Kayaking vs. Canoeing

Whether you’re a diehard canoeing enthusiast, a kayaking nut, or a complete novice about both, it’s always good to have a broad knowledge of these two paddle driven boats and the differences between them. If you’re looking for a simple introduction to the subject, then you have arrived at the right place; down below we take a look at the rudimentary distinctions between kayaks and canoes. If you’re somewhat clued up on one or both vessels, read on anyway as you can never be too well informed before you head out on the water. You never know, you might even learn something new.

The Two Vessels

Although both canoes and kayaks have a fairly similar shape to the untrained eye, there is actually quite a lot of variation between them. The canoe is a shallow, open-topped boat, often with a bench inside for the paddler or paddlers to sit on. It is powered by a single blade which can be switched from side to side in order to remain on course. Canoes can handle being a lot larger than kayaks and therefore are generally more suitable for larger groups of people or for accommodating more equipment. They have higher sides to prevent splashes from soaking the deck, yet are more open to the elements than a kayak.

Kayaking
Kayaking

A kayak is designed to sit lower in the water and to be a closed vessel, securing the paddler(s) and all of their kit within a watertight seal. When sitting in a kayak, the paddler’s legs are bent with the knees wedged up against either side of the vessel in a ‘frogs’ legs’-type posture. The paddle itself is double-bladed, allowing for rapid movement from side to side and the use of greater speed and power to propel the kayak forward. Kayaks are often smaller, lighter and more versatile than the canoe, built for speed and manoeuvrability rather than a large physical capacity.

The Pace

As mentioned above, the kayak is built for agility and momentum, so it does well in racing events and water sports like white-water kayaking. Although it is used for leisure activities like long-distance journeys, camping and the like, it is less comfortable to sit in for long periods of time due to the enforced positioning of the legs. Canoes are built to travel long distances, carry baggage and accommodate multiple people so they are often the preferred option for slower paced activities. It is also much easier to increase speed in a kayak, due to the double bladed nature of the paddle; the single bladed canoe paddle lends itself to a more relaxed pace. This makes the kayak the perfect vessel for racing, or for travelling on fast-moving water with the necessity to make sharp turns in order to maintain a safe course. The canoe can easily be used for a lazy drift downstream, rather than a headlong hurtle into a whirlpool.

The Price Point

The average canoe can be bought new for anything between $700 – $2500, depending on the spec. If you’re looking for a vessel to use casually over short distances, then there are many affordable options; however, if you’re looking for something more professional that can be used for much longer distances and with a higher capacity as well as a tougher build, then the price can jump significantly. It is worth shopping around, but it’s also worthwhile to remember that the more you invest, the better the canoe will perform out on the water.

Generally, kayaks can be found at a lower price point – as low as $500-$600 dollars for a single paddler model – but the real jump comes when you go looking for a seaworthy vessel. Sea kayaks can cost as much as $4000 for a single paddler model, with the need for tough building material, supreme buoyancy and safety measures an absolute must. It’s one thing to be paddling along the local canal but quite another to be out on the open see in a single person kayak.

How Best To Enjoy Each Vessel

There are no hard or fast rules to how you choose to use your canoe or kayak, but as you’ve probably noticed by now, canoes tend to be the laidback option whereas kayaks act as the ‘sportscar’ of the water. The good news is that you don’t need to be an avid fan of competitive games to enjoy kayaking; as much as this racy vessel can take you on an adventure, it doesn’t necessarily have to launch you completely out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. Plenty of people enjoying relaxing trips upriver in their kayaks, stopping off to enjoy the sights along the way and even camping overnight by the riverside. However, should the wish for excitement overtake you, they do also offer the opportunity for an adrenaline-fueled race through tricky waters and challenging twists and turns.

The canoe can be pushed to speed if needed; it’s a very capable vessel. However, it’s happiest when transporting people to where they need to be and taking its sweet time about it. There is nothing more enjoyable than paddling your way down the river, comfortably ensconced in your canoe with plenty of room for your tent, your pack and a friend or two as well. The canoe offers guaranteed stability and a reassuringly big presence on the water. Although it may not turn as swiftly as the kayak, it’s also less likely to get overturn by an errant wave. There is no need for the ‘kayak roll’ in a canoe!