Best Whitewater Kayak – Top 8 Whitewater ‘Yaks For Running Rapids In 2023

The exhilarating, extreme – and somewhat dangerous – nature of whitewater kayaking won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’re the type who enjoys intense, adrenaline-fueled sports, by all means, give it a go – after you choose the best whitewater kayak, that is. There’s one thing you need ...
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Sam OBrien

Founder, Kayaking & Paddle Boarding Expert

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

The exhilarating, extreme – and somewhat dangerous – nature of whitewater kayaking won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

But if you’re the type who enjoys intense, adrenaline-fueled sports, by all means, give it a go – after you choose the best whitewater kayak, that is.

There’s one thing you need to know, though:  

Narrowing down your options won’t be easy. Your choice depends on several different factors – and given that the stakes are pretty high, make sure that you choose right.

I hope this guide will help you do just that!

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At A Glance – Our Top Whitewater Kayaks Picks

  • Best Overall:  Dagger Rewind
    “Dagger’s Rewind Medium has the perfect balance between dynamic playfulness and performance in pretty much any environment – which makes it an instant classic among whitewater kayakers.”
  • Runner Up:  Jackson Kayak AntiX 2.0
    “If you’d like to dabble in everything from river running to creeking, there is no kayak that would be better suited for the job than the AntiX 2.0.”
  • Best Playboat:  Jackson Kayak RockStar V
    “If you’re willingly paying the full price for any playboat other than the V, I’m afraid you’re probably listening to some bad advice – and, well, wasting your money.”
  • Best River Runner:  Pyranha Scorch X
    “The Scorch X turns on a dime, carves in and out of eddies with exceptional ease, which is incredible for a kayak of its size, but it still maintains momentum and holds a line when needed.”
  • Best Creek Boat:  Dagger Code
    “The code combines the agility and ease-of-use of the Mamba with the high performance and fast-paced capabilities of the Phantom, making for a kayak that offers the best of both worlds and is sure to impress.”
  • Best Inflatable:  Driftsun Rover 120
    “If you want an inflatable kayak you can bring along – no matter where your adventurous and thrill-seeking spirit takes you – the Rover 120 is the way to go.”
  • Best For Beginners:  ADVANCED ELEMENTS Attack Pro
    “ADVANCED ELEMENTS’ Attack Pro is a great choice for whitewater novices that prefer inflatables over hard-shell kayaks.”
  • Best For Rolling:  NRS Star Viper Inflatable Kayak
    “You’ll have a blast in the NRS Star Viper. It can execute rolls, eddy turns, and other little tricks like no other inflatable kayak out there – and it’s simply designed for having fun.”

In A Rush? The Winner After 43 Hours Of Research


Dagger Rewind

Why is it better?

  • An award-winning design from a reputable manufacturer of whitewater kayaks
  • Low-volume stern ensures playfulness, greater maneuverability, and dynamic handling
  • Enhanced rocker and ample bow volume allow for rapid resurfacing and help maintain speed
  • Rated for whitewater rapids of various difficulty levels, from class I to class V
  • Contour Ergo outfitting, with adjustable thigh braces and bulkhead foot braces, and back band adjustments ensure comfort at all contact points
  • The weight range of 140 to 220 pounds makes it suitable for paddlers of all sizes 

How Do I Choose A Whitewater Kayak?

Man in blue whitewater kayak and Orange drysuit

The best advice about choosing the best whitewater kayak for beginners – although it can apply to whitewater kayakers of all skill levels – I can give you is this: 

Opt for a whitewater kayak that suits your current skill level, rather than getting one you’ll “grow into” with time.

If you’re new to the sport, go with a beginner-friendly kayak; you’ll be able to develop and improve your techniques more quickly and effectively. Take it from me, battling with a kayak that is too advanced for your skill level can be frustrating and even dangerous, so it’s essential to choose one that you feel confident and capable of handling from the get-go – this is something to keep in mind throughout this guide. 

Hull Design Features & Terminology

When looking at the specs of whitewater kayaks, you’ll notice several terms commonly used to describe the different aspects of the hull’s design.

It’s essential to understand the terminology because these features and characteristics greatly impact how the kayak handles while on the water. 

