The kayak manufacturing business has slowly become a competitive field because of the massive demand that kayaking has garnered over the years. There’s a new product out every so often, with new features that are different from the previous model, but also innovative enough to render the previous model somewhat obsolete.
The brands showcased in this article are some of the world’s leading innovators in their respective field. They have blown the kayaking industry wide open with their integrative, modern, and constant advancements in the water sport that we love today.
There’s no telling what’s to come from these kayak makers, but we’re ready to find out. From beginner-friendly kayaks to more professional makes, here are some of the top kayak brands in the industry so far.
Top Kayak Brand Manufacturers
Contrary to popular belief, even though there’s a huge market in the kayaking industry, there’s also a bigger audience reach. Outdoor enthusiasts can agree that as a paddler, your needs are constantly changing.
Sometimes you find yourself needing innovation and advancement. Other times you find yourself longing for a steadier, more nostalgic build. Sometimes you’re adventurous and you’re ready to risk it all in the depths of the sea. Other times you’re simply looking for a slow and steady guide into new and unfamiliar territory.
The following brands have a certain understanding of this ever-fluid industry, and they’re prepared for whatever changes may come. Let’s look at how these top kayak brand manufacturers have managed to sustain their successes throughout the years.
Advanced Elements’ quality inflatable kayaks address the zig-zag effect that usually happens when paddling in an inflatable kayak. Their unique strategy includes implementing a firmer hull and extended rudder to enhance stability along the waters.
Advanced Elements is a dominant brand in the kayak industry. The company has been competing for about 15+ years now. The founding intent was solely based on revolutionizing the inflatable kayak market into the reputable business that it’s become today.
Advanced Elements’ kayak performance has become an unstoppable force in their inflatable kayaks competition.
Their range of kayaks includes models for:
- crossover paddling (flatwater and whitewater)
- day touring
- expedition touring
- kayak fishing
- recreational paddling
- whitewater kayaking
BOTÉ manufactures paddleboards and inflatable kayaks that offer premium rigidity using their proprietary Aero technology.
BOTÉ Boards founders Corey and Magda Cooper’s inspiration behind their leading line of inflatable kayaks stems from their first-ever paddleboarding experience in 2008. The couple’s lack of satisfaction over their shared experience awakened the desire to enhance that very same experience for all those around them.
And so, their advanced, hybrid, kayak and paddleboard designs were born.
The hybrid kayaks make use of a flat and wide enough bottom for you to stand up and paddle or fish comfortably. The company’s product range has also changed and evolved with the times, and now includes several kayak models.
As the paddler, a firmer, more narrow design means that your mobility increases on the water and your kayak is more durable when moving it around.
Dagger Kayaks’ humble beginnings as a small seller have inspired their drive and passion as a now-established team of unique, professional paddlers and manufacturers.
Dagger Kayaks is one of the most esteemed kayak brands on the market for whitewater paddling. The company has also developed several educational resources for aspiring paddlers alike.
Their main initiative is to create quality products for their fellow enthusiasts. So, they also partake in regularly field-testing their products before selling them to their audience. That’s a level of dedication that few brands have shown in this industry.
The company manufactures a wide variety of kayak designs. Many of which are incredibly popular for the creek. If you are a dedicated whitewater paddler, then Dagger Kayaks is a brand worth knowing more about.
Dagger Kayaks’ lineup includes whitewater kayaks for:
- performance touring models
The British-Columbian entity of Delta Kayaks is renowned for its integration of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) in kayak manufacturing. The company’s 35+ years of experience in thermoformed touring kayaks have developed some of the best sit-in kayaks for long-distance paddling.
Delta kayaks specialize in longer paddling trips such as:
- adventure recreation
- light touring
- performance touring
Delta Kayaks also caters to smaller kayak paddlers. Their products are easy to use for even inexperienced beginners.
One quality that Delta has maintained throughout its service is a commitment to the environment. The company’s dedication to waste management initiatives throughout its manufacturing process has ranked them highly on this list.
Eddyline Kayaks’ swift design advances began by introducing a far lighter touring kayak version than their competitors. The company’s pioneering vacuum bag and thermoformed kayak technology are design aspects of their models that have remained unrivaled in this industry.
