Best Whitewater Kayaks 2018 – Top Reviews & Buyer’s Guide


Product Name


Hull Shape

Rapid Level


Dagger Mamba Creeker 8.1 Kayak

8 ft (other lengths available)


Class III

Pyranha Machno Kayak

8'8" or 8'11"

Curved Planing Hull

Class V

Dagger Axiom 8.5 Kayak Blaze

8.5 ft

Planing Hull


Riot Kayaks Magnum 80 Whitewater Creeking Kayak (Red, 8-Feet)

8 ft

Rounded Hull

Class V

LiquidLogic Remix XP 10 Kayak

10 ft

Flat Hull

Class IV

Choosing a whitewater kayak is a very large responsibility. Your first concern should be your individual safety, which means you must consider a variety of features before you purchase the best rapids kayak.

Consider the hull shape to ensure you can roll your kayak and can get the speed you want. You also want to consider what level of rapids the kayak can handle--if you choose a level lower than the rivers you hope to yak down, you simply will not be safe.

You should also consider what safety features are considered. If you do not know how to perform a roll or you cannot perform a roll, you will have to wet exit. That means choosing a kayak which is easy to roll so that you can right it in the water.

5 Best Whitewater Kayaks in 2018

1. Dagger Mamba Creeker 8.1 Kayak

Dagger is one of the top companies which it comes to designing kayaks. That said, the Mamba is at the top of their list--and it comes in multiple sizes.

You can order it at 7.6 feet, 8.1 feet and 8.6 feet. These each provide comfort levels for kayakers of differing heights, which is a major perk.

When purchasing a whitewater kayak, shorter is often much better. This means it is best to purchase the shortest kayak you can comfortably fit in.​

When purchasing a whitewater kayak, shorter is often much better. This means it is best to purchase the shortest kayak you can comfortably fit in.

The Mamba has a flat hull which makes it easier to roll and is more stable in the water. That being said, it can also make it more difficult to use on the rapids. The typical whitewater kayak has either a flat hull or a rounded hull--there are benefits to each and there are negatives to each.

As it is easy to tip your kayak in whitewater territory, a flat hull is more ideal for safety purposes. If you feel confident in your ability to roll your kayak, regardless of the hull shape, this may not be as big of an issue for you.

Additionally, in case of tipping, this kayak is equipped with five grab handles. Grab handles are not designed to help carry the kayak, but to help the kayaker should the boat tip. This allows those lost in the water to pull themselves up.

Speed is crucial for whitewater kayaks. Not necessarily for the kayaker to be able to build up speed, but for the kayak to be able to handle the intense speed of the whitewater.

More on the Dagger Mamba Creeker

This kayak has both a rounded stern and a rounded bow. Because of these two features, the kayak is able to cut through waves very efficiently.

The flat hull, the rounded stern and the rounded bow make this kayak able to handle class three rapids very efficiently. It can even handle the occasional green wave. A green wave is found in the ocean and is a large wave in the ocean which is deemed “unbroken”. In other words, it can extend for thousands of miles.

When it comes to comfort, the Mamba is ideal. First, the seat is padded and contoured to fit almost any body shape. There is an adjustable back band, which is ratchet adjustable.

This means it is not easily adjustable while you are kayaking, however if you are whitewater kayaking you probably do not want to be adjusting your seat.

That being said, there are many other adjustable features in this kayak. Thigh braces and hip pads are adjustable, which ensure the kayaker will have maximum comfort while kayaking. The bulkhead in the kayak is also adjustable, which provides the most comfort while kayaking.


  • Very comfortable
  • Flat hull
  • 5 grab handles
  • ​Rounded Bow
  • ​Thigh Braces
  • Hip Braces


  • Seat not adjustable while kayaking
  • Flat hull

2. Pyranha Machno Kayak

The Pyranha company’s Machno kayak is another kayak specifically designed for whitewater rafting. Like the Dagger Mamba, it comes in two different sizes: Medium and Large. The medium is 8 feet and 8 inches, while the large is 8 feet and 11 inches.

​These kayak sizes also have recommended paddler weight. For the medium, it is recommended to be between 132 and 220 pounds. For the large kayak, it is recommended to be between 165 and 287 pounds.

As stated previously, it is best for whitewater kayaks to be as short as possible. That means it is ideal to purchase a kayak which is as short as you can handle--which is why so many kayak brands feature multiple lengths of kayaks.

The Machno, unlike the Mamba, has a rounded hull. This can be slightly more difficult to roll, but cuts rapids more easily. If you feel confident in your ability to roll your kayak, this should not be an issue.

If you would tip your kayak, the Machno kayak is equipped with 5 aluminum grab handles. It is also equipped with a wave deflector. A wave deflector helps deflect any water washing over your cockpit, without trapping you inside the cockpit should it tip.

Further Review of the Pyranha Machno Kayak

Again, kayaks must be able to handle very high speeds. Due to the rounded bow and stern on this kayak, it is easy to reach and maintain high speeds. The rounded bow and stern also allow the Machno to handle up to Class V rapids.

This kayak was tested on a river which ventures up to class V rapids. On handling the testing well, the kayak was then named after the rapids.

