Differences Between Kayaking And Canoeing – A Complete Guide 2021

Kayaking and canoeing are two different kinds of popular activities in European countries. Many of us think that kayaking and canoeing are the same things but they are absolutely wrong. There are many differences between kayaking and canoeing. Although both are water activities, there are many differences in their design, technique, types of equipment, purposes and so on.

Kayaking and canoeing, especially kayaking is a very familiar recreational activity in Western countries. They used to do kayaking and canoeing for a day out, fishing or sporting. Both activities have a different technique and riders should know the technique first. Kayaking and canoeing are the two different categories in the Olympic Games. Many players from various countries participate in those activities.

Both activities are also good for both physical and mental health. They improve muscle health and give a lot of mental refreshment. Before knowing the difference between them, we should know about the kayak and canoe. Here is the definition of kayak and canoe described below and then we will discuss the differences.

Kayak & Kayaking

The word “Kayak” has originated from the Greenlandic word “Qajaq”. A kayak is a small boat like watercraft that propelled through a double-bladed paddle. One or two-person can ride depending on the seat number and weight-bearing capacity. Inflatable and hard-shell are the two types available in the market. Both types have some different features.

Inflatable kayaks are made of high-density polythene. They need to inflate before launch and deflate after using. So, it’s easy to carry and maintain. The best inflatable kayak contains adjustable kayak seats, Storage hatches, bungee cords, foot straps etcetera.


Hard-shell kayak is always ready to launch. It doesn’t need any inflation or deflation. Although it’s a little bit difficult to carry and maintain, most of the people consider it as the best fishing kayak for its strong features. Modern kayaks are so developed and comfortable than it was before.

Kayaking means using a kayak to move across the water. It’s a kind of sport also when two or more kayaks are in a race. Kayaking is a good exercise and a good source of recreation.

Canoe & Canoeing

A canoe is a lightweight and narrow watercraft that propelled through one or more paddlers using a single-bladed paddle. Canoes are typically pointed at both ends and open on the top. Historically, they were made of bark on a wood frame. Nowadays, molded plastic or a composite like fiberglass has been using for the construction of modern canoes.

The canoe was an important means of transport for travel and trade till the mid-1800s. Even it is still in use for the same purpose in some places. You can’t launch a canoe from anywhere. You must launch or retrieve a canoe from the water at the specific canoe launch points of beaches and river banks.

Canoe & Canoeing

There are many types of canoe based on the intended use. The design and materials keep changing on its particular use. Sprint, slalom and Wild water, marathon, freestyle are some of the modern canoe types based on their intended use.

Canoeing means moving forward by paddling a canoe across the water. It is a very popular activity in many countries for competition and pleasure. Since 1936, canoeing has been a part of the Olympic Games and several countries take part in this competition every year.

Differences Between Kayaking And Canoeing

Although both are a sort of transport system, there are still some differences between them. Everyone should know the differences to decide kayak or canoe, which suits him the best! Which serves the best for his purpose! Here are the differences in some range has given below-

Design Of A Kayak & Canoe

Kayak Design: Modern kayaks are so attractive in design. Most of the normal kayak has one or more adjustable seats with a padded seatback, double-bladed paddles, one or multiple storage hatches and so on. Inflatable kayaks are lightweight and need inflation/deflation. On the other hand, hard shell kayaks are specially designed for fishing. They have multiple footrest positions for amazing comfort. Exclusive kayaks include some more facilities like cup holders, fishing rod holders, fish finder, claws and paws resistant hull etcetera.

Canoe Design: Canoe design is different from a kayak as both of the ends are pointed and open on the top. Usually, they are quite bigger than the kayak. The main difference is in the paddle design. Canoe paddle is single-bladed where kayak paddle is double-bladed. Canoe seats are also different from kayak seats. Canoe seats have no seatback and it is not adjustable as kayak seats. There is no specific storage facility in a canoe. The fishing rod holder is also absent. Keel and rocker help faster tracking which is absent in a kayak. The hull design requires a special canoe point to launch it or retrieve it from the water.

