Can you paddle whitewater in a Sit on Top Kayak?

This is an important safety question before you purchase if you are thinking of paddling rapids or whitewater in a sit on top kayak.

whitewater in a Sit on Top kayak A team of expert kayakers went out in our Kaafu Kayak (pictured) to test it’s limits.

The location of Boulters was chosen to answer a range of questions regarding the Kaafu Sit on Top Kayak. Boulters is the start of Cliveden Reach, a beautiful stretch of the Thames for touring. It also has the very famous Boulter’s Weir which has been a play spot for kayakers for many years. At the time of the review the Thames at this point was carrying around 170 cumecs of water. In less technical terms it was “pumping” through and it helped create a grade 3 wavetrain that was perfect for testing the boats to the limit.

Results:whitewater in a Sit on Top kayak

First impressions: The kayaks are incredibly stable. On still water there wasn’t even a hint that anyone would be able to capsize without actually wanting to.

These are a superb boats for complete beginners to get on the water and enjoy themselves. They are comfortable, stable, easy to keep in a straight line and therefore perfect for the beginner or an intermediate who wants to have the ability to tour moderate distances with ease.whitewater in a Sit on Top kayak

In whitewater: Due to the strong keel line (which provides this boats fantatstic stability), it is hard to turn this kayak quickly. In Grade 3+ whitewater, being able to manouvre the kayak fast is essential. The Kaafu copes well in Grade 1 + 2 rapids however, and therefore are perfect for touring down rivers with the odd rapid. An example of this would be the River Wye through Symonds Yat.

whitewater in a Sit on Top kayak


In summary it would be easy for an experienced kayaker to dismiss sit on tops’s (SOT’s) if they have never used one! The bottom line is this, SOT’s are a great way to get on the water. Paddling whitewater in a sit on top kayak is no problem, as long as the rapids are not Grade 3 or above. Some people who start this way may go on to paddle closed cockpit kayaks or canoes and others will stick to SOT’s so either way they are introducing people to paddling and that is what counts.

The Kaafu is a great boat for day trips on the river, for a family to have a great day on the water, to spend some quality time together. The boats are comfortable, stable and easy to paddle. In terms of people who want to gain their BCU 3 star touring (kayak) qualification the Kaafu Sit on Top is an excellent option. For those who want to have the experience of paddling a grade two river, with a coach then again they are a good option which would enable someone to get a great experience.

Important safety notes:

  • – Do not paddle in rapids unless you are confident! Start with minor rapids and work up to larger ones. Do not paddle in swollen rivers that are in flood, or any other conditions that you are not sure about.
  • Always use a lifejacket and we highly recommend a helmet too.
  • – The great thing about sit on tops is that if you fall off the kayak you are at exceedingly low risk of getting trapped underneath. However if you use leg straps, be sure you can slip out of them in an emergency if you capsize. If you do capsize, it is really easy to get back on. Check out our advice here on how to recover from a capsize.

We hope you have found this article useful!

Happy and safe kayaking,

The Fatyak Team.

Related articles: Rolling a sit on top kayak, Why Choose a Sit on Top Kayak?Top 10 places in the UK to Kayak, Choosing the right kayak for you.