Hull Shape

The shape of the hull affects both a kayak’s stability and its performance; I hope that much is clear. And when it comes to whitewater kayaks, you generally have two hull types to choose from: 

  • Planing Hull – Planing hulls are essentially flat, as in, a flat surface that sits just below the water, which allows the kayak to skim over the water’s surface rather than cut through it. That amounts to greater agility and maneuverability, allowing the paddler to perform aerial tricks, but slows the kayak down in flat waters.
  • Displacement Hull – Kayaks with displacement hulls will feature a semi- or fully-curved bottom, which allows them to push their way through the water. They’ll track better in a straight line and “forgive” some minor errors more readily.


Volume, typically measured in gallons, can’t be overlooked when it comes to whitewater kayaks.

This measurement is used to “size” kayaks and is a pretty good indicator of how much gear you can store in it and whether it will be comfortable for larger paddlers.

However, volume – and more importantly, its distribution – also has some technical implications, as it affects the way the kayak handles. For instance, a high-volume kayak will sit higher in the water and resurface faster than a low-volume one.

Generally speaking, whitewater kayaks tend to stick to the 45 to 95-gallon range volume-wise.


Rocker is essentially the curvature of the kayak lengthwise, from bow to stern. The amount of rocker can vary significantly, with some kayaks having more of an upward tilt at the bow or the stern – or equal on both ends.

As a general rule, though, the more pronounced the rocker, the more maneuverable the kayak. It will be easier to turn, ride waves, and navigate through rapids – handling characteristics you want in the best whitewater kayaks.

A pronounced bow rocker will keep the kayak’s bow above water and recover from landings more efficiently. In contrast, a higher stern rocker will ensure better handling in maneuvers like boofs. 

How to Boof a Kayak (3 Components to the Basic Boof) | Advanced Whitewater Kayaking Skills Series


Chines are the part of the kayak’s hull that sits below the waterline and has a drastic effect on the kayak’s handling.

You’ll find that there are two available designs: 

  • Harder, or sharper, chines generally add to the kayak’s agility and control but are known to “catch” currents more abruptly, which can make them feel erratic at times.
  • Softer, or soft chines, tend to make the kayaks a bit more forgiving – but the trade-off is that they don’t feel as responsive to swift maneuvers. 

Choosing A Whitewater Kayak Type: River Runner, Creeker, Or Playboat?

Man in blue Creeker whitewater kayak

Understanding the different types of whitewater’ yaks – and, more specifically, their performance characteristics – is crucial for making an informed decision.

But knowing the type of rivers that you’ll be kayaking in and the grade of whitewater rapids you plan on tackling is what narrows down your options.

No two rivers are the same – and the environment and water features can change as you kayak on longer stretches of a single river, too.

Some are characterized by extremely narrow waterways, rocky shores, and even waterfalls. But others will feature long stretches of calmer water and class II rapids at most. 

Even the best whitewater kayaks won’t give you the same level of performance on every type of river you encounter; that’s why different types of whitewater kayaks exist in the first place.

Decide what kind of whitewater you’d like to paddle and how you’d like to play in the rapids, and choose a whitewater kayak accordingly.

What Is A River Runner Kayak?

River runners, aka half-slice kayaks, are all about navigating fast-moving downstream river courses and are deemed the most versatile out of the bunch. General whitewater and high-speed kayaking, where there are moves to be made – but none of them are super-technical – are where river runners shine.

Jackson Kayak RiverRunner: Zen Promo

General characteristics of river runner kayaks include:

  • A cross between creek boats and playboats
  • 7.5 to 9 feet long
  • Semi-displacement hull 
  • A high volume bow, with a low volume stern distribution
  • Slightly reduced rocker (compared to creekers)
  • Softer chines but with sharper edges 

What Is A Creeker Kayak (aka Creek Boat)?

Consider creekers the Cadillac of the whitewater kayaking world. They’re large and in charge – built for paddling downriver over gnarly rapids, dropping from waterfalls, navigating obstacles, and maneuvering in tight-winding, highly technical creeks riddled with hazards. 

Ayasse, Whitewater Kayak, Gerhard Schmid, Creeking

General characteristics of creeker kayaks include: 

  • 7.5 to 9 feet long
  • Displacement hull (rounded hull)
  • High volume (usually in the 65 to 90-gallon range)
  • Pronounced rocker (bow and stern)
  • Softer chines (harder chines for improved maneuverability are an option, too) 

What Is A Play Boat?

