Updated: May 20, 2021
Kayak sailing has been gaining popularity among avid kayakers in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Adding a sail to your kayak allows you to take advantage of the wind’s power. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride!
With a kayak sail kit installed on your kayak, you can still have all the joys of paddling. But, when the wind conditions are right, you can pop up you sail and fly across the water on wind power alone. The right kayak sailing kit gives you the versatility of paddling when you want to and sailing when you don’t.
A well-designed kayak sail can be raised or lowered in seconds and it will never hinder you from paddling, which is one of the reasons you love kayaking in the first place. Read on to see how you can have the best of both worlds and get even more out of your favorite water sport!
What is a Kayak Sail?
A kayak sail is simply a sail that has been specially designed just for use on a kayak. It can be raised or lowered while you’re out on the water, and it allows you to harness the power of the wind so you can sail along the surface of the water at a high rate of speed and give your arms a break.
Let’s take a look at the main pros and cons of a sailing kayak.
Advantages of a Sailing Kayak
#1 – Go Out Further and Stay Out Longer
When you’re kayaking with a sail, you take advantage of straight-line winds to travel further without putting additional strain on your arms. Organize your gear, throw out a fishing line, or simply sit back and relax. Suddenly that kayak trip that used to seem too long to tackle in a day becomes much more doable!
A kayak sail allows you to enjoy those long, adventurous outings without killing your arms. If you’ve always wanted to tackle a long paddle and still enjoy a nice hike when you reach your destination, a kayak sail opens up that possibility!
#2 – Travel Faster
For those times when you just want to get to your destination fast, you can’t beat a kayak sail! You can even sail and paddle at the same time to increase your speed even more.
Work your sail and paddle hard… or sit back, relax, and let the wind get you where you want to go in much less time than you could if you were paddling alone. Imagine the advantage you’ll have if you were to participate in a kayak race!
#3 – More Enjoyable and Relaxing Outings
Imagine kicking your feet up and simply enjoying the ride as the wind does all the work! Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or a beginner, when you find the right wind, a kayak sail can add a whole new level of enjoyment to your outing.
No matter what your skill level is, a relaxing afternoon sail in your kayak opens up all sorts of possibilities. Adding a kayak sail kit to your kayak will probably lead to more outings and exploration. What could be more fun than that?
#4 – Makes You More Visible on the Water
Safety is a top concern anytime you’re out on the water. Installing a kayak sail kit on your kayak makes it much more visible to other vessels. Choose a unique color or pattern that stands out, and your friends will be able to find you much more easily on land or water, too. That’s a huge advantage when you’re paddling in a group.
For many sea kayakers, raising their sail eliminates much of the concern about powerboats passing nearby. The typical kayak sail is a very bright color and consists of more than 10,000 square centimeters of material. It’s easy to see how that would make you much more visible than waving the typical 100 square centimeter paddle blade in the air.
#5 – Great for Fishing
Not only will a kayak sail allow you to get to your favorite fishing hole more quickly, but you will also be able to troll on your way there. Even if the wind isn’t very strong, you’ll be able to drift along much more than you could without the sail.
And, it’s nice to have some movement when you want to get your line out in places where you can’t cast.
Disadvantages of Kayaking With a Sail
#1 – Less Stability
The biggest disadvantage of adding a sail to your kayak is that it could make your kayak less stable, especially when the winds are strong. A larger sail means you can go faster, but you’re also more likely to tip over if you don’t have it positioned just right.
If you have a sit-inside kayak, an attached sail will prevent you from rolling over if your kayak capsizes. You may have to remove the sail before you can flip the kayak over. Then, you’ll have to reattach it before you can be on your way again.
#2 – Less Maneuverability
It’s also important to note that it would be difficult to navigate a narrow river with a sail. And, if there are a lot of low-hanging branches, your sail could get stuck and damaged as you sail beneath them.