Kayaking & Canoeing Disciplines

Kayak Disciplines:

Among the wide range of kayak disciplines, only a few have been described below-

Touring/Adventure Paddling: If you are an adventure lover, you can plan a tour through a kayak. You can carry out all the small equipment you need for your trip like a tent, dry food and beverage, safety gear etcetera.

Sea Kayaking: Sea kayaking is not so different from touring. Just, you should have the skill of paddling through the current.

Surf Kayaking: You can use a kayak as an alternative to a surfboard for surfing on any coastal venue.

White Water Paddling: New paddlers should start practicing with a kayak in a white water environment like a small river, lake or pond. They should learn and observe the techniques very well.

Marathon Kayaking: Sometimes many paddlers arrange a marathon race among their kayaks. Paddlers must have sufficient arm strength for marathon kayaking.

Canoe Disciplines

Canoe disciplines have also a huge range as a kayak. Let’s know about some of the popular disciplines.

Canoe Polo: Canoe is a recreational sport played on flat water between two teams of five players each. Players try to score a goal with a water polo ball paddling their canoe around.

Canoe Sprint: Canoe sprint is one of only two Olympic canoeing disciplines. It demands a lot of balance, technique, strength, and endurance.

Canoe Slalom: The other Olympic canoeing disciplines are canoe slalom. It is one of the most challenging games for athletes that demands much courage and stamina.

Canoe Marathon: Canoe marathon is the same as the kayak marathon. It’s a marathon race between two or more canoe.

Wild Water Racing: Wild water racing is actually a combination of canoe sprint and whitewater canoeing. Athletes use specially designed boats for this purpose.

Kayaking & Canoeing Equipment

The equipment is the biggest and most obvious difference. Kayaking equipment is quite different in design, material, and use from canoeing equipment. Here is the equipment-

Seats: Kayaks are generally closed-top boats and the seats are in a lower position than a canoe. Kayak seats are adjustable and very comfortable in design. It feels like a chair with the padded seatback.

Canoes are normally seating on top vessels with more than one seat that looks like a bench. It’s not as comfortable as kayak seats.

Paddle: Paddle is one of the most important equipment for both kayaking and canoeing. The kayak paddle has double blades on both of the sides. Paddlers can use both of the blades to move forward. The double-bladed paddle is the best kayak paddle for fishing.

Canoe paddle has a single blade on a side of the paddle rod. Paddlers can paddle through only one side of the boat.

Safety Equipment: Here are the kayak safety equipment listed below-

  • Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
  • Floatation Bag
  • Helmets
  • Sponsons
  • First -aid-kits
  • Spray Skirts
  • Repair Kit etcetera.

Canoe safety equipment-

  • Life jackets
  • A Navigational Light
  • Whistles
  • River Booties
  • Bail Bucket
  • Dry Suit etcetera.

Kayaking & Canoeing Technique

Paddling a kayak or canoe is not so hard but the proper technique will help you to move faster efficiently with less strength. So, you should have an idea about how to paddle a kayak.

To paddle a kayak properly, you should hold the paddle correctly at first. Then sit straight and relax your muscles for good posture. Keep your legs together and set them on the right foot pegs. When you are comfortable with your position, start paddling slowly. Move back the water with your blades turn by turn. Thus, your kayak will move ahead.

For paddling a canoe, the seating technique is the same as paddling a kayak. After seating properly hold the single-bladed paddle correctly. Paddle on opposite sides of the boat. This will help you in keeping the craft from pitching back and forth. Try to paddle in synch with your partner and keep your paddle shaft vertical. Now, paddle through the water to move on.

Kayaking VS Canoeing; Which Is The Best

Kayaking and Canoeing both are equally popular. In my opinion, kayaking is the best for fishing, touring, camping etcetera. On the other hand, canoeing is the best for racing, marathon or any kind of competition. So, the choice between kayaking and canoeing depends on your purpose.

To Sum Up

In spite of having some differences between kayaking and Canoeing, both activities are very enjoyable and adventurous. You just need to learn the techniques properly and practice more to be a perfect paddler.

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