Playboats – commonly referred to as freestyle kayaks or freestyle boats – are the shortest in the whitewater ‘yaks fleet, and, as the name suggests, are designed for playing on the water. When I say “playing,” I mean activities such as performing tricks, surfing waves, popping in-and-out of holes or drops – all that cool, current- and gravity-defying stuff. 

Freestyle Downriver Kayaking Compilation 2019

General characteristics of playboats include: 

  • Around 6 feet long
  • Planing hull
  • A low volume bow with a low volume stern (volume mostly centered around the cockpit)
  • Enhanced (kick) rocker (bow and stern)
  • Harder chine with aggressive edges 

Size & Weight

Choosing the correct kayak size is just as important as selecting the right type of whitewater kayak – and one thing you’ll notice right off the bat is how tiny these ‘yaks can be. I mean, the shortest among them – playboats – can sometimes measure as little as 6 feet in length.

As for the weight, you can expect most whitewater kayaks to be relatively light; they are shorter than recreational – let alone touring – kayaks, after all. But since they’re available both as hard-shell and inflatable kayaks, the weight can vary.

Duckies, or inflatable whitewater kayaks, will, as you can probably guess, be lighter than their hard-shell counterparts. They won’t be as maneuverable, but if portability is a priority, you’ll be much better off with a ducky kayak.

A Word On Paddler Weight Recommendations

You want to be sure that whatever whitewater kayak you choose “fits” your body right and can handle your weight without sitting too low or becoming sluggish.

The good news is that whitewater kayaks generally come with paddler weight recommendations for each specific model and size. So, choosing a suitable one is usually as easy as following the chart’s recommendations.

When looking at these manufacturer recommendations, though, be sure to factor in all the gear you’ll be wearing and how much weight it will add to your body.

It’s best to leave around 10 to 15 pounds of wiggle room in that sense.

Features & Outfitting

Once you’ve decided on everything else – mainly the intended use, performance characteristics, and the type of whitewater kayak that suits your style – think about the features and outfitting.

Trust me; the more time you spend in a kayak, the more critical it becomes that it has the right extras – not only comfort-wise but in terms of safety, too.

Here are some extra features to look for in the best whitewater kayak:

  • A cockpit rim allows you to attach a spray skirt; it’s a must-have on whitewater kayaks, as it prevents the cockpit from taking on water
  • Grab loops, strategically placed at the bow and stern to make it easier to carry your ‘yak and to serve as tie-off points for tow lines or rescue rope
  • Foot and thigh braces and hip pads, preferably adjustable ones that add comfort to the primary contact points between you and the kayak and ensure a better “fit” for improved control and easier rolling
  • An adjustable back band, designed to provide additional back support; you generally want it to fit lower, at hip level
  • Foam pillars that are meant to retain the hull’s structural integrity should the kayak get pinned and prevent it from folding in

Best Whitewater Kayak – Reviews & Recommendations For 2023

How We Tested & Rated Our Top Picks

The round-up features what I believe to be the best whitewater picks for each category. Each boat was tested, reviewed, and rated according to the same set of criteria, as outlined below: 

  • Build Quality – This score is based on the overall quality of the kayak’s construction, the material used, how it holds up in different conditions, and the expected longevity. 
  • Performance – This score is based on how the kayak behaves in the water and how well it performs in terms of stability, speed, maneuverability, and responsiveness. 
  • Value for Money – The score is based on the RRP (Recommended Retail Price) and the assessment of how the price aligns with the kayak’s overall value.

Each whitewater kayak received a rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with “1” being the lowest and “10” the highest grade. The scores earned in each of the categories were based on how well a kayak met – and in the case of a “10/10” rating, exceeded – the expectations.

Best Whitewater Kayak For Beginners

Jackson Kayak AntiX 2.0

The revamped, new-and-improved Jackson Kayak’s AntiX – known as the AntiX 2.0 – feels more playful, more comfortable, roomier, and more efficient downriver than the original AntiX. And it is one of the most playful half-slice boats currently on the market. 

It literally makes you feel like you can do it all, and that, I believe, is the biggest advantage AntiX 2.0 has over the competition. It’s every bit as suitable for river running as it is for creeking, and it still maintains the signature agility of a playboat.