Founded in 1971, by kayak designer Tom Derrer, Eddyline Kayaks have made waves in the kayak industry through their innovative techniques. The company is independently owned and operated, which makes for a more personal connection and better customer service when purchasing a kayak from Eddyline.
Their selection includes:
- sea kayaking
- open water touring
- recreational paddling
- kayak fishing
Hobie is the apex of pedal-driven performance and their kayaks are notoriously known to be one of the most expensive brands on the market.
Hobie manufacturers, based in California, have made great strides in promoting product quality, their unique selling point. It’s no wonder that Hobie has maintained its success in this industry since 1950.
A Hobie kayak or sailboat is the most accessible brand you’ll find in any water-centric community around the world. This initiative was made possible through Hobie’s various global subdivisions.
Hobie works closely with these subdivisions to cater to their line of kayaks worldwide and maintain the standard of product quality we’ve all come to adore.
Hobie’s line of kayaks includes:
- recreational models
- fishing kayaks
- sailing kayaks
All the models are compatible with Hobie’s unique pedal-drive system that moves you faster and uses your muscles more efficiently. Check it out!
Eric Jackson, the founder of Jackson Kayaks, has meticulously worked to craft all his kayaks to include molded handles instead of toggle-style handles that dominated before then.
This initiative, similar to BOTÉ Boards, was inspired by Jackson’s experiences as a designer and team member of Wave Sport Kayaks.
Jackson Kayaks is one of the few kayak manufacturers that use molded-in bucket seats instead of a clip-in or folding kayak seat. This slight change in design means your kayak accumulates less mold in storage.
Their line of kayaks includes a healthy selection of models for kayak fishing, whitewater paddling, and recreation. It consists of both sit on top and sit inside designs.
NuCanoe was formed in early 2006 as the brainchild of Tim Niemier, the founder of Ocean Kayak. The intent behind this company was based on developing customizable kayaks for nearly any purpose imaginable.
This wild design aspect started by manufacturing a hull made from high-density polyethylene plastic. This type of material allows and improves lateral stability (the rolling effect) in the water.
Their models essentially became a blank slate because it allows kayak fishermen the freedom to design a setup that suits their specific needs. These elements are a combination of speed, agility, and mobility, on a high-performance kayak.
Their line includes seven different kayak models with:
- electric trolling motors
- outboard motors
- bow-mount motors
- pivot pedal-drive systems
- patented Torqeedo motor
- a traditional kayak paddle
Ocean Kayak was born in 1971, in a humble backyard in Malibu, California. The company’s first design as a kayak manufacturer featured an old surfboard with two holes carved out for a seat and scuba gear storage.
This odd but simple take on a sit-on kayak was practical and effective in its intent for scuba diving or snorkeling in coastal waters.
Their following designs have also leaned towards the simple traits of their original designs because of the stability and ease of use that their products offer. This is also why many experienced paddlers still prefer an Ocean Kayak design.
Ocean Kayak also dabbles in a few models for kayak fishing and tandem paddling, but their main focus is on securing their easy-to-use, beginner-friendly models.
Old Town Canoe and Kayak
Despite the canoe craze that hit the United States back in the early 20th-century, Old Town has made strides as a kayak manufacturer over the coming years. Old Town’s inception dates back to 1898, but they only began their integration into kayaks in 1960.
Old Town is one of the pioneer developers in fiberglass molding technology. This is the material that gives the kayak its narrow, slender shape. It also reinforces its structure so that the kayak is more agile and mobile on the water.
Although Old Town is still a leading brand for canoes, we’d say that their transition into kayaks was a much-needed change for the industry.
Today, Old Town’s line of kayaks includes models for:
- kayak fishing
- but they also sell pedal-driven kayaks
- sit on tops, sit insides
- tandem kayaks
They’re also in the habit of developing some fascinating canoe-kayak hybrids like the Sportsman Discovery Solo 119.
Oru Kayak designed the world’s original Origami kayak for the lives of travelers who were tired of lugging around a heavy kayak. Oru Kayak’s unique selling point combines the famous Japanese folding technique with the studded Greenland kayak design.