Related: Sit-Inside vs Sit-on-Top Kayaks
Types of Kayak Sail Kit Designs
To determine which type of kayak sail is best for you, you’ll need to consider the type of kayak you have, the type of install, and how much control you want to have. Here’s how the three most popular types of kayak sail designs compare:
Downwind Spinnaker Type Sails
Downwind sails use a spinnaker-style design to take full advantage of the wind. This type of sail can only be used if you’re traveling downwind.
You’ll have to paddle if you’re traveling upwind, but you’ll really be able to catch some speed when you’re traveling downwind to make up for it!
Free-standing sails stand on their own and they’re super easy to deploy. You can adjust them slightly, but not as much a full sailing rig.
They’re a lot of fun for zipping around on the water, although learning how to work the sail for maximum speed will take some practice.
Full Sailing Rigs
If you want all of the advantages of a sailing kayak and you plan to be out on the water often, it’s worth investing in a full sailing rig. This type of rig will give you maximum control in any type of wind, just like a sailboat.
You’ll be able to take advantage of the wind in any direction simply by trimming the sail. If you want versatility as well as speed, a full sailing rig is where it’s at!
Do Kayak Sails Really Work?
Absolutely! They allow you to take advantage of the wind’s power and save energy when you need to. They also allow you to sail and paddle at the same time, which can get you moving even faster, even when the wind is light.
Best Kayak Sail Kits for Beginners
Hobie’s Mirage kayak sail kit comes with a two-piece mast and boomless sail. It has a diagonal batten design and can easily be rolled down and stowed on deck or in the included storage bag. It comes in three color options to vastly improve your visibility on the water.
This sail is well made and easy to use and install. It’s fantastic for gaining some speed in moderate winds, but it can make your kayak tippy if the wind is high. Some users install outriggers for versatility and greater stability in high winds.
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As one of our favorite makers of inflatable kayaks, Advanced Elements makes a good sail kit. If you’re on a tight budget or you simply want to dip your toes in the water of kayak sailing without making a huge investment, check out their Rapid Up kayak sail kit. It has a compact, portable design that allows for easy setup and rapid deployment.
It also stows away quickly and lays completely flat on the deck of your kayak. We love the design that includes a large central window, plus two side windows for excellent visibility. The Rapid Up Sail is compatible with many different kayak decks, too. Just keep in mind that this is a downwind-only sail so maneuverability will be limited.
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Sea Eagle’s QuikSail is another great option. It includes a strong aluminum frame and extends to 81-inches, allowing you to maximize the wind’s power and travel at higher speeds. Although it is primarily a downwind-only sail, it does have some tacking abilities to give you a bit more control.
We found the Sea Eagle QuikSail to be very sturdy, easy to use, and sized appropriately for a lot of different decks and configurations. However, some users with smaller kayaks found that this sail decreases stability and makes them more likely to tip.
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This Downwind Kayak Sail from LoneRobe is super budget-friendly, easy to install, and easy to use. It’s surprisingly durable and sturdy, even in gusty winds and it doesn’t affect stability on the water. The compact design makes set up, deployment, and storage incredibly simple.
LoneRobe’s sail kit is perfect for beginners or anyone who wants the option to simply float along and relax while they’re out on the water. Just keep in mind that this is a downwind-only sail, so it will only be useful when the wind is just right.
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DIY Kayak Sail
You can also go the DIY route and make your own sail. Check out these tutorials to help you get started:
A Few Final Kayak Sailing Tips
Once you’ve installed a kayak sail on your kayak, these tips will help ensure that your first trip goes smoothly.
- Always wear a life jacket suitable for kayaking or sailing in addition to normal kayaking gear for the conditions.
- Be sure to choose a sail that’s compatible with your kayak and install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Improper installation could be dangerous, and it could damage your kayak.
- Practice raising, lowering, and trimming your sail before you head out on the water. It’s important that you know how to maneuver the sail and stop sailing when needed.
- Practice when the wind and water are both calm. Kayak sailing can be tricky when you’re first starting out, so you’ll want to get a good feel for it before taking on anything too challenging.
- Don’t forget to keep your sheets trimmed so they are always full of air. Your sails shouldn’t be flapping. If they are, you’re not getting the most out of the wind’s power and they need to be adjusted.