The Differences Between Canoeing and Kayaking

The difference between a canoe and a kayak can be confusing for people who are new to water sports. Generally, both are lightweight boats powered and controlled by people using paddles. Both canoes and kayaks can be used for entertainment, water sports, fishing, and travel. While similar, there are some important differences to keep in mind when differentiating between them.

man kayaking

What Is A Kayak?

A kayak is a type of small boat in which the rider sits facing the bow (front), in the direction of travel, and in his/her hands carries a double-bladed paddle as a propeller. It originates back to the mid 1800’s in northern Europe and around the arctic.

The kayak is a small boat in relation to others, with a semi-closed or open deck, not very wide and elongated. There are many different kinds of kayaks. They can have one, two, or four seats. There are kayaks for rivers, whitewater, speed/track, sea kayaks, rodeo, kayak-polo, whitewater slalom, and recreational.

Unlike the canoe, which could be compared to a family car, the kayak is much more sporty and has a more stylish line. The occupants are seated closer to the water and the upper part is covered, leaving only the place where the paddler is placed free. The number of holes indicates the number of occupants able to fit in the boat. Type K1 is for one person, K2 for 2 people, and K4 for groups of four rowers.

The type of paddle used in kayaks also helps differentiate between canoeing and kayaking. In kayaks, double oars are used with a paddle on each end, which allows easy paddling on one side and then the other.

Due to their maneuverability and better stability, kayaks are usually seen in competitions and more dangerous water areas, such as rapids or whitewater descents. However, they are also widely used on lakes, calm rivers, and the ocean.

three people canoeing on lake

What Is A Canoe?

Canoes are typically larger than kayaks and can seat 1, 2, or 3 people depending on the size. The riders sit facing forward towards the bow, in the direction they want to travel. Canoes have been around for thousands of years. Over the years, the materials in manufacturing canoes have changed. In the olden days, they were made from wood and bark. Today they are primarily made out of fiberglass or molded plastic.

Because of the size of the canoe, they are a little harder to transport than a kayak. Kayaks can usually be carried by one person while canoes usually need two people to carry them.

Normally, canoes are used to navigate through calm waters, such as lakes, ponds, calm rivers, or sections where there is not too much current. In most canoes, the seating is up off of the floor, which can make the balance a little wobbly if you are not used to how the canoe floats across the water. Kayaks are more stable because the seat is on the floor of the kayak.

One of the characteristics that identify a canoe is the type of paddle used. For canoeing, simple oars are used with only one paddle on the end. The paddlers can alternate the movement to one side or the other or coordinate to row at the same rhythm if there are more riders at the same time.

Canoes have more storage space which allows for more equipment to be packed or traveled with. It is important to get the balance even when adding additional weight to the canoe. If the majority of the weight from equipment is in the back, it will cause the front of the canoe to sit higher in the water and can be harder to control. Also, vis versa it the weight is in the front. Remember to account for the weight of the riders.

Two Ways To Enjoy The Water

Both kayaking and canoeing are fun activities that get you out on the water and can be done alone or in a group. If you are wanting to give one or both of these sports a try, look at rental options to try it out before you buy anything. You may like one more than the other. Most recreational water areas have shops that offer rentals.

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