Canoeing Vs. Kayaking

Canoeing Vs. Kayaking

Whether you’re interested in taking up a new water sport, or you’re looking for a new activity for your friends and family to take part in on the weekends, canoeing or kayaking generally pop into mind.

Most people think that the two terms are interchangeable, but they are two different sports with some similarities.

In the canoeing vs. kayaking debate, which one should you choose?

Read on as we distinguish between the two and help you determine which one is better for beginners.

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of canoeing vs. kayaking, we got you covered:

Canoeing vs Kayaking

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What Is the Difference Between a Canoe and Kayak?

From the design of the boat to the way you sit inside and maneuver it, there are some key differences between canoeing and kayaking:

Vessel Design & Weight

Although kayaks have different designs, the most common one is the sit-in kayak, where the paddler sits inside, and the deck is closed around them.

While this closed deck makes getting in and out of the kayak tricky, it keeps the kayaker safe from splashing water and also allows the option of adding back support.

Canoes usually feature an open deck with pointed ends. This means that the paddler sits inside, uncovered, but can move around easily.

Kayaks are designed to be light and narrow. This small design also means that kayaks can move faster than canoes.

Canoes are wider and heavier and are more balanced in the water. Keep in mind that in the hands of an expert, a canoe can move just as fast as a kayak.

Canoes may either have a curved or flat base. Most paddlers prefer the curved-base canoes since they’re pretty stable and easy to turn over if they flip. Flat bottom canoes may drown faster.

Paddle Design

With kayaks, paddles are double-sided and have a curved edge. On the other hand, canoes have a single blade which is flat.

This means that the way you move the two boats around in the water will also differ.

The paddle style for the kayak is designed to reduce the amount of energy you need to exert when paddling – you only need to move the paddle backward and forward alternating between both hands.

Conversely, with a canoe, the single-sided paddle needs to be constantly moved side to side if you want to keep moving forward.

The Sitting Style for Both Vessels

For sit-in kayaks, kayakers sit on a seat that is lower than the deck with their legs stretched out in front of them.

When you are canoeing, you will be in a kneeling (or half-kneeling) position inside the canoe.

Storage Space

In terms of how much gear you can keep in your vessel, a canoe will win every time. The open deck allows for much more storage than the closed up, narrow kayak.


In some cases, you may need to manually carry your paddler from the track into the water.

Most kayaks, even those designed for two people, are light enough to be carried by a single person.

Canoes, however, even the smaller ones are generally quite heavy and require at least two people to carry them.


If you’re a novice paddler, this may not be your concern, but if you’re buying your own vessel for the long run, you need to be aware of which option will last you longer.

Kayaks were originally designed for fish hunting, and even now are meant for battling whitewater rapids.

They are tough and durable. Canoes can also withstand rugged terrains but will start showing signs of wear much sooner than kayaks.

What Is More Difficult?

What Is More Difficult?

The way to determine which vessel is easier to navigate (and other factors) is based on the situation it is being used in:

Long Journeys

If you’re paddling across a long river and maybe have plans of camping at a spot overnight, you will need a stable vessel and one that is big enough to store your gear and food supply.

In this case, a kayak will be difficult to handle because the narrow design makes it somewhat unstable, and you won’t have much storage space, so a canoe is better.

Paddling in Twos or Alone

If two people are sharing a paddler, a canoe is easier to handle because even if both aren’t accustomed to a single-bladed paddle, they can alternate paddling to keep the vessel moving forward.

However, if one person is canoeing alone, it can be a bit tricky to keep moving. Paddling a kayak solo is much easier given the ease of using the two-sided paddle.

Paddling in Still or Fast-Moving Waters

While kayaks are pretty easy to maneuver in flat water, the transition to fast-moving water is quite tricky.

Getting used to the skirt at the deck of the kayak, and learning how to paddle without getting wet in white water takes plenty of time and practice.

Beginners are most likely going to get soaked every time.


While both kayaks and canoes offer the same level of difficulty when fishing, it majorly depends on where you are fishing.

Kayaks can be used in rougher waters as well, and even if they capsize, they can be turned over easily and won’t retain any water.

On the other hand, canoes can sink rapidly, especially if you’re new to paddling.

While canoes are designed to handle calmer waters and are ideal for fishing in lakes and ponds, kayaks are more versatile.

There are different styles designed for use in flat and fast-moving waters.

Paddling in Rough Weather Conditions

Most canoes come with a small engine, so if you are caught up in some rough winds, you can use turn on the engine, speed up your paddler and reach a safe spot.

Kayaks are a little more difficult and have a tendency to tip over, especially because they are so light and narrow.

What Is Better For Beginners?

What Is Better For Beginners?

Determining which paddler is better for beginners depends on the situation and what specific plans you have in mind for the long term.

Why a Canoe is better for some

While it can be a matter of personal preference, most paddlers agree that it is easier to learn how to paddle in a canoe.

The canoe covers a wider surface area and is quite stable, so even if you’re still learning how to handle the paddle properly, you can do so without the fear of tipping over.

Furthermore, in a canoe, you can generally fit several people, so if you’re a beginner, you can have a teacher or some friends helping you move forward.

Getting in and out of a kayak can be tricky, but since canoes have an open deck, you can easily slide on or off it without losing your balance in the water.

Since the top is open, you can also alter your sitting position in case your legs get stiff. With kayaks, you don’t really have much space for movement since you are packed inside.

Why a Kayak is better for others

However, if your plan, in the long run, is to battle rapids and enjoy the thrill of paddling through whitewater, it is better for you to start practicing on a kayak.

If you are a beginner, it will be good for you to practice getting in and out of the paddler, learning the different techniques of paddling, and also keeping the kayak straight and stable.

Transitioning from calmer to more active waters will be easier.

Keep in mind that learning how to kayak will take a lot more time and practice than canoeing, but it really boils down to whether you just want to learn a fun water sport that you can enjoy with friends and family, or you have something more specific in mind. 


Canoeing vs. kayaking – which one is the best for you?

Both canoes and kayaks are now available in a range of materials, including wood, plastic, and fiberglass.

While they are quite similar, there are some key differences in terms of the vessel itself, the paddle you use to move it, and the conditions each one is suited for.

If you’re a beginner, learning how to paddle a canoe or kayak will take time, especially when it comes to turning or changing your direction in the water.

In either case, it is best to start out by renting a canoe or kayak to see how interested you really are in paddling before investing in a paddler of your own.

Some people like to keep both options open for different occasions, but if you’re new to paddling, it is ideal to master maneuvering one vessel before you go on to the next.

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