Riot kayaks was founded in 1997 by former Olympian, innovative designer and multiple whitewater kayak world champion, Corran Addison. The Riot name quickly became synonymous with cutting-edge whitewater designs, especially freestyle kayaks for throwing acrobatic tricks in whitewater rapids. Wildly popular throughout Europe and North America in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, you may still see some of these original whitewater kayaks lapping local river runs.
In 2009, Riot Kayaks was acquired by Kayak Distribution, which also owns popular brands Boreal Design and Cobra Kayaks. Under Kayak Distribution, Riot’s offering has expanded to include award-winning recreational, fishing and touring kayaks. Today, Riot kayaks share outfitting components with Boreal Design kayaks, like their ultra-adjustable, quick-drying Flex seating systems.
Whether you are looking for a new take on an iconic whitewater kayak, a pedal-driven fishing platform, or a beginner-friendly day-tourer, there’s a Riot kayak to match your paddling ambitions. Riot kayaks range in length from nine feet to 16 feet. They are primarily made of rotomolded polyethylene, the standard material for accessible-priced, durable kayaks, with some recreational and touring models available in a lighter weight thermoformed acrylic/ABS layup.
This guide will help you decide on the best Riot kayak for your needs. Here, we’ll give an overview of the types of Riot kayaks available, as well as some tips for buying new and used. You’ll also find links to curated lists where you can buy Riot kayaks and learn more about specific models.
Top picks: Best Riot kayaks for 2023
The following Riot kayaks have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all Riot kayaks here.
Best Riot Kayaks
Quest 10HV Angler
Escape 12 Angler Thermo
Shop Riot kayaks
If you’re ready to jump right in, use the links below to view Riot kayaks in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. This comprehensive guide allows you to see specifications and prices, read reviews and find out where to buy. Filter your search by selecting the type of kayak that best suits your needs.
Shopping for a used Riot kayak?
If you’re looking for a used Riot Kayak, Craigslist, Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace are all great places to start. You can also check specialty sites like MEC Gear Swap or Paddlemonster.com. Searching for used kayaks online allows you to cast a wide net, but ideally you’ll want to try the kayak out before you buy it. Before you travel to see a privately listed kayak, ask the seller if you can meet at a location where you can test paddle the kayak before committing to a purchase.
Most Riot kayaks are made with rotomolded polyethylene plastic. This is a popular choice among kayak builders because it is inexpensive and durable. Plastic requires very little maintenance, although there are a few things that can cause damage to the boat over time. If you are considering buying a used polyethylene Riot kayak, be sure to check out the following.
How was it stored?
Let’s face it. No matter how much you paddle, your kayak is spending more time on a rack than in the water. Plastic is reasonably immune to damage from the regular bumps and grinds of paddling, but structural issues tend to happen when it’s at rest. Improper storage can warp the hull, especially if it has suffered prolonged UV exposure by being left in direct sunlight.
If you see excessive fading or dents in the hull, improper storage may be the culprit. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but you’ll need to be wary of other issues that may emerge, particularly relating to the bulkheads.
Test the bulkheads
Bulkheads are interior walls within the hull of a sit-inside kayak that create separate, watertight compartments. They are most often found in recreational and touring kayaks and are critical for providing adequate flotation so that the kayak doesn’t sink if it becomes filled with water after a capsize. If the Riot kayak you are looking at has bulkheads, you’ll want to make sure that they are watertight. The bulkheads in Riot kayaks are foam, sealed by marine-grade caulking. While plastic is a great material for kayaks, one of the downsides is that adhesives do not bond well to it.
Over time, the bulkheads may need to be resealed. This is especially true if the kayak hull has warped or bent from improper storage. Testing the bulkhead’s integrity is as easy as putting some water in the hatch and lifting that end of the kayak while looking for water running into the cockpit. Resealing bulkheads is an inexpensive job that can be done in an afternoon, but you may be able to negotiate a cheaper price for your troubles.
Riot’s Thermo kayaks are made from thermoformed ABS/acrylic laminate—a lighter, sleeker (and more expensive) option than polyethylene—and benefit from having integrated plastic bulkheads, instead of the foam bulkheads installed in polyethylene kayaks. These have a stronger bond to the hull and are less likely to leak over time.
For more tips on selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.
Riot kayak buying advice
Which Riot kayak best suits your needs? Riot makes recreational, fishing, whitewater, touring and day touring kayaks in different materials and sizes. Each of these categories is designed to meet different goals, so compare them with your intended paddling style and aspirations to find the perfect match.
Sit-inside recreational kayaks
Recreational sit-inside kayaks are wide, short kayaks that are geared towards casual paddlers and calm, sheltered waters. Nearly anyone, beginner or pro, will feel stable in these boats. With their wide cockpits, they’re easy to enter and exit but retain the secure feeling of a decked touring kayak. Recreational kayaks are generally less than 12 feet long and are easy to transport.