Granted, it is not a particularly speedy kayak – but considering its relatively short length, it’s clear that it doesn’t aim to be: 

The kayak’s highly maneuverable design – characterized by the planning hull, ample rocker, and exceptional volume distribution – is more focused on making it fun and playful. 

The AntiX 2.0 is available in three sizes (Small, Medium, and Large), so you can expect the specs to be slightly different depending on the size you choose. Just to give you an idea, the Medium weighs 38 pounds, has a 66-gallon volume, and can accommodate paddlers that weigh up to 190 pounds. 

One thing that should be noted as a potential downside is that the AntiX 2.0 – as a “do-anything” type of kayak – can handle a little bit of everything but doesn’t excel in any specialized discipline of whitewater kayaking. 

However, if you’re a novice kayaker or someone who like to dabble in everything from river running to creeking, there is no kayak that would be better suited for the job than the AntiX 2.0. 

Technical Specs

  • Hull Dimensions: 7.6 x 2 (S) 8 x 2.2 (M) 8.4 x 2.3 (L) feet 
  • Hull Weight: 34 (S)/38 (M)/42 (L) pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 160 (S) / 190 (M) / 230 (L) pounds 
  • Volume: 58 (S)/66 (M)/76 (L) gallons 


  • Slicey, playboat-like stern suitable for performing tricks 
  • Great all-around performance in a variety of whitewater environments 
  • Bees Knees Thigh Hook System improves control and gives it a secure feel 
  • The flat hull provides plenty of initial stability 


  • Not a particularly fast kayak 
  • Does not excel in any specific type of whitewater kayaking 

“A jack of all trades”, the Jackson Kayak AntiX 2.0 is a fantastic do-anything crossover kayak that’s capable of handling everything from river running to creeking – all while maintaining the agility of a playboat.  Suitable for kayakers of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced whitewater paddlers, it really is a true fun and playful kayak that puts a big grin on your face!

Best Inflatable Whitewater Kayak For Rolling

NRS Star Viper Inflatable Kayak

Yup, that’s another inflatable that gets a spot in my round-up. 

The NRS Star Viper is designed for having fun – performing rolls, eddy turns, and doing all these little tricks that make running rapids that much more impressive.

This 9.5-foot inflatable boasts a high-performance design, 1000D PVC construction, drop-stitch floor, and bow and stern displacement chambers. These chambers add to the Viper’s buoyancy, making it easier to resurface when punching holes.

The top-deck profile, coupled with the included thigh straps that lock you in, is what makes it so suitable for more “aggressive” paddling, bracing, and rolling.

And while I like that it weighs only 33 pounds, it’s slightly heavier than the previous two inflatable kayaks I’ve reviewed. I’m sure that won’t be a deal-breaker, though, since it’s far from heavy and has bow and stern handles for easier portaging.

The 200-pound load capacity is also less than stellar – and it is not a kayak I would recommend to bigger paddlers. On a related note, there is not much room for gear onboard except for a few D-rings – but given that it is more of a “playboat” than a gear-hauling kayak, that is something to be expected. 

NRS does have a STAR Viper XL model designed to accommodate heavier paddlers, though. If you’re a fan of the Viper but can’t quite squeeze yourself into it, the XL version is worth checking out. 

Technical Specs

  • Hull Dimensions: 9.5 x 3 feet
  • Hull Weight: 33 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 200 pounds


  • The wider beam adds to the stability
  • Stern displacement chambers make resurfacing easier
  • The top-deck profile is suitable for rolling
  • Thigh straps for locking you in


  • The weight limit is very low and will not work for bigger paddlers
  • It has a cheap nylon strap that keeps the floor insert in place

You’ll have a blast in the NRS Star Viper; there’s no doubt about it. Its high-performance design ensures that it surfs, turns, and rolls like no other inflatable kayak.

Overall Best Whitewater Kayak

Dagger Rewind Medium

Cousin to the infamous Dagger Nomad, the Dagger Rewind Medium was named “Best Whitewater Boat” by the Paddling Magazine Industry Awards in 2019 and its popularity is still going strong 4 years later; that tells you a lot about this 8.5-foot wonder of a whitewater kayak.