Finally, comfort is crucial with any kayak. The seat is adjustable, as are the thigh pads. An extra comfort feature on the Machno is oversized hip pads. This ensures that when you are cruising through the rapids, you stay padded and comfortable.


  • Oversized hip pads
  • Two Sizes
  • ​Class V Rapids
  • ​Rounded Hull
  • ​5 Grab Handles
  • ​Rounded bow
  • ​Rounded stern


  • Rounded Hull
  • Grab Handles are aluminum and get cold quickly
  • Longer than the Mamba

3. Dagger Axiom 8.5 Kayak Blaze

Another Dagger kayak is the Axiom 8.5 Kayak. Like the Mamba and the Machno, it comes in multiple sizes. The small version is 8 feet, the medium is 8 and a half feet and the large is 9 feet long.

​These sizes are a bit different from, although comparable to, the Mamba. One of the perks to all of the different sizes of these kayaks is that if you are not picky about which one you purchase, you can choose the kayak which fits closest to your body.

The Axiom has a planed hull. A planed hull is similar to one seen on many ocean boats. The sides of the hull slope down to a mild point, allowing the boat to handle more difficult waves. This is an excellent hull for rough waters, but it is difficult to roll.

To help with the rolling difficulty, the Axiom is equipped with three grab handles. It also has a low volume stern. This means that the stern helps the kayak handle the rough water even better, preventing tipping.

Speed is a crucial factor and the Axiom simply does not disappoint. The low volume stern and the rounded bow allow the kayak to move quickly and efficiently through the rapids. The planed hull adds to this speed.

Comfort was a major part of the design of the Axiom. First, the interior has contour ergo outfitting. The seat is roto molded, but there is a leg lifter. A leg lifter helps your legs stay where they fit best, which prevents them from falling asleep. It also provides your legs with maximum comfort, as it pushes them against the thigh and hip pads.


  • Leg lifter
  • Counter Ergo Outfitting
  • ​Low Volume Stern
  • ​Rounded Bow
  • Planed Hull
  • Multiple sizes


  • Roto Molded seat
  • Difficult to roll
  • ​Only three grab handles
  • No recommended class of rapids

4. Riot Kayaks Magnum 80 Whitewater Creeking Kayak (Red, 8-Feet)

Another extremely well-known kayak company is Riot. They have designed the Magnum 80 which is designed for whitewater kayaking and creeking.

The Magnum comes in lengths of 8 feet and 7 feet, which is much shorter than the other kayaks on this list.

Remember, the shorter the kayak the better it handles the rapids. That being said, 7 feet is very short for many kayakers. However, the cockpit size on the 7 foot kayak is 34 inches by 18 inches. This does not leave much room for legs, so be sure you fit in this kayak.

The hull on the Magnum is rounded. Remember--this is good for rolling your kayak should you tip. It also is good for cutting through the rapids.

Additionally, the bow on this kayak is rounded and the stern is flat nosed. This is similar to the build of the Axiom.

This kayak provides several extra safety features than the previous kayaks. It comes equipped with only two grab handles, but it has two flotation devices, one at each end of the yak. The seat in the kayak has a floating backrest, which helps the kayak right itself in case it tips.

Comfort features are standard, adjustable seating, adjustable thigh braces and adjustable foot braces. You can purchase a power seat to place inside of this cockpit, and it is compatible. A power seat is a seat which ties into the kayak, provides greater comfort, and a much higher back.


  • Power seating compatible
  • Adjustable seat
  • Adjustable thigh braces
  • ​Adjustable foot braces
  • ​Flotation devices at front and rear
  • ​Floating backrest
  • Very short
  • Rounded hull


  • Rounded hull
  • Very short (not the best for larger kayakers)

5. LiquidLogic Remix XP 10 Kayak Road

LiquidLogic is not as well known as the other companies on this list, but this kayak is a phenomenal whitewater choice.

First, it comes in two lengths--9 feet and 10 feet. This kayak by LiquidLogic is quite a bit longer than the others on this list.

​However, in order to keep the speed capabilities up, the company allow the boat to sit a little lower in the water and then added the length. This allows it to match with shorter kayaks.

This kayak is also meant to serve multiple functions. It should work extremely well on flat water, such as calm rivers and lakes. It should also be able to haul gear well.

Camping and kayaking should be easy to do with this boat, even for several days at a time. That means this kayak, unlike others on this list, does have a storage hatch.

The hull on this kayak is flat. This makes it much more easy to roll, however it can be a little trickier to use on the rapids. That being said, it works extremely well on rapids up to class IV, as it stays extremely stable due to the lowered water line.

As far as safety is concerned, the Remix XP has three grab handles. In case you would tip, the Remix gives you the ability you need to grab your kayak and right yourself.

Thigh braces, comfortable seating, and foot braces are all included in this kayak. They are all adjustable and all help fill the very large cockpit. Any size kayaker should be very comfortable inside this whitewater kayak!


