Flat Bottom Kayaks vs Rib Bottom Kayaks

Kayaking has become one of the premiere outdoor activities of today, and as a sport it is growing year-on year. There are many reasons why. One is that, thanks to modern materials and design, it has become much easier to transport a kayak than it used to be. They are constantly getting lighter and more compact, and they are increasingly becoming easier to maintain.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons to take up kayaking. You may be an avid fisherman and want to experience kayak fishing. Or you may simply be a water geek and love the feeling of rolling down a river with nothing but a paddle. No matter what your intended use of your kayak, you almost certainly want to think hard about which kayak, and what type of kayak, you should be buying. One of the most important considerations is the hull design.

There are essentially two different kayak hull types: flat bottom kayaks and rib bottom, or v-shaped kayaks. Each one serves a different purpose.

Flat bottom kayaks

Flat Bottom Kayak
You may not be surprised to learn that a flat-bottom kayak has a bottom that is, well, flat. This type of kayak is used mostly for floating a river and is best suited to active paddling and white water. When you are white water kayaking, manoeuvrability and speed are the key consideration. A flat bottom will have less resistance in the water, enabling you literally to turn and spin on the spot. Flat-bottom kayaks also ride higher in the water, causing less friction in the water, and allowing them to travel over unseen rocks and obstacles.

Rib bottom / v-shaped kayaks

Rib Bottom Kayak
A rib-bottom kayak or v-shaped hull, on the other hand, is more suited to a sport like fishing, where you will probably value stability over speed and agility. The shape of the hull means it can cut into the water – or more specifically, into the waves – giving it more stability when the water isn’t flat. Also, the ribs on the hull of these kayaks serve as a sort of a rudder, helping to keep the kayak straight and headed in a direction you want to travel.

V-shaped hull with ribs - Old Town Predator

Fishing from a rib-bottom kayak allows you to cast, retrieve and land fish, without worrying that the kayak will spin around on you. Of course, the hull won’t eliminate such lateral movement completely, even when you’re paddling, but it will keep you a lot straighter than a flat bottom.

Regardless of the style of kayak you’re considering, it’s a good idea to read some kayak reviews and do some research. If you can, talk to the owners of each type of boat, to gather the pro’s and con’s from the horse’s mouth. You may even consider renting each type of kayak, testing them in real-life conditions to see which one fits your style.

We hope our comparison of flat bottom kayaks vs rib bottom kayaks has been of some use. We wish you a lifetime of happy kayaking!

James Green About James Green

James Green loves nothing more than casting a fly in pursuit of salmon, seatrout or, when the opportunity arises, a tailing bonefish, tarpon or permit.