If you’re looking for dynamic playfulness that will let you add cool tricks to your paddling arsenal, the low-volume stern and pronounced bow rocker have you covered. And if you’re hoping to pair that with river running capabilities, Rewind delivers in that area, too. 

Here’s one way to sum it up: 

It is a fine half-slice for people who want to make their local rivers a bit more challenging. With a loose hull, it has the feel of a playboat – but also enough rocker and volume for hard whitewater. 

And while there are some arguments about what is the best half slice on the market, the Rewind consistently comes out on top. 

The 43-pound weight – which is neither lightweight nor heavy – is probably the only thing about this kayak that I can label as “average.” It accommodates paddlers who weigh between 140 and 220 pounds, which is a pretty solid range.

Contour Ergo outfitting, Step-Out safety wall, adjustable thigh braces, and bulkhead foot braces leave little room for complaints, too. These comfort-oriented features certainly contributed to the kayak’s overall weight – but again, I’m not complaining. It’s in line with the similarly sized Dagger Code. 

Technical Specs

  • Hull Dimensions: 8.7 x 2.1 feet
  • Hull Weight: 43 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 140 – 220 pound weight range
  • Volume: 67 gallons 


  • Contour Ergo outfitting ensures a great connection with your’ yak
  • Adjustable thigh braces and foot braces for comfort
  • Features security grab handles
  • Suitable for paddlers up to 220 pounds


  • The price could be a deal-breaker for paddlers on a budget
  • Some might find it a bit heavy, especially on longer portages

Dagger’s Rewind Medium is the perfect intermediary between playfulness and performance in almost any condition. I believe it’s going to be one of those instant classics in the whitewater kayaking world – and that’s the very reason why we are awarding it the best kayak in this review. 

Best Playboat

Jackson Kayak Rockstar V

Jackson’s Rockstar 4.0 has been the dominant playboat in the whitewater portion of the market. But since its release in 2018, no other kayak brand has come out with a playboat – well, not until Jackson Kayak took matters into their own hands and came out with the Rockstar 5.0 in 2022. 

The Rockstar V was made for freestyling – and this shows in every aspect of its design. It turns on a dime, surfs waves, lets you play around holes, and can be carved like no other – thanks to the slicier bow and stern and double-railed drop chine system – but at the same time, it remains incredibly user-friendly. 

Actually, the word I’d use here is “intuitive.” 

Everything about it is smooth and well-balanced, and the learning curve is minimal, which is why it’s just as good of a fit for a beginner as it is for a seasoned paddler. 

And while it’s oh-so-tiny, with the “Large” measuring only 5.9 feet, the V is still surprisingly comfy – well, for a playboat. 

Considering its size, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it is also among the lightest kayaks I’ve reviewed – clocking in at 34 pounds (for the Large). The Medium and Small are even lighter than that. 

It was an improvement over the 4th Gen model, created to be an even better-balanced kayak. If you are willingly paying the full price for any playboat other than the V, I’m afraid you’re probably listening to some bad advice – and, well, wasting your money. 

Technical Specs

  • Hull Dimensions: 5.3 x 2.1 (S)/5.7 x 2.2 (M)/5.9 x 2.3 (L) feet
  • Hull Weight: 26.5 (S)/29 (M)/34 (L) pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 100-160 (S)/140-200 (M)/180-240 (L) pounds 
  • Volume: 50 (S)/59 (M)/ 69 (L) gallons 


  • Intuitive and easy to paddle with a minimal learning curve 
  • The design is fine-tuned for performing tricks and playful maneuvers
  • Double-railed drop chine system for carving 
  • Incredibly lightweight and easy to portage with (for a hard-shell) 
  • Surprisingly comfortable for a kayak of its size


  • The cockpit may not be spacious enough for taller paddlers 
  • It’s a high-end playboat that not everyone will be able to afford 

If you’re looking to show off, perform tricks, and have some fun on the water, the Jackson Kayak RockStar V is arguably the best freestyle kayak for the job. 

Best Ducky Kayak For Beginners


If you want portability and convenience – and at a budget-friendly price, no less – the Advanced Elements Attack Pro might just be one of the best whitewater kayaks for the job.

