Kayak vs. funyak

Kayaks come in many shapes and sizes and have different uses on lakes, ponds, rivers and the ocean. “Funyaks” are inflatable kayaks generally only used in whitewater. Inflatable kayaks have advantages in terms of storage and portability but hard shelled kayaks offer many more performance options. Funyaks have an open cockpit so water enters freely and if overturned, the paddler falls out of the funyak. Hard shell kayaks have both options – open cockpit typically used on flat rivers, lakes and ponds and closed cockpit used in whitewater and on the ocean. Closed cockpit kayaks prevent water from entering the boat and if overturned allow for the paddler to “roll” or “eskimo roll” themselves upright.

Person in funyak dropping down a short waterfall

Funyak History

Funyaks were offshoots of developing whitewater raft styles in the 1980s. As raft designs changed and morphed through the 80’s a few developers tried inflatable kayaks which were basically mini rafts looking like kayaks for one or two people. They were fun but a bit cumbersome and quickly filled with water in rapids. The advent of self-bailing rafts and then self-bailing inflatable kayaks changed the game for “funyaks”. Because the new funyaks self-bailed water from the rapids, they were lighter, faster and more maneuverable and therefore more fun and stable in bigger rapids.

Stability & Commercial Uses

Funyaks are stable whitewater craft designed to bring the possibility of river kayaking to novice paddlers. Individuals can buy an inexpensive funyak to use on lakes or on mild whitewater. Commercial outfitters can offer guided and self-guided trips on mild stretches of river. Funyaks are easy to store, easily transported and easy to maneuver through mild rapids. Funyaks are stable and rarely turn over in mild rapids and is easily righted if it capsizes. A further advantage of Funyaks is the soft material – rather than a hard plastic shell as on a “Sit-On-Top” plastic kayak, the soft material is comfortable and allows you to stretch out and recline between rapids or paddling sections. There is also room in the cockpit to carry items for a short whitewater excursion – food, drink, extra gear, squirt guns, etc.

Size, Cost, Options

Funyaks come in many different models, sizes and have a wide price range. Inexpensive inflatable kayaks can cost about $200 each. These will not last long as construction is cheap and patching the cheaper materials is difficult and not permanent. High end inflatable kayaks, “Funyaks” can retail for over $1,500 for one person boats and close to $2,000 for two person boats. These more expensive crafts are used by whitewater rafting outfitters such as Crab Apple Whitewater Rafting in New England. This choice is due to the combination of the Funyaks’ durability and stability for guest use. These craft can last for last for many, many seasons without ever being patched or repaired.

Funyaks can range in size from roughly 10 feet to 14 feet in length. The width or beam ranges from 2.5 feet to 3.5 feet on most models. Funyaks can weigh 25-45 pounds depending on material and size. More rugged material will weigh more – and last longer in the whitewater rapids. Funyaks can be stored or transported laying flat or rolled up tight.

Article by Frank Mooney, Crab Apple Whitewater Rafting, Deerfield River guide since 1990, Millers River guide since 1991, Kennebec River guide since 1991, Dead River guide since 1991, West River guide since 1991


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