Canoe vs Kayak: What are the differences between kayaking and canoeing? -2022

canoe vs kayak

What are the differences between kayaking and canoeing?

Kayaking and canoeing are two terms that are often confused. These boats tend to all look alike. They are also part of the same sports organization: the French Canoe-Kayak Federation. Yet if there are two words, it is because they designate distinct things. What is the difference between canoeing and kayaking? This is a question I heard many times when coaching beginner groups. In this article, I suggest you list the 3 three elements that distinguish kayaks from canoes.


Once the difference between kayak and kayak is down (which is not), let’s see the difference between kayak and canoe. The canoe, as I have mentioned, comes from America, and I think the most direct image for your mind is that canoe is what the Indians carry in Western movies. Canoa is an open boat designed for rivers and lakes. Here are its characteristics. The canoe is manned sitting or kneeling. The kayak is only seated. The canoe is moved with a single-blade paddle. The kayak with a two-bladed paddle The canoe is open. The kayak is closed so that we are covered. The same canoe can be carried by one or two paddlers. The kayaks are for one or two Man. There are more crew competitions. The canoe usually has the same shape in the bow and stern. The shapes of the kayak are different in the bow and stern.

Canoe vs Kayak: Key Definitions

Canoe vs kayakcanoe vs kayak

What are the Differences?

kayak shape and design
This topic would be enough for a book because it is something complex. I am interested that you take some notions so that by looking at the shape of a kayak, you can intuit how it behaves in the water. You will also see that the shape of a kayak is a mixture of science and art.

First of all, I am going to explain to you some magnitudes in the shapes and parts of a kayak.

  • BOW, we start easy is the front and the first thing that comes into contact with the water when advancing.
  • STERN It is the rear
  • SLEEVE It is the width of the kayak, when this measurement is given it is referred to the widest place of the boat
  • LENGTH It is what measures from end to end of the kayak
  • DECK The top of a kayak. In a very graphic way, it would be like a “cover”
  • HELMET The lower part of the kayak that is in contact with the water. Its shape determines quite a lot the behavior of the canoe.
  • WATERLINE OR FLOAT Let us imagine that we are sailing in a tinted fluid. If we take the kayak out of the water, the edge of the painted area on the hull would be the waterline. In addition to the shape of the hull, it will depend on the weight that we put on the kayak.
  • ROCKER It is an English term without specific translation. It is the difference between the waterline and the bottom of the kayak’s hull. It would be the curved or straight hull with respect to the waterline. In the image, you see it better.
  • PANTONE The area that joins the bottom with the side in the hull of the kayak. This in English is called “chine”
  • DEAD WORK Everything that is out of the water.
  • LIVE WORK All the submerged parts of the kayak in the water. In both the living and the dead work, he thinks that we are talking about volumes.


The kayak moves through the water and is subject to many forces, which, as you can see in the drawing, are represented in three axes. Its design will influence how it responds to those forces of water. Or in other words, each design conditions the speed, stability, and turning capacity of the kayak. It must be said that these characteristics are antagonistic, and you have to choose what you want and what you are willing to give up. You can look for a balance point, but if you advance for example in speed, you will lose the ability to turn. You cannot expect a super sports car to do a trail race, or for a Dakar car to smash track records. Well, the same thing happens in the kayak. What are the differences between kayaking and canoeing

kayak movement
Air also influences behavior, but it is a negligible effect. Another thing is the moving air (that is, the wind) that does affect if we add the volume of the kayak, that of the paddler, and the surface of the paddle. Even so, the effect is minimal as long as we move in moderate wind values. Now I am going to reel off each part of the behavior.

The speed of a kayak depends on the length of the kayak’s waterline. The longer, the more speed. To justify this there is a physical explanation, although honestly explaining it simply is difficult. For once I’m going to ask you to believe it, not because I say so but because they teach it in hydrodynamics books. If you don’t believe it, go to them.

What are the differences between kayaking and canoeing
Another factor that affects speed is the width (beam) of the kayak and the shape of the bow. A sharper bow that cuts through the water, and a narrow beam that moves less water to the side will give you more speed. This is very well understood in the drawing, or if we imagine that it is not the same to cut butter with a knife as with a mallet. As you will understand, this form cannot be taken to the extreme. First, because from a certain length it would become a difficult monster to handle and that would be a structural nightmare for builders. And then it takes a minimal sleeve to get your ass inside. But now you will understand why speed kayaks are narrow and long.

Different Types of Canoes & Kayaks

Nowadays, there are different types of canoes on the market. This includes

Different Types of Canoes

Check Amazon:

Recreational canoe
The most popular canoe type, the recreational canoe is usually about 13 to 18 feet long. They are stable and engineered to be relatively easy to paddle, so they are best for most flat water use.

