When I first immersed myself into the paddling business, it was simple, customers either wanted a canoe or kayak. Of course, each of those categories can be broken down even further but the fact was, you either wanted one or the other. Today you have another choice, one that seems to have exploded in popularity just a few short years ago — the “hybrids”. Also referred to as “crossovers” or even “kaynoes” (just kidding on that last one). They can best be described as watercraft that combines the stability, openness and capacity of a canoe with the speed, comfort, materials and functionality of a kayak.
It’s not hard to spot them. Simply look for a boat with a large open cockpit from bow to stern similar to a canoe. You can also identify them by the seat design. Typically, canoes have benches or hardened seats. A hybrid will have a padded seat that looks similar to those in kayaks but with additional back support. Another key indicator is of course the design. If you were to view a hybrid from the top, the overall hull shape would be about the same width and shape of a kayak instead of a canoe. Then there is their profile. If you look at the boat from a side angle, it will have a lower profile which is typical of a kayak. You’ll also notice that paddlers will use a kayak paddle, albeit generally longer than average, instead of a canoe paddle.
So why would I want to buy a hybrid? It really comes down to 3 things:
Stability: While most recreational kayaks and canoes are built with stability in mind, hybrids define stability. You’ll find that manufacturers often show pictures of paddlers standing up in their boats, and for good reason — because you can! Since the hybrids are so much more stable, you’ll feel more secure than you normally would in many kayaks and even some canoes. This is achieved through the use of a tunnel-hull design, which mimics that of a pontoon boat hull. You’ll also find that since the seats are lower, you are usually sitting at or just above the water line creating a better point of balance.
Comfort: Because of the wide open cockpit design, manufacturers were able to design seats with comfort in mind. Not only do they utilize a higher back design, they are also wider and provide better lumbar and leg support. In addition, your feet sit lower than your bottom providing a natural sitting position.
Cargo Space: Hybrids also provide the much needed cargo space that many desire on longer trips, when fishing or camping. It may not be enclosed but you can simply utilize dry bags to store cargo in both the bow and stern areas. Some manufacturers also offer coolers or bags specifically designed to fit within the cockpit of the hybrids.
There are so many other benefits such as lower overall weight, capacity and the option to customize the boat with a variety of accessories built to specifications.
Things to keep in mind:
Unlike a sit on top kayak, the hybrids are open to the elements. If your desire is to paddle out into big waters or rapids, you may want to consider other options. While they do offer skirts to help keep water out of the boats, they are not 100% waterproof. Another characteristic of hybrids is that they do tend to be a bit slower than their counterparts. The difference is not much but if you are looking for a speed demon, this is not your boat.
Every kayak, canoe or hybrid is built for his or her own purpose. When shopping for a boat, make note of what your personal goals are and what is most important to you. Personally, hybrids are my favorite kind of boat. I enjoy fishing and camping, which usually leads to having to haul a lot of cargo. I also have a bad back and the comfortable seats provide the lumbar support I need for long paddles.
Here are a couple of examples of hybrids that we carry: