Canoe vs Kayak: Know The Difference

Written by David Rivera

For many people, the disparity between the canoe and the kayak would always be an unending debate. While some question if there is any difference between these two, others prefer one over the other due to various reasons. Hence, it is usually difficult to simply pick a side or choose one over the other. Both boat types serve as amazing water vessels often used for recreation or other purposes. It is usual to see one preferred over the other in different regions. However, this could be simply due to the type of waterways in such regions.

The first thing you have to know is the differences between a canoe and a kayak. Although they both have the same elongated shape, you would definitely notice the differences upon a closer inspection. Here are a few noticeable differences between the canoe and the kayak.

The canoe is hollower than the kayak:

It is obvious that canoes and kayaks are designed differently. Canoes have a well dug out interior space that allows for more people. It is often times fitted with small benches horizontally that serves as sitting space for two to five people. Otherwise, the space is simply left for sitting or kneeling within. The kayak on the other hand isn’t as hollow. It is designed to either have a covered top or cockpit (i.e. sit-in kayaks vs sit on), or with a flatter top with no interior hollow space. However modern kayaks are fitted with comfortable seats and can accommodate more than one person.

Canoes are larger and heavier than kayaks:

Canoes are mostly made of wood. This makes them quite sturdy and heavy. Kayaks are a bit lighter, and some are even made to be inflatable. Because of this, it is easier to transport a kayak from one place to another.  Although this can be argued against, because some canoes today are made to be quite light.

The paddles are different:

The paddle of a kayak has two blades on both ends, and they are made to row through the water on alternate sides. The paddle is long and has raised high when paddling, unlike the canoe’s which has a shorter single-bladed paddle. With canoes, the paddle is used with one end only, and is brought closer to the water to be rowed on one side. Although a canoe permits for multiple rowers who can sit or kneel on opposite ends of the canoe making it faster. However, it is important to note that some canoes make use of long paddles too for paddling on either side, however always with a single blade. As a result of the different paddles, the techniques used to maneuver a canoe differs from the technique used for a kayak.

What are the paddling techniques of canoes and kayaks?

Furthermore, the rowing techniques makes it clear that one watercraft would be better suited for some kind of waterways. That is, a canoe, which is single bladed is better suited for slow-moving water, such as lakes and rivers. Canoes are highly unsuited for turbulent or windy waterways, as this makes them very difficult to maneuver. However, kayaks on the other hand are well-suited for the rough, fast waterways. Although, it is typically a lot more technical to paddle a kayak under such conditions. It requires skills and some experience of the water. If you have no experience or training on kayaking, then it would be highly inadvisable to launch out on rough waters.

From the differences explained above, it is clear that choosing one watercraft over the other is actually based on individual preference. Also, it is clear that you have to decide based on what activity you want to carry out, before opting for a kayak or a canoe. One honest advice however, is to try out and get familiar with both the kayak and the canoe before selecting a preference. Here are some activities that might determine your choice of a kayak or a canoe:

For leisure:

Yes, you might simply want to enjoy a cool evening on a lake or a river. For this, you can simply opt for a canoe. As mentioned above, a canoe is best suited for a peaceful waterway, in which an amateur can maneuver without fear. Also, a canoe suits this purpose more because it provides more ample space for a companion or a pet. Canoeing is generally a dryer and more leisurely activity because it requires less effort and the paddle is closer to the water.

For waters sports:

When it comes to water sports, a kayak is definitely a more exciting watercraft. Although there are canoeing sports and competitions, they are losing popularity in many places. Kayaks requires some daring and interesting skills, particularly when used for one-man sports in rough or narrow waterways such as running rapids or whitewater sports. There are several stunts and skills known in kayaking, and typically involves more kits and gear. The covered top of kayaks is suited for cases of capsizing, where kits can be kept safe and dry, unlike the canoe.

For fishing:

People typically have varying preferences when it comes to kayak fishing. Although kayaks appear to be designed for fishing, it is no news that canoes have been used well in the past for fishing. Kayaks are fitted with fishing gears and dry storage. Since they are easier to stand in because of the flat base, there is stability when you have to reel in a catch. However, with a kayak you can cover a long distance within a short amount of time.

For transport:

Canoes have been used for transporting people and goods for several years. Although kayaks have some space that is best for dry storage, it doesn’t accommodate as much as a canoe would. A big canoe fitted with benches can accommodate a lot more people than a kayak would. This would however be determined by the waterway you would be moving on. If you want to ensure the items remain dry on a rapid waterway, then obviously a kayak is the way to go.

About the author

David Rivera