Square Stern Canoe
Like a recreational canoe but a flat, square-shaped stern, the square stern canoe is perfect for canoe anglers. This is because the flat stern of these boats is perfectly shaped to use a trolling motor.

Whitewater canoe
Properly named, whitewater paddling has been created with whitewater canoes in mind. These are usually made of durable Royalex or plastic and are relatively small for mobility.

Racing Canoe
Designed for competition, racing canoes have long, slender bodies. These are usually made from carbon fiber for weight saving. However, they tend to be very valuable.

Different types of kayaks

Check Amazon:

Modern kayaks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are some popular models you may encounter

Recreational kayak
Your general purpose kayak, recreational kayak is usually 9 to 12 feet long. These are mostly made for use in flat water and they tend to be very stable.

Sit-on-top kayak
A seat-on-top kayak is an open cockpit boat popular with recreational paddlers and anglers. These boats are generally stable and easy to paddle, although they are not ideal for rough water.

Kayak travel
Long, slender, and ready for adventure, touring kayaks are built with speed and extended expeditions in mind. They come with plenty of gear storage space and are meant for use in the ocean environment.

White water kayaks
The White Water Kayak is a small, wide boat with round hulls for navigation. They’re not great at trekking through the water, but they don’t lag behind anyone when cruising on a rushing river.

Paddle kayak
Although most kayaks are designed for paddling, some are engineered for paddling. Paddle kayaks are generally similar to standard seat-on-top kayaks, where a set of paddles is additionally included as a secondary method of propulsion.

Fishing kayak
Perfect for enthusiastic killers, fishing kayaks are usually seat-on-top boats. They have added rod holder-like features for a seamless fishing experience.

Racing Kayaks
The longest kayak available, the racing kayak is made for competitive racing events. They can fit anywhere from 1 to 4 paddlers, although they are rarely used outside of racing.

Surf kayaks
Designed to play in the waves at your local beach, surf kayaks are usually small with round hoops. They tend to be like whitewater boats but can be a bit longer to increase speed.

Inflatable Kayaks
Inflatable kayaks are made from thick vinyl-type fabric. These are inflated before you paddle and then deflated for storage. Most inflated boats are very stable and for recreational use.

If you want to take a closer look at the different types of kayaks and their advantages and disadvantages, check out our kayak guide types.

Before we help you decide between a canoe and a kayak, let’s first see what is the difference between these two types of boats?

Contrary to what many people think, the difference is not in the number of rowers in the boat. It is not about the type of use either, kayaking and canoeing are practiced as well in the sea as in the river or in the lake.

In fact, there are two easily identifiable points of differentiation between a canoe and a kayak:

The position of the rower in the boat
In a kayak, the rower is positioned in a seat seated at the bottom of the boat with his legs extended.

The kayaker is therefore positioned on his buttocks, the feet are placed on toe clips and the legs are slightly bent.

In a canoe, the rower is either on his knees (on one knee in the céiste position for the speed canoe, or on both knees). Or seated on an integrated bench at the height of the boat for the canoe tour.

The paddle-style
In a kayak, we use a double paddle. Rather large in size, it has the particularity of having two blades, one on each side of the handle.

In canoeing, a single paddle is used, which is shorter than a double paddle and has only one blade. The single paddle has a handle at its end called “Olive”.

The payment technique
The difference in paddling technique directly depends on the style of paddle used

In fact, in a kayak, with a double paddle, the paddle movements are alternated successively on each side of the boat.

In a canoe, on the other hand with a single paddle, the rower will paddle either on one side or the other and will practice the gooseneck technique which consists of brushing the water with his blade in order to keep the course while paddling only on one side.

The 3 differences between canoe and kayak

The paddle
Canoe paddle
Paddle kayak

The position
In a kayak: you are sitting on your buttocks!
By canoe: kneeling or sitting on a swimming bench
The origins
Kayaking comes from the Inuit
The canoe comes from the American Indians
Yet canoes and kayaks share a lot in common
There is a multitude of sizes of canoes and kayaks. Some are 1-seater, others accommodate 3 or 4 people. There are open kayaks like canoes. You can navigate at sea, lake, or river with both types of craft. So what are the three basic differences that distinguish these two types of boats?

The paddle
The most visible difference is the paddle.

Canoe paddle
In canoes, we use a single paddle, with a single blade. On the other side of the handle is a handle called “Olive”. The canoe paddle is therefore relatively short.

What are the differences between canoeing and kayaking?
What are the differences between canoeing and kayaking?

