Crossover Kayaks 101: Buyers Guide

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When you’re choosing a new kayak, the type of yak you need will often come down to the type of paddling you plan to do.

But what if you like to paddle in a variety of conditions and you’re looking for a boat that can handle it all?

Crossover Kayaks: Top Choices

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A crossover kayak could be the answer. So to help you figure out if these hybrid vessels could be the right choice for you, we’ve put together a guide to tell you all you need to know before you jump in and make a purchase.

What Are Crossover Kayaks?

They’re Versatile 

Versatility is really the name of the game when it comes to crossover kayaks. They are a hybrid design, built to give you the best features of both a whitewater kayak and a touring kayak all in the one vessel.

Video: Whitewater vs Crossover Kayaks

The appeal of a crossover boat is that you can surf the waves and run rapids but also have sufficient comfort and enough space to store gear for an overnight trip or a long day on the water.

Whitewater boats will not often have storage compartments for large items. But with a crossover yak you will often find there is a sealed hatch and space to keep all your essentials, as well as anything else you might need.


Crossover yaks are designed to handle a range of waters, from flatwater to whitewater. This means the hull is built to be maneuverable in choppy conditions with good secondary stability. The hull may also tend to be more rounded with more rocker compared to recreational or flatwater vessels.

The length of a crossover vessel may differ from both whitewater and traditional touring vessels, in that it may be longer than a whitewater yak and shorter than a touring yak.

But this can mean it combines the maneuverability of a whitewater boat with the enhanced speed of a touring boat. However, because of the comparatively shorter length, you might find that it may not be as fast as a longer touring yak.

On the other hand, being longer than many playboats, the length can also mean that it may not turn quite as quickly as a shorter playboat. But generally, with a crossover, you have something in the middle; a vessel that can perform well in both whitewater and flatwater conditions.

You may also find that on some crossover yaks they are equipped with a drop down skeg, which can come in handy for flatwater paddling and help to improve tracking. Whitewater vessels will generally not have a skeg, compared to touring vessels that often will.

Do I Need One?

If you plan to paddle on a lake on some days but want the freedom to mix it up and paddle down some faster flowing stretches of a river or even play in the surf, then a crossover kayak could be the right choice.

These types of boats can be just as fun for beginners as they can be for more experienced paddlers. If you’re just learning, they can provide you with a good vessel that can handle a lot of different water types and give you the performance features that you might look for as your skills improve.

If you’re a more experienced paddler you can get the benefits of having a more comfortable and spacious vessel that can perform on the waves but still have the features you might need if you’re looking to explore further afield.

Another benefit of crossover kayaks is that they can tend to be smaller in length than some recreational yaks and indeed touring yaks, which can mean they might be easier to store and transport. 

They can also be lighter in weight than many sea or touring kayaks, which could also be an advantage when it comes to transportation. This means you should be able to carry it on your own or lift it onto your roof rack more easily if you need to.

> Not got a roof rack?

Features To Look Out For

Drop Down Skeg

When you’re paddling on whitewater, you probably won’t need a skeg as it could get damaged on rocks or other objects. But when you’re paddling on a lake or flatwater, a skeg can be useful.

Because of the shape of the hull on crossover boats a skeg can give you the added tracking and stability that you might need for paddling on calm water. But because the boat is designed for whitewater, you’ll usually find the skeg on a crossover craft is retractable.

This means you can deploy it easily when you need to, such as on a lake, and lift it up and out of the way when you’re paddling in a creek or playboating.

Hull Shape

The shape of the hull can often give you an idea of whether it will be more suitable for flatwater paddling or whitewater paddling. With a crossover yak there’s usually a combination of features that are designed to make the hull suitable for both flatwater and whitewater.

The amount of rocker a craft has can determine what it might be better at. For example, the more rocker it has the more it should be suited to whitewater. The less rocker, the more it might be suited to flatwater.

Most crossover kayaks will have a certain amount of rocker, but if you plan to do a little more flatwater paddling than whitewater, a boat with less rocker could be easier to paddle on lakes.