It’s an inflatable kayak, meaning it packs small and weighs as little as 25.5 pounds, but is made of heavy-duty PVC and has a three-chamber construction. It combines durability and portability – while also adding convenience and functionality into the mix. That brings me to my next point:

Attack Pro also features adjustable footpegs and thigh straps, a covered stern cargo area, and self-bailing ports.

The 12-inch rocker may feel a bit “flat” to more seasoned paddlers – but I’m fairly certain beginners won’t mind, and the Attack Pro doesn’t aim to impress professional whitewater kayakers, anyway. The wide and stable hull is another proof that this ‘yak was designed with novices in mind. 

Another downside is the somewhat limited load capacity – which caps out at 225 pounds. It’s not a kayak that would be able to accommodate larger paddlers. It could barely hold my weight, and it sat so low in the water that it was practically impossible to keep the water out. 

But overall, good beginner whitewater kayaks are few and far between, making the Attack Pro a great option for those just starting out, as it offers you a cheap way to go out and have some fun on Class II or III rapids – and, if you ask me, that should be more than enough to satisfy a beginner kayaker’s needs. 

But let be straight here, good beginner whitewater kayaks are few and far between, and the Attack Pro offers you a cheap way to go out and have some fun on Class II or III rapids – and, if you ask me, that should be more than enough to satisfy a beginner kayaker’s needs . 

Technical Specs

  • Hull Dimensions: 9.7 x 2.9 feet
  • Hull Weight: 25.5 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 225 pounds 


  • Extremely durable, reinforced shell


  • There are cheaper options that offer a bit more

Best River Runner

Pyranha Scorch X

The Scorch X was obviously created to deliver the perfect blend of stability and speed – packing the “modern” features of kayaks like the AntiX or Rewind, with a substantial bow rocker and kick rocker, but with more edge and less volume. 

Pyranha’s Scorch line-up features four sizes: 

There is the “standard” three – Small, Medium, and Large, which are just scaled variations of the same design. And then, you have the Scorch X – which is, in essence, the Medium but stretched to a length of 10 feet with an even more pronounced rocker. 

I was initially concerned about the length. I wasn’t sure if it meant that maneuverability would be sacrificed – but I must admit I was wrong. The X actually feels incredibly responsive and snappy, fast, and capable of edging with precision. 

It turns on a dime, carves in and out of eddies with exceptional ease – and yet, maintains decent levels of momentum and holds a line well when you need it. 

The length did add a few pounds, though, with the Scorch clocking in at 54 pounds. That said, it also means that it can support paddlers that weigh between 155 and 250 pounds, which is quite a range. 

I should also add that it offers one of the driest rides out of the bunch: 

The aggressive bow rocker is enough to make the X glide high on the water – but then you have the addition of the stern kick rocker that brings the bow even higher and allows for boofing. 

Technical Specs

  • Hull Dimensions: 10 x 2.1 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 54 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 155 – 250 pounds 
  • Volume: 95 gallons 


  • Incredibly responsive to quick maneuvers for a kayak of its size 
  • Offers a decent amount of secondary stability 
  • Remains dry due to the aggressive bow rocker 
  • Designed to accommodate a range of paddlers 


  • Not the most budget-friendly option out there 
  • It’s relatively heavy, which makes it less portage-friendly 
  • There’s a slight learning curve to it 

Pyranha’s Scorch X is, hands down, one of the best-performing river runners currently available on the market, providing a perfect blend of stability, speed, and responsiveness.

Best Inflatable Whitewater Kayak

Driftsun Rover 120

The idea of being confined in a cockpit sounds unbearable for some, so I’d like to start things off with an inflatable whitewater kayak. 

Although rated to class IV, the Driftsun Rover 120 is best suited for casual enthusiasts that won’t go beyond class III whitewater, which will suit the majority of hobby whitewater kayakers, as well as those just dipping their toes into extreme sports. 

I’m aware that inflatable kayaks tend to be seen as “inferior” when compared to their hard-shell counterparts – especially when it comes to navigating whitewater rapids. However, the reality is that these days, inflatables are capable of holding their own in challenging environments – such as whitewater. 

Driftsun’s Rover 120 is a perfect example of that: 

Rover 120’s tough-as-nails construction, featuring reinforced 1000D PVC, drop-stitch floor, and an aggressive high rocker profile, making it a high-performance inflatable ‘yak suitable for up to class IV whitewater.