Canoe paddle

Paddle kayak
The kayak paddle is double, with a blade at each end of the handle. The kayak paddle is, therefore, longer, generally measuring 1m80 and 2m30.

What are the differences between canoeing and kayaking?
What are the differences between canoeing and kayaking?

Paddle kayak

A direct consequence of this first difference: the paddling technique is not at all the same from one boat to another. In a kayak, paddle strokes are alternated on either side of the boat. In a canoe, you can only paddle on one side, practicing the “swan neck” technique which consists of letting the blade drag slightly in the water to move the canoe straight forward if you are alone on board.

The position
Second major difference: we do not sit the same way in a kayak as in a canoe.

In a kayak: you are sitting on your buttocks!
In a kayak, regardless of the discipline ( sea, road race, downhill, slalom, kayak-polo, etc.), whether the type of boat (deck, sit-on-top, river kayaking, etc.), you are always seated the same way. The buttocks are installed in a seat. Depending on the boat, the back is blocked against a backrest and the feet are slid into the toe clips. The legs are slightly bent. If the kayak is decked, you will also wedge your knees on the top of the boat to control the list.

By canoe: kneeling or sitting on a swimming bench
The canoe position is a bit more complex since it depends on the discipline. In white water (slalom or downhill for example), the céiste is installed on his knees in his boat. This allows it to have a little height on the water for a more efficient paddling movement.

On touring canoes or traditional boats, we usually have swimming benches on which we naturally sit for paddling.

The origins
Although very similar, the two boats do not share the same geographical origins.

Kayaking comes from the Inuit
traditional kayak kayaking, as its name suggests, comes from the Inuit who are sometimes better known than Eskimos, the famous inhabitants of igloos. These boats were the preferred means of transport for the people of Greenland. They were constructed from sealskin and driftwood (sometimes they had to wait months to find a piece of wood that was the right size)!

The canoe comes from the American Indians
Traditional canoe

Canoeing has its origins in North America. Its invention is attributed to the American Indians who made them by pruning and hollowing out tree trunks.

Yet canoes and kayaks share a lot in common

Despite these three major differences, canoes and kayaks are very close boats for several reasons. Already their shapes make them very similar: they are stretched out and steer with the help of a paddle.

We navigate in the same environments, namely the sea, the river, the white water, and the lakes. Some boats are designed for one person, others are maneuvered with several people. The individual equipment is similar.

In the end, beyond these three differences,canoeing and kayaking above all offer the opportunity to multiply the sensations!

What choice to start?

A word of advice: when we are starting out, we tend to always look for the best equipment, when we can afford to pay the price. It’s a bit like riding a bicycle. For a few Sunday outings a year, many turn to a carbon semi-pro racing bike that ends up gathering dust in the garage. With kayaking, it’s a bit the same. It is therefore advisable to first study what you want to do with your kayak (there are different categories as we have seen). It will also and above all be a question of determining whether kayaking really pleases us (and if the discipline is adapted to our physical abilities).

Thus, it may be best at the outset to rent several types of kayaks in a nautical center near your home or by the sea in order to get an idea before investing. If your goal is calm water rides, you can also start by investing in an entry-level plastic kayak. There are strong, stable, versatile, and inexpensive kayaks that are perfect for beginners, such as sit-on-tops (Rotomod, BIC, Decathlon…). If we really like the discipline, it will be time later to sell the first kayak to invest in a boat that really suits us.

The performance and characteristics of the kayak
When choosing a kayak, in addition to its type or “family”, it is essential to consider its type of hull, its weight, its dimensions, as well as the material it is made of. These characteristics and criteria will have an impact on its performance, handling, speed, heading, stability, and buoyancy.

The width, length, and weight triptych
Not surprisingly, weight is an essential criterion of choice. The lighter the kayak, the more convenient and easier it is to transport. In addition, it will be more maneuverable. Be careful though! The less a kayak weighs, the less inertia there will be, especially if the kayak is not cut for speed. Roughly speaking, this means that it will slow down or even stop as soon as you stop paddling.

Another aspect, the width. The wider a kayak, the more friction there is, the less inertia will be. Likewise, width has a negative influence on peak speed. There are also advantages to a wide kayak: its stability and the feeling of security.

Regarding the length, the greater it is, the faster the kayak is and its course holding is important.

In short, a light, long and thin kayak is built for speed. A short and wide kayak allows for pleasure boating without looking for performance in terms of speed.