Storage Options

If you plan to load up your craft with everything you’ll need for an overnight adventure then it’s a good idea to look for a yak with plenty of storage.

While a crossover kayak may not have the extensive storage that a touring yak may have, it should have a storage hatch that will let you keep larger items safe while you’re on the water.

Some vessels may also have bungee cords that can allow to you keep other gear secure, such as a small dry bag.

3 Best Crossover Kayaks Reviewed

1: Dagger Katana Crossover Whitewater Kayak

  • Length: 10 foot 4 inches
  • Width: 27.25 inches
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 285 pounds

The Dagger Katana is a 10 foot 4 inch crossover kayak that is designed to offer performance on all waters. Its hull is engineered to provide both primary and secondary stability, making it ideal for a range of conditions and should feel equally stable on flatwater as on whitewater.

This yak’s wider hull could make it a good option for paddlers who are new to whitewater and want the additional security of a wider, stable craft. Or it could be ideal if you’re simply looking for a more spacious and stable vessel that can handle a wide range of conditions.

It features a spacious cockpit, ideal for larger paddlers and benefits from having a comfortable seat with padded seat back. There is plenty of storage, with a stern storage hatch, as well as both bow and stern bungee rigging on the deck for any additional gear.

It has a rounded hull with beveled sides, designed to make it easy to maneuver on the rapids and there is added rocker to help with speed over the waves. For flatwater paddling there’s a drop down skeg that can help with tracking and stability.

> Read our full Katana review

Video: The Dagger Katana

2: Pyranha Fusion II Kayak

  • Length: 10 foot 4 inches
  • Width: 26 inches
  • Weight: 50 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 243 pounds

The Pyranha Fusion II is a lightweight crossover yak that can be equally at home in flatwater and whitewater. It features a rounded hull with a rocker profile to give you the added speed and maneuverability you might need on the waves.

It has a drop down skeg for when you’re paddling on calm water and need to stay straight. The skeg is controlled by a slider positioned on the deck in front of the cockpit for ease of access.

It also benefits from a deck mounting point at the rear which can be ideal for mounting rod holders or gear tracks. This can give you even more versatility out of your craft and enable you to get more use out of it - ideal for when you’re not running rapids or exploring.

For an overnight trip or a day of exploring, there’s a rear storage hatch to keep your gear safe. There’s also bungee rigging on the front deck to let you secure extra items.

3: Jackson Karma RG Kayak

  • Length: 11 foot 10 inches
  • Width: 25 inches
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

The Jackson Karma RG is a crossover yak that is built with a whitewater hull so it can handle a range of whitewater both in rivers and the ocean. To give you optimal performance on flatwater it has the added benefit of a drop down skeg, so you can stay in control and on track even on the lake.

To keep your gear safe and dry there’s a rear storage hatch and if you need extra space there is bungee rigging on the deck both at the bow and the stern. It also has a high weight capacity so you should be able to take all the gear you need without worrying about your craft being overweight.

To keep you comfortable whether you’re running whitewater or exploring, there’s a comfortable, spacious cockpit with an adjustable back band for customized lower back support. There’s also an adjustable Uni Shock Bulkhead System that helps to protect your ankles but also allows you to stretch your legs out.

The Jackson Karma RG is a little longer than many crossover kayaks but this could be of added benefit on the lake when you need to pick up speed. It’s also fairly narrow which could also help with speed and tracking on flatwater.

Ok, Wrapping Up

A crossover kayak can be a fun, versatile craft that can give you the freedom to explore a variety of different types of water without being limited to just one.

These types of kayaks can be ideal for both beginners looking to have a little fun and more experienced paddlers looking for performance and versatility.

While crossover kayaks are designed to handle whitewater, they’re also designed to let you take to the water for longer expeditions, with plenty of room to bring along additional gear.

Let us know what your thoughts are on crossover kayaks. And if you know anyone who might be a little undecided on what type of kayak to choose, help them out and share this guide with them. 

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