And yet, it weighs a mere 22 pounds. It’s the lightest – and, in turn, most portable – whitewater kayak on my list.

You’re also getting an EVA padded seat, a removable tracking fin, and an action camera mount.

I would replace the included two-piece aluminum paddle, though; whitewater kayaking generally calls for single-piece construction. 

Technical Specs

  • Hull Dimensions: 8.5 x 3 feet
  • Hull Weight: 22 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds 


  • Lightweight-but-tough three-chamber construction  
  • Higher weight capacity suitable for heavier paddlers
  • Aggressive rocker profile
  • A removable tracking fin and other accessories included


  • It can feel a bit sluggish in flat waters
  • The onboard storage is limited to tie-down points
  • The two-piece paddle isn’t suitable for whitewater

If you want a lightweight kayak you can bring along – no matter where your adventurous, thrill-seeking spirit takes you – then the Driftsun Rover 120 should be at the top of your list.

Best Creek Boat

Dagger Code

Dagger has a reputation for designing some of the most impressive whitewater kayaks out there – and I’ve had the opportunity to have some fun in Dagger’s Mamba. But as you might be aware, the Mamba is now discontinued – and many view Dagger’s Code as a replacement. 

If you ask me, it’s more of an “upgrade” than a “replacement,” though. Besides, the Mamba was, for all intents and purposes, a river runner that could handle creeking. The Code, however, is an actual creek boat.

It retains the agility and user-friendliness – something I loved about the Mamba – and pairs it with the performance and speed you’d expect out of the Phantom. 

The Code also deserves bonus points for the Contour Ergo Creek outfitting, the safety features – namely, the vertical Step Out pillar design – and the large cockpit. These additions do contribute, at least to a degree, to the weight, which was the case with the Dagger Rewind, too. 

On that note, the Code clocks in at 49 pounds – the “Medium,” that is. 

That brings me to my next point: 

The Code’s available in three sizes – S, M, and L – so there is going to be some variation when it comes to specs. One thing that remains the same across the board, though, is the high-rise bow rocker, planning hull, and wide stern profile. 

The hull’s profile, paired with crisp rails, is what makes Dagger Code surprisingly maneuverable, especially for a kayak of its size. Moreover, it allows you to move up and over features – all while maintaining stability. 

Technical Specs

  • Hull Dimensions: 8.25 x 2.2 (S)/8.75 x 2.25 (M)/9.2 x 2.3 (L) feet 
  • Hull Weight: 44 (S)/49 (M)/53 (L) pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 100-160 (S)/140-220 (M)/180-260 (L) pounds
  • Volume: 74/89/97 gallons  


  • User-friendly and suitable for paddlers of virtually all skill levels 
  • The semi-planning hull provides some much-needed stability 
  • Features Dagger’s class-leading ContourErgo Outfitting 
  • Step-Out wall for increased structural integrity and improved safety
  • Fitted with five grab handles for rescue situations 
  • Comes in three sizes and accommodates a range of paddlers 


  • It’s on the heavier side (but not too hefty)
  • May require a slightly longer paddle than what you’d typically use 
  • A bit hard to track when going downriver

Honestly, you can never go wrong with Dagger’s whitewater kayaks. It’s no wonder that it’s a big hit among beginners and experienced kayakers alike. 

Best Whitewater Kayaks: Conclusion

Man poses at water edge hilding yellow kayak, dressed in drysuit and waterwater kayak

Best Whitewater Kayaks: Conclusion

Out of all the fantastic whitewater kayaks I’ve tested, I’d say that the title of the best whitewater kayak currently available on the market should go to the Dagger Rewind Medium.

It was a tough call to make, and at times it felt like I was comparing apples to oranges.

But given the low-volume stern, pronounced bow rocker, and volume of Dagger’s Rewind, I do believe that it strikes the perfect middle ground:

It offers a blend of playfulness and river-running capabilities that are deserving of the title.

Then again, given the exceptional all-around performance, the Jackson Kayak AntiX 2.0 stands out as a kayak that can pretty much do it all – and is an alternative worth considering. 

In any case, you’ll find some fantastic whitewater kayaks in this round-up, so feel free to choose based on your preferences, skills, and, most importantly, the paddling environment. 

Feature Photo by Eduard Labár on Unsplash

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Sam OBrien

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

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