What is a K1 Kayak?
Nelo Sete K1
A K1 is a racing level kayak used on flat water such as deep rivers and lakes. They are long and narrow to reduce drag which makes them extremely unstable. A K1 kayak has an enclosed cockpit and is designed to be a “sit-in”, as opposed to a “sit-on” like a surfski. Due to the ability for the cockpit to fill with water, K1s are not intended to be used in anything other than flat water. They can capsize and sink in moderate waves.
Modern K1 kayaks are generally made of lightweight composite materials such as carbon fibre, kevlar and fibreglass. They have a rudder which is fixed under the hull of the kayak. It is controlled by a t-bar or foot pedals which are operated by the paddler's feet.
How stable is a K1?
K1s are the most unstable of all paddle craft. Due to their instability, beginner kayakers will often learn to paddle in a surfski or a TK1, before progressing to a Master/Junior K1 and finally a standard K1.
What are the different types of K1?
Sprint kayaks tend to be less manoeuvrable as their main goal is to track in a straight line. As such they will have the least rocker and will be on the faster, sleeker and consequently more unstable end of the range of kayaks.
What are the size and weight requirements for a sprint K1?
Sprint kayaks have to adhere to certain size and weight requirements during competition. A standard sprint K1 must be no longer than 5.2m and weigh no less than 12kg (see below for restrictions for K2 and K4 kayaks).
A sprint kayak will often weigh less than 12kg, and additional weights are added to bring it up to the regulation weight during competition. Sprint kayaks are generally heavier than Marathon kayaks, which don’t have minimum weight requirements.
Min weight (kg)
Max length (m)
What are sprint K1 kayaks made from?
Sprint kayaks are built from mix of kevlar and carbon. They're built with a stiff hull, as flexing or deforming of the hull during racing can reduce the hydrodynamics and effect performance.
Sprint K1 kayaks use an under-hull rudder optimised for speed in a straight line.
Marathon kayaks need to sit well on washes (ie the wake of the boat in front), cruise at high speeds, turn well and pick up speed for sprints as needed. They’re very similar to sprint k1s, and usually only advanced athletes will notice the difference.
What are the size and weight requirements for a marathon K1?
The weight limit for marathon racing boats is lower (8kg K1 and 12kg K2), although marathon races are less likely to enforce these requirements than sprint races. The reduced weight is in part because a lighter kayak requires less power to propel it forward, and also because marathon races can often involved portage sections. Portage is the act of picking up the boat, running it a short distance, and re-entering it in the water to resume paddling.
What are marathon kayaks made from?
Like sprint k1 kayaks, marathon K1 kayaks are generally made using a vacuum forming process with a combination of kevlar and carbon to achieve the desired mix of strength, stiffness and lightness. A small element of flex can be beneficial in marathon boats as they often enter and exit the water in rocky or shallow sections where a very stiff boat might chip or break.
Marathon K1 kayaks use under-hull rudder optimised for wash riding and manoeuvrability.