The choice of the hull
Depending on the use and the level of the rower, kayaks can have various and varied hulls. Before buying a kayak, therefore, find out what type of hull affects handling, buoyancy, speed, heading, and adaptation to the environment. Also to be taken into account: primary (stationary) and secondary stability (the kayak does not turn over even if it is tilted in curves). Some of the hulls that we can come across in a kayak include the hulls:

The kayak according to its use

Fishing kayak
Short and wide, this kayak gives priority to stability, it is possible to stand on this type of boat. Some are even equipped with a pedal boat system to propel themselves with the strength of the legs.

Whitewater kayaking
Short and thin, super maneuverable but also very unstable, whitewater kayaking is reserved for descents of tumultuous rivers, for experienced kayakers.

Sea kayak
Sea kayaking and generally longer than other types of kayak, in order to be able to set course in heavy seas.

In any case, when you want to kayak in the sea it is necessary to have a fin or a rudder in order to have better stability and better control of the direction.

The centerboard is located under the kayak while the rudder is located on the rear part.

If the rudder will stabilize the boat from hull movements in windy conditions, the rudder will allow you to steer as with a rudder.

Kayak sit-on-top
This type of kayak is ideal for beginners.

Unsinkable and very stable, it will allow you to discover the discipline and practice short walks in calm water or on the seaside.

Open kayak or closed kayak
For walks and leisure outings alone or with others, it is better to favor an open kayak with a good width for better stability and the ability to support the weight of your belongings.

For streams of the river type and difficult conditions (cold, rough seas, water entering the boat, etc.), a kayak with a closed cockpit should be preferred.

How to choose between canoe or kayak?

The choice will be made according to your preferences as well as the use of the boat.

Choosing a canoe
If your preference is for a canoe there are many models depending on the size and structure (rigid, inflatable, removable, etc.)

Three criteria should be taken into account when choosing a canoe:

  • the length
  • the width
  • the rocker

The length
The length will have a direct influence on the speed and maneuverability of the canoe.

Thus, the longer a boat is, the faster it will be, in return, it will be difficult to maneuver.

A long canoe will also allow you to have more storage and loading space to deposit your belongings or equipment.

The width
The width of a canoe is measured on the widest part which is in the middle of the boat.

The wider a boat, the more stable it will be. In return, it will lose speed and maneuverability.

The rocker
The rocker is the curve formed by the bottom of the canoe. A canoe can be either fairly flat, we will say that the rocker is moderate, or more curved, we will say that the rocker is pronounced.

The more pronounced the rocker, the faster and more maneuverable the canoe will be.

If you want to hike and ride in calm water, a rigid canoe with a built-in bench, long and wide with a moderate rocker, and having room to store things will be ideal.

Inflatable canoes have the advantage that they can be easily stored and transported. These canoes are intended for recreational use.

There are canoes for one person and others for more than 4 people, so be sure to choose a canoe according to the number of people you want to accommodate in the craft.

Choosing a kayak
If your preference is for a kayak, your choice will have to be based on its structure and size.

The thinner and shorter your kayak, the faster and more maneuverable it will be.

The rigid kayak is the most popular, robust, and very efficient, however, it takes up more space.

The inflatable kayak, although increasingly solid thanks to techniques like high-pressure inflation, is reserved for family and recreational use. It has the big advantage of being extremely light and compact.

There is also the folding kayak, which represents an alternative between the inflatable hull and the rigid hull because it manages to combine the best of both worlds, rigidity and minimal bulk.


What kind o kayak should I rent?

If you have little or no experience, we recommend that you rent the self-emptying ones. If you have taken a course or will be sailing with someone with experience, you can rent touring kayaks.


The price includes civil liability insurance. It does not include accident and assistance insurance, but if you understand interested we can process it.


The price includes liability insurance, accident insurance, and assistance.


There is no age limit to participate in the excursions and no special physical preparation is necessary.

In the file of each activity, you will find the minimum age indicated to carry out each of the activities.

In Level II and Level III improvement courses if prior training or experience is required, as detailed in the file for each activity.


No. The rhythm of the exits is set according to the performance of the different people who make up the group.

Sailing with double sea kayaks allows us to travel more gap, getting half tired and sailing twice as fast.


Self-dumping kayaks are very stable and difficult to tip over. Anyway, before starting the activity, the monitor will have informed you how to proceed.

The instructions will help you to go back up without any difficulty.


In the event of cancellation by KAYAK K1, the client will have the right to postponement, substitution for another activity, or refund of the amount paid.


No, each kayak is designed for a specific use, so the first thing we have to do is agree on what this use will be.

We must also assess the size of the kayak, the benefits we are looking for, and, above all, where we will keep it.


There are two types of kayaks: self-emptying or open (sit on top) and closed or touring (we get inside).