  • Large cockpit
  • Comfortable seating
  • ​Adjustable thigh braces
  • ​Adjustable foot braces
  • ​Fast
  • ​Good for camping
  • ​Good on lakes as well
  • ​Two lengths
  • ​Class IV rapids


  • Longer

How to Buy a Whitewater Kayak

Whitewater kayak

When considering a whitewater kayak, you must ensure the kayak has the features you need for your river choice. First, you want to make sure the kayak can handle the rapids class you hope to kayak on.

You also want to make sure it has the safety features which make you feel comfortable. These two qualities are most important, as whitewater kayaking can be dangerous. Hull shape is also important as it can affect speed and rolling ability.

Finally, most whitewater kayakers spend most of the day in their kayak on the rapids, so it is important to ensure you will be comfortable in your kayak.

Hull Shape

Rounded hulls allow the kayaker to cut through the whitewater rapids more efficiently. This is because the rapids meet less resistance with the hulls. However, it can be more difficult to roll these kayaks.

Planed Hulls are a blend of rounded and flat hulls. They look very much like a hull of a speed boat. This also means they have some of the positives of each. They are easier to roll than the rounded hulls and they slice through the water better than the flat hulls.

Flat hulls meet a decent amount of resistance in rapids, however they are also incredibly easy to roll. If you are a kayaker who is not entirely comfortable on whitewater rapids, you certainly want to consider the flat hulled kayak.


For speed, stern shape is very important. Much like the hull shape, rounded sterns can cause less resistance in the water. However, some kayak companies prefer to design low volume sterns, which allows water to quickly roll over the top of the kayak. This can prevent tipping and increase speed.

Bow Shape is possibly the most important feature, here. For a kayak to be speedy, it must meet the water smoothly and not cause enough resistance to have to fight the current. This means that a rounded bow shape is absolutely crucial when purchasing. If you are looking at a kayak not on this list, you must ensure it has a rounded bow shape.

Length is also crucial. The longest you want a whitewater kayak to be is 10 feet in length. Any longer and it becomes difficult to get through narrow parts of the river and there is simply too much resistance to kayak efficiently.

Rapid Level

Choosing a kayak based on rapid level provides you with protection while you are kayaking in whitewater conditions. That being said, there are technically 7 water classifications. The first is Class A, which is merely flat water. This is typically lake or calm river conditions.

Then, there are class I, II, III, IV, V, and VI. Class I is considered easy, while VI is obviously considered extraordinarily difficult. In Class I rapids, you may encounter bridges or obstacles in the water. There may be light waves.

In Class VI rapids, death is a possibility. Typically only olympic level kayakers are encouraged to try these waters. There will be large drops and extremely violent currents.

Based on the broad range of experience you can have on these classes, you absolutely must know the class of rapids you hope to kayak on. Most kayaks are only used on up to a class IV rapid, though there are some for higher classes.

If you purchase a kayak which can go up to class IV or V, you will most likely be safe on most rivers in the United States. But again you must check the class of rapids you hope to kayak. If the class you hope to kayak is higher than the kayak you are considering purchasing, you must purchase a different kayak.

Safety Features

One of the most common safety features is having grab handles on the boat. Grab handles are placed strategically on the kayak and, should the kayak tip, it allows kayakers to grab on so it is easier to either right the boat or steady themselves.

Another feature which can be incredibly useful is a flotation device. Some kayaks come equipped with flotation devices which can help the kayak right itself. This is a must have if you are a beginning kayaker who does not feel comfortable in your ability to roll the kayak or do a wet exit.

The hull shape is also important. Flat hulls allow for the easiest roll while round hulls are more difficult. Consider the hull shape as you are assessing your skills, etc.

Comfort Features

Comfort is always important, but especially so if you plan on taking a camping trip in your kayak or spending all day in it. First, make sure that your seat and braces are all adjustable.

You may also want to ensure that your seat is contoured. If you have any back issues, molded seats can cause you more issues, as they do not allow for your body to dictate the shape of the seat at all. A contoured seat shapes to you.

Finally, a leg lifter may be an option you want to consider. A leg lifter simply boosts your legs, pushing them into the thigh braces. This allows you to have your legs in a position where they are much less likely to fall asleep. It also helps your legs when you are taking sharp turns or dealing with rough rapids.

Our Final Review for the Best Whitewater Kayak

Whitewater kayaking is dangerous but also extremely rewarding. It allows you to take a great deal of adventures that lake kayaking simply does not afford.

That being said, it is very important to choose a kayak which can support you in a safe way. If you do not choose a kayak which meets your unique needs, according to ability and location, you can put yourself in danger.

Make sure you choose the best whitewater kayak! Consider safety features, hull shapes, comfort features, and rapid levels so you can enjoy kayaking on whitewater rapids!


KayakBest.com is among the largest and most dedicated kayak review sites. We aim to help enthusiasts discover the best tips and products for an enjoyable paddling experience.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments
Yulia - January 25, 2018

This is an immensely great review of whitewater kayaks. Thank you!

Garrick Taylor - January 26, 2018

As someone with 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience, I think you delivered some good points. Keep it up!

Ricky McDaniel - January 26, 2018

Best kayak review article I’ve read. Seriously, you helped me big time on deciding.


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