What is a Multisport Kayak?
Multisport kayaks are designed to handle shallow, fast-moving braided rivers and are used in popular multisport events such as the Coast to Coast and the Motu Challenge. They are most commonly seen in New Zealand and sometimes Australia.
They are long and narrow to reduce drag which makes them very unstable. They have an enclosed cockpit which is often covered in a "spray skirt" to stop water from getting in. Due to the ability for the cockpit to fill with water, multisport boats are not recommended for ocean paddling as they can capsize and sink in moderate waves.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MULTISPORT KAYAK AND A K1?
Size and Weight
The first key difference is that multisport kayaks are not constrained to the same dimensions as marathon and sprint K1 kayaks. They can often exceed 6m in length, and there are no minimum weight restrictions.
Rudder and Steering
The second key difference is that multisport kayaks have trailing runners (ie rudders that are attached to the stern of the boats, rather than under the hull.) These rudders are often made from aluminium, and are attached by a hinge which allows the rudder to flip up. This protects the rudder in shallow water or rapids, where it can easily hit rocks on the bottom of the river.
Multisport kayaks are most often steered by pedals, as opposed to a t-bar like sprint K1 kayaks. They can also be fitted with a foot-operated pump which helps paddlers remove water from the boat while they paddle.
The front deck of a multisport boat inclines before the cockpit. This is to stop water getting into the boat as the bow punches through rough water or narrow gaps. It also increases the buoyancy by increasing the volume.
Multisport kayaks are more durable than other craft. They can scrape on the bottom or on rocks without significant damage, whereas a small bump will affect other craft.
WHAT'S a multisport kayak made from?
Multisport kayaks are generally made of lightweight composite materials such as carbon fibre, kevlar, fibreglass and sometimes even plastic.
How stable is a multisport kayak?
Similar to K1 kayaks, stability of multisport kayaks varies a lot. Elite boats are similarly "tippy" as a flatwater K1, whereas entry level boats provide a good stable base, like a TK1 for learning to paddle with proper technique. There are two types of stability - primary and secondary.
How likely the boat is to tip over with the paddler just sitting in it.
How much support the kayak gives as it tilts sideways.
What is a good multisport kayak for my stage of paddling?
We recommend beginners learn in a boat that is less than 5.5m long and at least 55cm wide. This will ensure a good combination of stability and manoeuvrability. At these dimensions, the hull shape will have less influence on the overall stability of the boat. Increased boat volume also helps with the overall stability of the boat.
As beginners are far more likely to get lines wrong or misread a river and crash/hit rocks, they require a durable boat construction. There is a reason why most C2C paddlers paddle plastic boats! As skills and ability increase, beginners can move into less forgiving boats, made out of lighter but less durable material.
As you progress onto intermediate boats, a paddler must consider whether they want to optimise for primary or secondary stability. This is determined by the hull shape. If the goal is to progress to an elite boat, we recommend choosing a boat that is designed for secondary stability - i.e much of its width is above the waterline. This will help the paddler develop the balance required to paddle an advance/elite boat.
If a paddler is content at intermediate level, and doesn't with no plans to progress to elite boats, they should choose a model with a semi-circular hull and a wider water line. This will provide progressive chine and good primary stability. It won't be quite as fast in a straight line but most intermediate paddlers will be faster (and happier) through grade 2 in this style of boat.