This innovation may have seemed a bit far-fetched, considering the rigid structure that kayaks are supposed to maintain. However, out-of-the-box thinking has landed them on a gold mine when it comes to innovations in the kayak industry.
There’s currently no better folding kayak brand on the market than Oru, which makes them unmatched in their field. Their range has also expanded over the years and now includes five different origami models.
Each model is designed for a different purpose:
- The Inlet is for small and easy to setups
- The Bay LT for flatwater recreation
- The Bay ST for faster, more sporty flatwater paddling
- The Coast XT for open ocean and long flatwater expeditions
- The Haven for tandem paddling
The Pelican company has been a force to be reckoned with since its inception in 1968. Over the last 50+ years, Pelican has shown great strides through its lightweight recreational and fishing kayaks.
Their lightweight models offer smaller paddlers value for money and useful features that include their exclusive RAM-X™ technology. This technology enables their kayaks to stand a cut above the rest when it comes to durability and flexibility.
Pelican Sport forms part of the more prominent Pelican International Company. This subdivision manufactures various paddle crafts and accessories for water sports, including (but not limited to):
- winter sleds
Their entire range of kayaks includes models for:
- recreational paddling
- day touring
They also have both sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks in their line.
Perception Kayaks is the most popular kayak guiding company you’ll find on the market. This popularity comes from the relatively steady vessels and seating arrangements that the company implements on their models.
Based in Greenville, North Carolina, their business has been an established business for over 40 years.
Their kayak design mainly focuses on ease and comfort. This is why their seats are adjusted to either be flipped up or folded down, making the kayaks easy to set up and a bargain for rentals or guiding.
Perception creates durable and stable vessels for beginners, and their success is clearly shown in the number of people who gravitate towards their brand as rental kayaks for guided experiences.
The company manufactures various kayak models, including:
- fishing kayaks
- pedal-driven kayaks
Wilderness Systems crafts an extensive range of kayaks for all types of paddlers. The company has been perfecting the art of kayaks since 1986 and inspired the use of natural kayak models that are scarcely available in today’s industry.
Wilderness Systems’ intent for kayaks is comfortability, durability, and ease of use, especially in their seating arrangements. Their kayaks are made of high-density linear polyethylene, which allows the kayak to retain a like-new condition and become less of a maintenance hassle as well.
Their latest integration of Phase 3 AirPro technology has been said to hold a firmer grip in the seating for more agility on the waters, whilst maintaining a sense of comfort for the paddler.
Their current range consists of sit-ons and sit-ins for:
- recreational paddling
- sit insides for touring
- sit on tops for fishing
- tandem kayaks
Vibe Kayaks offer a budget-friendly fishing kayak for the recreational angler. Founded in 2013 by the zealous kayak fisher, Josh Thomas, Vibe managed to instantly penetrate the industry’s initial sub-$1000 on fishing kayaks.
This massive achievement made headlines in the kayak fishing industry and officially placed Vibe as a worthy contender in the kayaking industry.
One trait that makes this brand special is its effort to create a community around its kayaks. Vibe fashions some dedicated paddling kayaks and they are undoubtedly passionate about their niche.
Vibe stands among the best contenders for serious fishermen in the kayaking industry. If you’re looking for a boat that’s specifically tailored to fishing or a recreational kayak, Vibe is your brand.
Their range of kayaks is exclusively focused on kayak fishing, although they do have various designs for single and tandem paddlers.
Final Review of Top Kayaking Brands
There’s plenty to do in one of the most fast-paced sporting industries alive. There are currently about 200 global kayak manufacturers that cater to the same needs that all paddlers, in all experience levels, have. It’s hard to choose between brands nowadays because their offerings are highly customized to tailor specific needs.
This could either be a good thing if you’re a professional in your field and you want a brand that speaks directly to your needs. This could also be a bad thing if you’re a beginner who’s simply trying to find your way in this ever-changing industry.
One trait that all these top brands have in common is that their unique selling points are the reason they’ve garnered such success in their respective practices.
There’s plenty more to say about each respective brand, but we’ll let you do the talking when you’re trying out all the awesome toys that are coming out.