboats were known as rodeo boats once. Because they’ve become chubbier and shorter. Playboats are just the type of boat for you if you’re fond of performing stunts at the waves.

With maximum control over the boat, you can easily perform cartwheels, Arial screws, loops, acrobatics, etc, and all that effectively.

Since the kayak is designed for water stuns, the volume is displaced around the kayak. This makes the kayak effective to perform loops, big aerials, spins, etc. Overall, these are short and small volume kayaks with lengths varying from 6 to 8 feet

The hulls of playboats are designed to be plane. Like Creek boats, Playboats are also highly tight-fitting and maneuverable for maximum control of the water.

These features allow Playboats to gain speed down the face of big water waves so that you can enjoy yourself throwing big moves.

However, Playboats aren’t designed for beginners. They can be highly unstable and difficult to control for beginners. Furthermore, they can be quite uncomfortable over long periods due to their small sizes.

Crossover Kayaks

Crossover kayaks weren’t always welcomed into the whitewater kayak family, though nowadays, whitewater kayaks have accepted them as one of their own kind as they are quite useful in certain ways.

Creek kayaks have been quite useful and fun in rivers rides. Their high volume makes them perfect for you to have a long and comfortable time in the water. But, Creek kayaks aren’t the best fit when it comes to handling long stretches of low-grade river waves.

This gap is filled with crossover kayaks. Crossover kayaks come with a flatter and shorter hull. They can go anywhere from 10 feet to a stupendous of 16 feet long in length.

They are narrower, have rear hatches and a refined keel line. These features make Crossover kayaks competent to travel through open water sections with great speed. In addition, they quite often also have a skeg system too.

However, you might not want to take Crossover kayaks to class IV and V rivers, which have huge irregular and powerful waves in addition to long rapids and boiling eddies. Etc. Crossover kayaks lack some of the safety features for these river levels.

Final Thoughts

Even though if you don’t choose a kayak from our recommended list, make sure that the kayak has a tough bottom for resistance against punctures.

Let us know what is your Best Whitewater Kayak in the comment box below how much you liked our content and which kayak are you going to buy for your next whitewater adventure! 🙂

I am Muhammad Nawaz, a young kayak enthusiast from Pakistan. I have been into water sports since Childhood, And now I help other people with my knowledge and experience.

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