Humans have been paddling kayaks for hundreds – possibly even thousands – of years. But we’ve only been pedaling kayaks for about 20 — in 1997, a kayak company in California revolutionized the sport by creating the first pedal drive attachment for kayaks. Ever since then, recreational boaters and kayak fishermen alike have been arguing the pros and cons of pedal kayaks versus paddle kayaks.
The “paddle vs. pedal” debate is an important one to consider when purchasing a kayak, especially if you’re planning to fish. In order to help with that decision, we’ve listed the advantages of a paddle kayak versus a pedal kayak.
Paddle Kayak Pros
The more traditional of the two, paddle kayaks present some old-school benefits over pedal kayaks.
A paddle creates less water disturbance than a pedal, making paddle kayaks quieter and less obtrusive than pedal kayaks. This is a key advantage for anglers looking to sneak up on easily-startled fish.
- Access to Shallow Water
Pedal kayaks need more underwater clearance, lest they stir up mud, tree branches and other aquatic debris. Paddle kayaks, however, can glide in only inches of water, suiting them to out-of-the-way spots that pedal kayaks just can’t reach.
- Easy Navigation
A paddle kayak allows you a certain amount of maneuverability that a pedal kayak does not. If you’re looking to navigate tricky shorelines, sharp river bends, or rocky coasts, a paddle kayak may be for you.
Pedal Kayak Pros
It’s often said that the most successful competitive anglers are the ones who get to prime fishing spots quickest. Thus, the biggest advantage of pedal kayaks is that they travel faster than paddle kayaks. A pedal kayak lets you get down to business, rather than spending half the day paddling out to your favorite spot.
- Efficiency & Endurance
Pedal kayaks take advantage of the powerful muscle groups in your legs, rather than those in your arms and shoulders. This makes multi-day treks and all-day fishing trips easier to handle than with a paddle kayak.
- Hands-Free Access
One of the biggest benefits of a pedal kayak is that it allows you to keep your hands free. Without the burden of a paddle, you’re able to bait a hook, cast a line, or simply reach for your water bottle anytime you want.
Even though there are die-hard devotees on both sides of the “paddle vs. pedal” debate, choosing a paddle kayak or a pedal kayak is mostly a matter of personal preference. This list will help you prioritize your needs and make the best decision for you — just know that you’ll have to defend your side!