Canoe vs kayak is an argument that can entertain a bunch of paddlers for hours. At first glance, newbies can be forgiven for thinking that these two water sports are almost the same. However, be careful in making that assumption in front of a Canoer or a Kayaker…
There are some pretty significant differences between canoeing and kayaking that make these two paddle sports unique.
So if you are trying to work out which is best for you, you have come to the right place. We are going to discuss the differences, the benefits, and all the paddling details in between. After reading this article, not only will you know the difference between a canoe and a sit-on-top kayak, but you will also know which one will be best for you.
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When you look closely, a canoe and a kayak have differences in vessel shaping. This includes the cockpit, seat, and hull.
Canoes tend to be open top. Paddlers either kneel or sit on benches for a more elevated position. Kayaks, on the other hand, have a closed deck with a cut-out hole in the middle for the paddler to sit in a seat. Most kayaks are lower profiled, sitting closer to the water. These boat shape differences are crucial for the distinct paddling techniques.
Now of course, just as it is in the world of paddle boarding, there are several different types of kayaks and canoes that specialize in certain activities.
From tandem kayaking to whitewater madness, the world of kayaks is vast. Many of these are sit inside kayaks, but there are some variations that you can delve into more detail in our ultimate kayak buying guide.
|Recreational kayaks are beginner-friendly and a good all-rounder option. They are suitable for all ability levels, offer good stability, and are typically easy to paddle. Typically sit-in kayak style.
|Whitewater kayaks are generally longer with less volume. This allows for more maneuverability while in the rapids. Used with a spray skirt to close the cockpit and deck.
|Sea kayaks are generally a sleek design. This gives them stability in choppy water as the hull ‘cuts’ through the ocean. Made for easier paddling.
|Touring kayaks have a specialized hull that tracks well in strong currents and can handle rough waters.
|Racing kayaks are long and narrow, built for speed. They are unstable and difficult to manoeuver. Require experience.
|Sit-on-top kayaks are perfect for fishing. Fishing kayaks give you a higher vantage point and more deck space.
|Inflatable kayaks are good for travel and recreational paddling. They use a similar technology to inflatable paddle boards and are beginning to take the world by storm.
There are not as many different types of canoes out there. But there are still some options available to you.
|Recreational canoes are made for everyday paddling on lakes, rivers, and flat water. Generally wide to give extra stability that is perfect for beginners or multiple people.
|Whitewater canoes tend to be shorter in length with a high rocker. This allows them to navigate rapids while (hopefully) keeping the cockpit and paddler dry!
|Racing canoes are narrow with a pointed stern and rear. This design cuts through the water and provides optimum speed.
Canoes and kayaks have been a useful tool used by many cultures across the world for centuries.
Throughout history, canoes have been made from carved-out logs, animal skins, and tree barks. They were used widely across the globe for basic transportation, trade, improving fishing, and even warfare. Lengths ranged from 3 meters to 30 meters, depending on the intended use.
Kayaks were developed vessels designed to keep the icy cold Arctic waters out. They were made using animal skins stretched over the wooden frame. It is believed that kayaks originated from Greenland.
In the 1800s, Europeans began using kayaks for sport. In the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, the first kayak exhibition showcased flatwater racing. This publicity boost for kayaking introduced the sport into the Games 12 years later. Slalom racing was brought in much later in the 1972 Games.
Since then until now, innovative designs and materials have been developed across both canoeing and kayaking to create the diverse water sports we know and love today.
Regardless of which one you choose, both kayaking and canoeing require a similar kit list to get paddling.
There are countless adventures to be had with a canoe or kayak. Choosing where to go is all part of the fun. You can discover new corners of your local area or venture further afield to see places in an alternative light.
Beginners ideally need calm and flat water to learn the basics of paddling. Think lakes, sheltered ocean bays, or calm meandering rivers. As you become more confident with the paddling then you can look to take on whitewater rapids or waves for some more adrenaline.
Based in the USA? Check out our Top 16 Epic Places To Paddle In The USA for inspiration!
So now you know the key differences, which is better suited to you? A canoe or kayak?
As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to both canoeing and kayaking. Choosing between the two typically comes down to your personal preference and circumstances.
With all the differences highlighted, pros and cons outlined, how do you go about determining if canoeing or kayaking will suit you best? There are aspects you need to keep in mind along with a series of questions to ask yourself.
Your personal circumstances may be what sways the decision in the canoe vs kayak debate. These aspects could be one or all of the following:
If you live right on the water, then a canoe will be blissful. If you plan on heading out for road trips and adventures, then a kayak will be easier to transport. And if you have got a water-loving doggo in your tribe then you need to consider what is more comfortable for them! Make sure you think all of this through so you make the best decision for yourself.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself to help work out if you need a canoe or a kayak in your life:
Fishing from a canoe or a kayak is great fun! And both are really great for the job. If you are fishing from a kayak, make sure you opt for a sit-on-top kayak type. This will give you more space on the deck for your gear, as well as a higher viewpoint to help cast your line and see the fish.
Ocean fishing is best done from a kayak. Whereas, flat water fishing is best from a canoe. Canoes tend to offer more space for your fishing equipment as well.
Perhaps you are a beginner or nervous about being in the water. Whatever your situation is, stability could be the drawing factor.
Canoes are generally more stable and much harder to capsize than kayaks. This is due to the size and width. Because of the better stability, canoes are also easier to enter and exit.
Kayaks are the faster of the two crafts. This is because of the double-bladed paddle that doubles the energy that is propelling the vessel forwards.
You can speed up a canoe by adding an additional person to paddle on the other side. This will make it roughly the same speed as a single-person kayak.
People are more inclined to reach for a canoe without lessons over a kayak. Because of this, many would suggest that canoeing is the more difficult for beginners. However, both require balance, skills, and instruction to master the technique. Therefore, we say they are about level when it comes to beginner paddlers.
For big family outings, long canoes are the winners. You can load everyone on board the same vehicle, so everyone is together to join in with the fun.
Kayak family trips are doable. However, the kids need to be comfortable to be in their own smaller kayak and paddling alongside you. Kayaking is more independent.
Both canoes and kayaks take time and patience to get to grips with the skills needed. Canoeing is often considered the easier of the two though because they tend to be more stable. As they are the wider boat, this reduces the chance of capsizing and reduces the amount of balance that is needed.
However, a double-bladed paddle is easier to handle. A single-blade paddle needs to be alternated between sides and can get muddled for newcomers.
Tandem kayaks are great for people that want to navigate a variety of water spaces, getting into the hard-to-reach corners or hidden caves. Canoes are ideal for paddlers that are carrying cargo for a longer trip. It comes down to what kind of paddling you want to do.
Kayaking is very different from canoeing. Kayak paddlers sit deep within the boat, close to the water, unlike canoes that sit above the water with the paddler kneeling or on a bench.
Kayakers use a dual-bladed paddle to propel them forward using a twisting motion technique. Canoers use a single blade oar and switch it from side to side. This makes kayaks much faster.
Converting a stand-up paddle board to a canoe/kayak is simple. You just need to get hold of a seat to secure onto the deck of your paddle board. Some are kayak style and sit low to the SUP, while others can be high offering more of a canoe style.
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