How to Convert Your SUP Into a Kayak

What You Need to Add to Your Paddleboard

man paddling a SUP-kayak hybrid
Photo © George E. Sayour

There are times when standup paddleboarding when it really would be nice to sit down in a seat and paddle your SUP like a kayak. Some plastic kayak manufacturers have made SUP-kayak hybrids to accommodate this market. If you find yourself wishing you had gone that route, fear not.

If you have a plastic SUP, with some minor modifications you too can have a SUP-kayak hybrid with little to no effect on your standup paddleboarding comfort and efficiency. Here’s what you need to know about converting your plastic standup paddleboard into a paddleboard slash kayak.

What to Add to Your Paddleboard to Paddle It Like a Kayak

There are basically two things, three for convenience, to add to your standup paddleboarding to be able to paddle it like a kayak. This guide is meant for plastic paddleboards, as it isn’t a good idea to go drilling into expensive composite decks.

1) Buy a Breakdown Kayak Paddle

The first thing you’ll need is an item that won’t require any modifications to your board at all. You’ll need a kayak paddle. Some people prefer a breakdown kayak paddle for their SUP – kayak hybrid. That’s because two halves a kayak paddle is less cumbersome to SUP with when properly attached. 

It should also be noted that some paddle manufacturers have picked up on this trend and designed SUP paddles that convert to kayak paddles. So, when you want to switch over from SUP to kayaking, you remove the t-handle on your SUP paddle and slide in another blade in its place.

These SUP paddles are less performance-based when it comes to paddleboarding since a kayak paddle has the blades in line with the shaft and SUP paddle blades are at an angle to the shaft. To accommodate the fact that the paddle will be used to kayak, they place both blades in line with the shaft. Most paddlers won’t notice the difference, especially on a plastic SUP.

2) Add a Kayak Seat

There are two ways to go when it comes to a kayaking seat for a SUP. There’s the old-school lower back band which isn’t so much a seat as it is a back support. This option only requires installing one set of cleats or loops on the deck of your paddle board. The back band attaches on each side and provides lumbar back support as you lean against it.

The other option is a full kayak seat that has the padded bottom as well as the high backrest. These seats are more comfortable. Each side requires two attachment points for a total of four loops or cleats attached to the deck of the paddleboard. 

When deciding where to mount the back band or kayak seat to the deck of your paddleboard, don’t assume it should be done dead center on the board. Sit on the paddleboard while it is floating in the water. Start at the center of the board and ask a friend if the board is laying flat on the water or if it is tilting toward the tip or tail of the board.

You will want to kayak the SUP in a position where it is sitting level or with the tip slightly raised. That is the location you’ll want to install the kayak seat. The one caveat there is to the location of the kayak seat is on contoured plastic paddleboards. Depending on what the deck of your board looks like and how it is contoured, this may dictate where you put your seat. In many cases, it places the seat further back on the board than desired, but still in a paddle-able position. 

Follow the directions on the installation kit that comes with the kayak seat to install the deck cleats or loops. If your seat doesn’t come with an installation kit, you’ll need to buy these attachment points separately. If you’re unsure about drilling into your plastic SUP, go to a kayak outfitter and ask them to do it for you.

3) Install Paddle Holders

When you're paddling, your SUP standing up but have it in mind that you will transition over to kayaking at some point while on the water, you’ll need a way to carry your kayak paddle. The best way I’ve found is to have two sea kayaking paddle holders on each side of the board, preferably toward the rear, and to clip in each half of the paddle. Follow the instructions that come with the paddle holders. 

You should now able to stand up paddleboard or kayak from the same vessel at will. Welcome to your SUP-kayak hybrid.

Was this page helpful?