A key feature of Riot’s recreational sit-inside kayaks is the sealed front and back bulkheads on the Bayside models. This is a vital safety feature for anyone planning to paddle in waters where they aren’t able to quickly swim to shore. Many recreational kayaks do not have these watertight bulkheads, which give the boat inherent buoyancy. That means that in the event of a capsize, the kayak will still float to some degree. A kayak without one or more bulkheads will be nearly impossible to re-enter if it fills with water, and should only be used near shore in calm waters.
In addition to the Bayside models, Riot’s Quest series are entry-priced solo recreational kayaks available in three sizes to match a range of paddlers. Riot also makes the exciting Intrigue thermoform kayak with a clear window in the hull for viewing underwater, as well as the family-friendly Intrigue MKII tandem kayak.
Sit-on-top recreational kayaks
Sit-on-top kayaks are another beginner-friendly option for casual paddlers and anglers. Wide, stable platforms set even nervous paddlers at ease. Without a cockpit to enter, these are the best kayaks for taking along dogs as well. The Escape series, which includes 9-, 10- and 12-foot solos or a 14-foot tandem, are advertised as boats for families, photographers, anglers or divers.
The Escape Angler models are specially tailored for fishing with angler-specific accessories like gear tracks, tankwell storage and a vertically-adjustable seat to gain a better view of the water.
In addition to the Escape Angler series, Riot’s pedal-driven Mako line offers a hands-free option for catching on the water. Cast a line while you propel these stable sit-on-top kayaks with your feet. Riot’s Impulse pedal system is one of the lightest on the market but is still capable of attaining speeds of up to 10 km/h. The Mako Versa is all about options and can be equipped with a gas or electric motor on the stern transom for more power.
Mako models are available in three lengths to suit various paddler sizes and the types of water you want to fish. The 14-foot Mako 14 is the longest fishing kayak Riot offers, capable of easily handling ocean swells. Riot’s only inflatable offering is also a fishing kayak, the Mako 8.5 Air. This catamaran-style boat can be pedaled or paddled, and packs into a duffel bag for easy transport. If you’re looking for a more traditional, sit-inside paddle-propelled kayak with fishing features, check out the Quest 10 HV Angler or the Enduro 12 Angler.
Riot began producing whitewater kayaks in the late ‘90s when the sport was booming. Their innovative design team revolutionized whitewater playboats, and Riot continues to make solid kayaks for river running and play today. You’ll find the Riot Astro in 54 and 58 sizes to accommodate a range of paddlers. This popular freestyle kayak has been around for 15 years, and is continually evolving.
The Riot Magnum (also available in two sizes) is the answer if you’re looking for a creek boat that can handle steep, high-volume water. Riot’s Thunder 65 River Runner is their all-around boat for downriver tripping; larger paddlers will find a roomier fit in the Thunder 76. Grab a Riot Boogie 50 for a super fun, responsive surf kayak.
Day touring kayaks
Riot’s extensive selection of 11- to 15-foot day touring kayaks is one of the most comprehensive on the market. You’ll find the Edge and Enduro models in various sizes to accommodate most paddlers. These are kayaks that bridge the gap between touring and recreational boats. Elements of longer touring sea kayaks are incorporated into smaller packages for greater versatility and satisfying speed on shorter journeys. Remember the importance of bulkheads? All of these kayaks have sealed hatches to keep the kayaks buoyant and provide dry storage for your gear.
Depending on the model, they also feature either a rudder or drop-down skeg (retractable fin under the stern) for enhanced directional control and tracking (the tendency of a kayak to paddle in a straight line—an attribute of more efficient touring designs). Of particular note is Riot’s Edge 14.5 Thermo—and its little sisters, the Edge 11 and 13 Thermo—which use thermoform construction to give the kayaks a sleeker look, lighter overall weight and better performance. For tandem day touring, look to the Polarity 16.5 for a compact, stable ride for two.
Riot offers one full-size sea kayak, the Brittany 16.5. Designed in the tradition of British-style touring kayaks, this rotomolded kayak has a narrow, upturned bow for cutting through the water gracefully and three dry storage hatches. With a low back deck, the Brittany is fairly easy to roll, and it best suits intermediate paddlers who are comfortable in a low volume sea kayak.
Touring kayaks like the Brittany won’t feel as stable on calm water as recreational or day touring kayaks, but they actually offer more stability and performance in the livelier waters that many intermediate paddlers enjoy. If this sounds like you, look to Riot’s sister company, Boreal Design, for a much greater selection of sea kayak options. They carry an extensive range of touring kayaks in various materials for beginners and experts.
Use this as a start, and remember that online research will only get you so far. The best advice we can offer is to always test paddle before buying any boat. The more time you can spend on the water, the better the purchasing decision you will make.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about Riot Kayaks.
Are Riot kayaks any good?
Now in their 25th year, Riot Kayaks are a respected brand among paddlers and retailers. Built on a foundation of innovative whitewater kayak designs, Riot has expanded into fishing, recreational, sit-on-top, touring and day touring designs. Their kayaks frequently garner praise, including the Mako 10 Versa fishing kayak’s nomination for the 2021 Paddling Industry Awards.
