How Big of Waves Can a Kayak Handle? Ways to Handle – 2022

When it comes to kayaking, there are two main things people want to know: how fast can it go and what kind of waves can it handle. With advances in design and technology, modern day kayaks can go pretty fast and handle some pretty big waves.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the different types of waves you might encounter while kayaking and how big of waves can a kayak handle. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

What Kind of Waves Can a Kayak Handle?

Kayaks are very lightweight and maneuverable boats. For these reasons, they can handle waves better than other boats such as motorboats. How well a kayak handles or navigates through waves depends on the type of wave and how big it is. Waves can be divided into three different types: crashing waves, following waves and standing waves.

Crashing Waves:

Crashing waves are the most dangerous of all the different types of waves. They are characterized by their steepness and they can move very quickly.

These types of waves move more quickly than kayaks are able to, which is why motorboats are not affected by them. How well a kayak handles crashing waves also depends on its length. The longer the kayak, the more stable it is.

Following Waves:

These waves are usually smaller than crashing waves and they move at a slower pace. How well a kayak handles following waves depends on its length as well as how good of an edging (a technique used to make sure that your boat stays perpendicular to the wave) it can perform. 

Standing Waves:

These waves are sort of like stationary crashing waves. How well a kayak handles standing waves depends on its length as well as how big of a rudder it has. How big of a rudder the kayak has also depends on how well you can perform edging techniques, as sharp turns are required to navigate these waves.

How Big of Waves Can a Kayak Handle?

To answer this question, we must first distinguish between two types of kayak: a play boat and a creek boat.

  • How well a play boat can handle waves depends on how much it weighs, as the heavier the kayak is, the easier time it will have navigating through bigger waves. How big of waves a creek boat can handle depends on its length and width, because the longer and wider it is, the more stable it will be in larger waves.
  • Most play boats can handle waves with a height between one and two feet, whereas most creek boats can handle waves with a height between three and five feet. How high a wave is also depends on how big the kayak is.
  • For instance, a kayak that is 14 feet long and weighs 56 pounds can handle waves with a height of six feet.
  • However, it’s important to note that bigger waves might cause the kayak to submerge into them, which is not good for your boat or yourself. This is why it’s best to go out on calm days when you’re first learning how to kayak and then work your way up as you get more comfortable.

How to Stay Safe While Kayaking in Big waves?

Make sure that your kayak is filled with enough air. If you don’t do this, it might submerge into the big waves and go under water, which is not good for your boat or yourself.

If you are out on calm waters when it gets windy, make sure to turn around before the water gets choppy. It can be very dangerous if you try to kayak through choppy waters.

Tips for Beginners:

The following tips can be helpful for beginners who want to start kayaking in big waves:

Tip 1: Pick a kayak that is the right length for your body.

Tip 2: Go out on calm waters before learning how to handle waves with more power.

Tip 3: Make sure your kayak has enough air in it, otherwise it will submerge into the wave and go under water.

Tip 4: Turn around if you are in waters that are calm when it gets windy.

Tip 5: Read the manual for your kayak to learn more about how it handles waves.

How To Handle Waves:

How well a wave can be handled depends on the kayak and its length as well as how good of an edging it is capable of. How good the kayak’s edging ability also depends on how big your boat is and whether or not you have a rudder, which is helpful for sharp turns.

When it comes to handling waves, most play boats and creek boats can perform the same techniques:

Hanging Five: 

This technique is extremely helpful in big waves. To do it, the kayaker orients sideways with the whole body parallel to the direction of motion. The back foot presses one side of the tail while moving towards the centerline of the boat and the front foot presses the other side of the tail.


Another helpful technique when it comes to handling waves is a stall, which involves moving towards the nose and holding in this position for a few seconds.

Sit and Spin: 

This technique also helps kayakers maneuver in big waves. To do it, one leans back and spins around.

Peel Out: 

This technique is helpful for speeding up if you get stuck in a stand-still position next to a wave. To do it, one turns the kayak towards the side of the wave and moves forward with an edge.

For your first time out kayaking in bigger waves, book an excursion with an experienced guide who will show you how to control big waves safely. Whether it’s a play boat or a creek boat, a guide will be able to show you which techniques will help you handle big waves.


Now that you have learned about how big of waves can a kayak handle, you are ready to go out and be safe in the water! With these helpful tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to taking on some big waves. Remember that it’s always better to choose calmer waters when trying something new for the first time.


Who can handle big waves?

Someone who has experience kayaking in bigger waves and who has a good sense of balance is able to handle big waves. However, you don’t have to be an experienced kayaker or have a lot of balance if you’re not going out on extremely big waves.

How do I pick a kayak for big waves?

When it comes to picking a kayak, you should always pick one that is the right size for your body. You should also make sure that it has enough air in it or else risk going under water, which can be very dangerous.

How do I turn back when there are big waves?

To turn around when you’re kayaking in bigger waves, use your paddle to stop your forward motion by slicing through the water from low pressure/port side to low pressure/starboard side. Next, turn your kayak so it’s facing the direction you came from and proceed forward again.

Can a fat person fit in a kayak?

Yes, a fat person can fit in a kayak. There are special kayaks made for larger people, but any kayak can accommodate someone of size if they are willing to get in and try it out. Plus, once you’re on the water, no one will be able to see how big you are! So don’t let your weight hold you back from enjoying a day out on the water.

What kind of kayak is best for waves?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the type of waves you are paddling in and your own personal preferences. Some kayakers prefer sit-on-top kayaks for waves, as they offer more stability and are easier to get out of if you capsize. Others prefer sit-in kayaks, as they provide more protection from the elements and can be easier to maneuver in tight spaces. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what type of kayak is best for waves based on your own needs and preferences.

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