Canoe VS Kayak: Everything You Need To Know

canoe vs kayak

If you are a newcomer to the world of recreational aquatic recreation, choosing between a kayak and canoe can be daunting. The terms for these watercrafts also differ depending on where in the world you are located.


Canoes are often called open because their sides come high out of the water. This makes them seem more like a rowboat than a boat with a closed cockpit.

Kayaks have a closed cockpit. People sit inside and use paddles to move. They are lower in the water than canoes, so people wear skirts that keep water out of the kayak.


Canoes usually have a bench-like seat that paddlers sit on in order to avoid sitting in the bottom of the canoe. Some canoes also have handles, or at least one handle, for traction when confronting challenging conditions or generating extra power behind their paddle strokes.

In kayaking, a person sits on the bottom of their boat with their legs in front. Kayakers use their knees to control the stroke and maintain balance while paddling.


Canoes are paddled with a single, or one-sided paddle. The “J” stroke is used in these boats to move forward on alternating sides so that the boat can be steered without having to swap which side of the boat you’re paddling from often.

A kayaker uses a double paddle with a blade on either end. The blades are used in alternating strokes to move the boat forward.

Different types of canoe

Generally, what makes one canoe different from others is its shape and size. There are a few types of canoes:

Whitewater canoe

These canoes are less stable and shorter than recreational canoes and they are designed to be paddled on fast-moving water. They often have flotation panels in the front and back of the vessel, making them more agile but also less stable for carrying a heavy load.

Racing canoe

Racing canoes are much narrower and sit lower in the water than recreational canoes, designed for solo or duo racing. Paddlers use a half kneeling half sitting stance to gain power while paddling on these boats.

Different types of kayak

Many will argue that kayaking is more versatile than canoeing. Whether this is the case or not, there are certainly more types of kayaks to choose from than canoes. These include:

Recreational kayaks

Kayaks that are 9-12 feet long are best suited to slower moving water, like lakes or canals. They’re stable and spacious for flat-water paddling and fairly easy to control–they’re also difficult to capsize.

Whitewater kayak

Short, wide kayaks are used for high-performance whitewater paddling. Fishermen favour boats that stay buoyant when tossed around in waves on the ocean or lakes. Lengths vary based on function, with playboats as short as 5.5 feet and river runners up to 8-9 feet.

Touring and sea kayaks

At 12-18 feet long these are much longer and slimmer than other recreational kayaks. They go faster, traveling more distance, and are designed to go in the ocean where recreational boats can’t reach. These boats usually have storage holds at either end for gear or supplies – many also come with skegs (or rudders)

Sit-on-top kayaks 

Sit on kayaks are designed for exploring flat and calm water, creating them as the ideal kind of vessel for some family adventures.

Inflatable kayaks 

Inflatable kayaks are less durable than traditional ones, but they’re no less fun. These boats are becoming more and more popular because they can be stored easily and might also accommodate two people at the same time.

You can learn more if inflatable kayaks are safe and durable.

Racing kayaks

Racing kayaks are long, slender and light vessels that range in length from 17 to 36 feet depending on how many paddlers occupy it. Mostly utilized for sprints or marathons, the racing kayak can be paddled empty-handed or with one, two, or four people per boat.

Canoe vs kayak: Which Should You Get?

Now that you know the distinction between the two, which option is better for your needs is next on the list. Now for those of you kayakers, this might be a question to ignore. You are the expert; if anything, all the possible answers should come from kayakers like yourself. But curiously enough, ask canoe enthusiasts about this same question and they have the answer too.

The answer to this question will depend on what type of water and adventure you are planning on. If you are looking for a more stable and relaxed experience then maybe a canoe is the best option, but for a faster paced experience then maybe a kayak is better.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *