Difference between Canoeing and Kayaking?

Both canoeing and kayaking act as a mode of water transportation or as a fun activity, which uses small boats and is run by the paddles. Though they have some similarities, they are quite different from each other in many ways like types of boats used to navigate, different forms of a paddle, different sitting positions, etc. If you are new, it gets a little confusing for you to figure out the difference between the two. Just read this article till the end to get to know about the difference between the two:

For canoeing, a boat called a canoe is used to navigate. A canoe is an open-top boat and can carry multiple passengers. As the canoe is open from the sides, so there is a risk of water collection in the boat, but you can get more freedom for the movement.
For kayaking, a small narrow boat, called a kayak, is used. The kayak comes with a cockpit that closes the boat from all the sides, mostly has space for just one passenger and a person sits quite low in it. The boat is closed from all the sides except the seat, so there is less chance of water collection in the boat but you have less freedom for the movement.

In canoeing, a passenger sits on the seat, which is quite above the floor of the boat, so a single-bladed paddle is used to make the move with a ‘J’ type stroke. And the canoe paddle is shorter than the kayak paddle.
In kayaking, as a passenger sits quite low in the waterline in a kayak, so double-bladed paddle is used to serve the purpose of the motion. And the kayak paddle is longer so that it gets easier for you to paddle it on one side and then on another side alternatively.

In canoes, you have a bench to sit i.e. more like a seat, which takes you above the boat floor. In general, the canoe has two or three benches to carry multiple passengers.
In kayaks, the seat is quite low i.e. near about the bottom of the kayak. The passenger sits at the seat by placing their legs in the hull. Mostly, it comes with just one seat i.e. for only one passenger, but variations do exist.

The canoes have open-top structures (so there is more chance of water collection in the boat), navigate with average speed, and are quite stable. Their key features make it best suitable for calm lakes and rivers.
The kayaks have a close-top structure (and the passenger is seated with spray skirts, so there is very little chance of water collection in the boat), quite light-weighted, and navigate with more speed. These features of the kayak make it best suitable for rapid and challenging water surfaces.

While canoeing, you are less likely to get wet by the water sprinkled by the paddles, because you have raised seating patterns. So, normal clothes (according to the weather) are good enough. And as canoes are mostly navigated on calm water surfaces, so normal life-jacket is sufficient for the safety purpose.
While kayaking, as you are seated quite below, so you are more likely to get wet by the water sprinkled by the paddles. So, wet suits are suggested over normal clothes. And they are mostly navigated on challenging water surfaces, so proper helmets, nose plugs, and the buoyancy aid are preferred over a life-jacket (so that in case you capsize, the buoyancy aid helps you swim).

As the canoes are heavier and used for multiple passengers, so their storage capacity is also more. You can carry anything in your canoes but make sure to be in the specified weight requirement.
As the kayaks are lighter and used for a single passenger, so their storage capacity is quite less as compared to canoes. So you can carry limited equipment or things with you while navigating kayaks.

The good side of canoeing is:

  • Canoes are good for long distances, because of their comfort and good storage capacity.
  • As they are used for multiple passengers and have freedom of movement, so can have fun with your family or friends and meanwhile switch people to paddle the canoe, which makes it convenient.
  • They are a little heavier and quite stable, so they hardly capsize.
  • You can easily get up on a canoe and enjoy the view.

But the downside of canoeing is:

  • As they are heavier, so need a lot of strength and stamina to get going with the canoe.
  • It gets difficult to paddle with the single-blade.
  • To move the canoe at a higher speed is just close to impossible.

The good side of kayaking is:

  • Kayaks are light-weighted, so they get easily handled and need less strength to navigate.
  • You can easily move your kayak at a good speed with a double-bladed paddle.
  • They are good for challenging water surfaces, because of the design of the kayak.
  • With kayaks, you can also try different tricks on water surfaces to have more fun.

But the downside of kayaking is:

  • They can easily capsize because of their lightweight.
  • You easily get wet by the sprinkles of water while paddling
  • You’ll get very little storage as compared to canoes
  • There are less freedom of movement and with a spray skirt, you’ll even feel more restricted

Both canoes and kayaks are of various types, which are of various lengths and weights. But if we talk about a normal canoe and kayak, then canoes are made for multiple passengers and are quite heavier, whereas kayaks are made for just one passenger and are quite light-weighted. So, we can say kayaks are easier to transport as compared to canoes.

Just choose the one as per your ability and the purpose of transport. If you want to go alone and want to try some tricks, then go kayaking. Whereas, if you want to have fun with your family or friends and just calmly want to enjoy the view, then go canoeing. Whichever mode of transportation you choose, just make sure, you’ll learn proper lessons, i.e. how to paddle, how to maintain balance, how to rescue in case of capsizing, etc., and take proper precautions before going out on the water surface.


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