What’s the difference between canoeing and kayaking?

What is the difference between canoeing and kayaking?

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between canoeing and kayaking? If the answer is yes, continue reading this article where you will find all the differences between these two types of boats illustrated.

A lot of people don’t make a difference between canoeing and kayaking and that’s fine. We too, sometimes use these words somewhat interchangeably. But when you have to choose a boat often, confusing canoe and kayak can play tricks on you.

Maybe you are looking for a boat to drive with only one paddle, and instead, after buying it you realize that you have received a different product. With two paddles, and a low and very light seat, you were looking for a canoe, and you found a kayak!

At first glance, kayaks and canoes may seem very similar, but if you take a closer look at these two types of watercraft, you will notice 5 differences.

The structure of the boat

Not all boats are the same: a transatlantic liner is not a raft, and a dinghy is not a speedboat. This also applies to canoes and kayaks.

Canoe angler
𝗖𝗮𝗻𝗼𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗽𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗯𝗼𝘄 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗻 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗸

The canoe has a pointed bow and stern and usually has the deck open. When you get on this boat, you don’t have to wear the classic kayakers’ “skirt”. Of course, the open deck has its pros and cons. If paddling a canoe is more comfortable, especially on a very hot summer day, beginners will easily embark on the water.

The kayak has a different structure. It has the deck is closed, and only the bow is pointed. The kayak angler should therefore wear a skirt.

Let’s say it would be because there are also kayakers who prefer not to wear protective skirts. It is possible to embark on the water with a kayak, but it is much more difficult. Because the kayaker sits in a cockpit, which is much narrower than the interior of a canoe.

Is everything clear so far? Good! You can already correctly distinguish the kayak from the canoe. But besides that, there are 4 other differences

The shape of the blades

The kayak paddles have double blades, generally curved. The paddles used for canoeing have a single flat blade.

The second difference between canoeing and kayaking is here. But the difference is not minimal. The best way to understand how double or single paddles can make a difference in paddling is to try both kayaking and canoeing.

𝗞𝗮𝘆𝗮𝗸 𝗽𝗮𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲𝘀

Although the posture inside the canoe and the kayak may seem similar, in reality, the movement to be made to paddle is completely different. Also, one of the first exercises for kayak learners is to roll over and bring the kayak to the surface with a single, very vigorous paddle. This is also possible with canoeing, but it’s a different dynamic.

You have just discovered a second difference between canoeing and kayaking. So if you find someone offering you kayaks with a single-blade paddle, you know they are offering you a type of paddle that is not suitable for the boat you have chosen.

The weight of the boat

The kayak is lighter than the canoe, thanks in particular to the thinner line. Let’s say in principle because different kayak models can achieve different weights. The situation becomes more complicated if we compare inflatable kayaks with rigid kayaks and rigid canoes.

Kayak sevylor adventure
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗰𝗮𝗻𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗸𝗮𝘆𝗮𝗸𝘀 𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝘆𝗽𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗼𝗱𝗲𝗹

The canoe is therefore heavier. The difference in weight is evident in the way these two types of boats float. A good kayak always floats at water level.

The wider and heavier canoe generally sinks a bit more. If you live by a river where in the morning you usually see kayakers or canoeists practicing in all seasons and in all weathers, you can easily see the difference in buoyancy.

Boat speed

In the water, the same rules do not apply as on land, except for one: lightness means speed. Kayaks are boats that can be used on the water designed to be faster than canoes. Thanks to their conical structure and light hull.

Best inflatable kayak
𝗞𝗮𝘆𝗮𝗸𝘀 𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝗰𝗮𝗻𝗼𝗲𝘀.

The canoe is a boat designed for more stable navigation. In reality, these two types of boats are not designed for sports competitions, but for moving on waterways and for fishing. The competitive use of kayaks and canoes is fairly recent.

Then – we add – a lot depends on the level of fitness and technique of those who practice kayaking or canoeing. A good kayaker can reach good speeds even in a canoe, and vice versa compared to a beginner or those who use the kayak for fun rather than competition.

The session

We’ve left this difference between canoeing and kayaking for last as it’s the best known and most cited. The different form of canoeing and kayaking requires two very different types of session.

Sea kayaking
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝗮 𝗸𝗮𝘆𝗮𝗸 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗹𝗲𝗴𝘀 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗲𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱.

Canoe users can kneel on the hull or even paddle in a semi-kneeling position, as well as in a seated position with their legs slightly bent. This type of seat is not suitable for kayaking, mainly due to the much narrower hull. The only possible position in a kayak is to be seated with the legs stretched forward.

Should we go canoeing or kayaking?

The differences between canoe and kayak are very important both for the paddle and speed, stability and weight of the boat. Often, the choice of the kayak rather than the canoe is made by chance or also because the sportsman feels a particular “feeling” towards one of these two boats.

Canoeing and kayaking both have advantages and disadvantages, but we prefer not to comment on the latter, leaving our readers free to choose the boat they like the most.

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Liam Dean is a Professional Blogger and Outdoor Enthusiast. He completed Masters in Sports Sciences and spend all of his free time doing sports and other outdoor activities. During vacations, he goes hunting, fishing and mountaineering.

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