In self-emptying, we go above. We have an emptying system so that the water does not accumulate inside. If we capsize it is easy to get back up and there is no need to worry about removing the water. Due to their ease of use and security, they are a very good choice to start browsing.

In the closed ones we go inside and by means of the bathtub cover or “cover” we get that no water enters the kayak and goes dry. This makes them more suitable if we want to use them throughout the year.


Depending on their use, we can divide the kayaks into four large groups: recreation, trekking, whitewater, and kayak-surfing.

The recreational ones are those that allow us to go kayaking without complexity, they are very stable and easy to drive. These kayaks are best suited as fishing kayaks; many of them already have ready-made versions or can be equipped with all kinds of accessories.

Touring kayaks are designed to navigate the sea, swamps, and rivers without rapids. They are longer and narrower than recreational vehicles, which makes them faster and more efficient. They have great load capacity and are available for one-day outings, for several days, and for expeditions. They can also be equipped for and fishing.

Whitewater is 1 of the most extreme and demanding aspects of canoeing. There are short and maneuverable kayaks that will allow us to navigate any river. Within the whitewater we find the “rodeo” kayaks that will allow us to perform the most spectacular pirouettes on the smallest rollers (also suitable for kayak-surfing in the sea), the “creek” kayaks (also very maneuverable kayaks but with more volume to be able to navigate in rivers of great unevenness, make jumps and navigate rivers of great volume), those of slalom (Olympic modality) and those of descent (the fastest).

The kayak-surfers are kayaks with a flat hull and with very sharp edges. We can find mixed ones that also help us to go down rivers and for “rodeo”, and specific ones that have the most pronounced edges and with fins for better performance.


The longer the length (length of a boat) and the shorter the beam (width of a boat) the kayak will be faster.

It also affects the shape of the hull (part of the boat in contact with the water), the flatter the slower and the more rounded or “V” shaped, the faster. The fastest kayaks are the touring ones.


The wider the sleeve and the flatter the hull, the more stable the kayak will be. The most stable kayak are recreational & self-emptying kayaks.


The kayak, the paddle, the life jacket (totally recommended, we would say necessary) the “covers” in the closed kayaks, and appropriate footwear (recommended booties).

From there you can find a large number of articles according to the use that you will give it.


The kayak, the paddle, the life jacket (totally recommended, we would say complete,), the “covers” in the closed kayaks, and appropriate footwear (recommended booties).

From there you can find a large number of articles according to the use that you will give it.


At sea, it is not necessary. In rivers and reservoirs yes. You must request authorization (Responsible declaration) in the corresponding hydrographic confederation (if you are interested we can process it).


If you have parking, you can hang it on the wall with special supports or from the ceiling with ribbons.

Normally, yacht clubs offer you boarding service, a very comfortable option to always have the kayak ready by the water. Another option is to opt for an inflatable kayak, a detachable one, or one of the smaller models.


With normal bars and accessories such as transport kits, oval or jacks, and straps. If the kayak leaves behind the car, it will be marked with an approved reflective plate.


Kayaks can be made of polyethylene (a type of plastic) or fiber. Polyethylene is a stronger material than fiber, but on the contrary, fiber is lighter. Both materials can be repaired.


Look to climb whenever possible from the water, do not drag it. If you use it at sea, run it with fresh water from time to time, avoid long exposures to the sun and store it so that it cannot be deformed.

Author: Thomas A MillerHi, I am Thomas A. Miller... The name of our blog is Kayak Like which means we discuss the correct information and tips about all kinds of people’s favorite kayak, fishing kayak, canoeing, paddling, or boating. Kayaking is one of my favorite hobbies. That’s why I love kayaking. So I’m building a team, and we always add new information to our blog. We have been kayaking for the last 7 years and we own 6 kayaks (one touring, two tandem, and three fishing kayaks) and from different companies, especially Intex. We love kayaking with my kids and dogs and can’t wait to go kayaking if the weather feels perfect. We also have a team that always loves to blog about kayaks.

Thomas A Miller

Hi, I am Thomas A. Miller... The name of our blog is Kayak Like which means we discuss the correct information and tips about all kinds of people’s favorite kayak, fishing kayak, canoeing, paddling, or boating. Kayaking is one of my favorite hobbies. That’s why I love kayaking. So I’m building a team, and we always add new information to our blog. We have been kayaking for the last 7 years and we own 6 kayaks (one touring, two tandem, and three fishing kayaks) and from different companies, especially Intex. We love kayaking with my kids and dogs and can’t wait to go kayaking if the weather feels perfect. We also have a team that always loves to blog about kayaks.

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

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