Riot kayak models
Riot makes a range of recreational, fishing, day touring and whitewater kayak models in different materials and styles. Popular models include the Quest and Bayside recreational kayaks, Edge and Enduro day touring kayaks, and Mako fishing kayaks. Current whitewater kayak models include the Astro, Magnum and Thunder series. View all of the current Riot kayak models in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide.
What are Riot kayaks made from?
Riot kayaks are made from different materials depending on the model. Their base material is “Cross-Max,” which is Riot’s take on rotomolded high density polyethylene (HDPE). This is a common material for kayaks that is strong and inexpensive.
For lighter kayaks, Riot employs thermoforming techniques. This essentially involves heating ABS-acrylic laminate plastic sheets and pressing them into a kayak mold. The result is a kayak that’s lighter than HDPE, but more durable and less expensive than composites like fiberglass. Look for Riot’s “Thermo” models or kayaks that employ their “Crosslight” construction. A select few “Ultralight” models are being developed that also use thermoforming, but further shave weight wherever possible.
The novel Mako 8.5 Air fishing kayak marks Riot’s foray into inflatables. This lightweight pedal-drive kayak has three PVC chambers which inflate to resemble an ultra-stable catamaran.
Riot kayak prices
Riot kayaks are priced in the mid range compared to similar models. Their rotomolded kayaks are not as cheap as those found in big-box department stores, but offer superior performance and comfort to entry-level kayaks. Riot recreational sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks deliver excellent value for their price, and their thermoformed kayaks are comparable to other leading boat brands.
Where to buy Riot kayaks
Riot kayaks are sold around the world, but as Kayak Distribution Inc is based in Quebec, you’re more likely to find these boats in-store in Canada and the USA. Check popular outdoor chains like Sport Chek/Atmosphere, SAIL and MEC in Canada; or REI and Sportsman Warehouse in the U.S. Riot is also available through a network of independent paddlesports retailers, or online through Amazon. To find a Riot dealer near you, use their dealer locator tool.
Riot kayaks warranty
Riot kayaks sold in North America are covered under their five-year limited warranty.
What happened to Riot Kayaks?
After Kayak Distribution Inc acquired whitewater innovator Riot Kayaks in 2009, they expanded the Riot line to include fishing kayaks, sit-on-tops, day touring and touring boats. Today, Riot Kayaks (including a handful of whitewater designs) are made in the same factory as other Kayak Distribution brands (such as Boreal Design and Cobra Kayaks) and sold at a widespread network of dealers across North America.
Is Riot Kayaks still in business?
Riot Kayak is still in business under its parent company, Kayak Distribution, which continues to build a range of kayaks for most paddlers’ needs. Riot has branched out from their whitewater origins and now make a wide variety of rotomolded and thermoformed kayaks for recreational, fishing, whitewater, day touring and touring paddlers.
Who owns Riot kayaks?
Riot Kayaks are part of the Kayak Distribution group, which also includes Beluga Outdoor Gear, Riot Paddleboards, Boreal Design and Cobra Kayaks.
Who makes Riot kayaks?
Kayak Distribution Inc makes Riot Kayaks alongside their other boat and board brands.
Where are Riot kayaks manufactured?
Riot kayaks are made overseas at Kayak Distribution’s factories in China.
Are Riot kayaks made in China?
Riot kayaks are made in Kayak Distribution’s factory near Shanghai, China.
Are Riot kayaks made in Canada?
Riot kayaks are sold in Canada, but the company makes them overseas at their Shanghai manufacturing facility.
Compare Riot kayaks
Riot kayaks vs Pelican
Quebec-based Pelican Sport makes recreational sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks for casual users. You’ll find these entry-level kayaks across box store retail shelves and cottage lakes. Pelican focuses on low-cost, recreational and fishing kayaks between eight and 10 feet long. All of Pelican’s kayaks are made in Canada using their durable RAM-X plastic. These are good, inexpensive kayaks for new paddlers and casual use. Choose a Pelican if you are only planning on short kayak outings, and you don’t want to break the bank.
Riot provides more options for a range of users and higher-quality kayaks. While these kayaks cost a little more than Pelican kayaks, there is a significant increase in performance. Riot incorporates safety and performance elements from longer touring kayaks into their recreational models, like skegs (to assist with efficient paddling, or tracking) and sealed bulkheads (for flotation and dry storage). If you want to take your recreational paddling adventures further—or if you’re looking for a solid, mid-range day touring or fishing kayak—you’ll be happier with a Riot kayak.
Riot kayak reviews
Our catalogue of Riot reviews is the best way to learn more about the models you are most interested in. Reading reviews of kayaks gives you a better understanding of each boat’s strengths and limitations. See what others love about their kayaks, and let it guide your decision. When you find one that matches your needs perfectly, remember, it’s always best to “try before you buy.”
- Boat Review: Riot Booster Kayak
- Boat Review: Riot Edge 14.5 Thermo
- Boat Review: The Liberty by Riot
- Boat Review: Riot’s Inferno
- Boat Review: Riot’s Turbo
- Boat Review: Riot Groove C1