Canoe vs Kayak: Differences, Similarities, and More!

canoe vs kayak

I am pretty sure that you have heard of this statement while you are fishing or shopping in a gear store. It is something that people will suddenly ask out of the blue. One way or another, answering it does really make sense.

You see, canoeing is said to be the umbrella terminology that covers these to both canoeing and kayaking. However, one should know that these two have differences and it pays that you know all of them.


For instance, the gears used in kayaking are different from the gears you use in canoeing. You even have to invest in separate paddles if you are going to engage in both of these applications. But just like what the famous adage says, there's still more.

Canoe vs Kayak: Where Do They Differ?

If you are still new to these amenities, getting lost in the context is truly easy. Their appearance is almost identical. Unless there's someone who will indicate which of which, you will end up mixing up their names. And that's not a good thing at all, especially that it might cause you to become a laughing stock.

I will try my best to differentiate kayaks and canoes as simply as possible. Of course, I do want all of you to have a better idea about them. In the long run, this might help you decide which endeavor you are going to engage.


Canoes - Most of the time, canoes come with two seats. However, I have seen models where canoes have three seats and that's pretty normal. But the funny thing is, many seasoned canoe enthusiasts don't sit on these seats. Instead, what they do is kneel to the ground or floor. Of course, there's a reason for this. The said position is usually done so that the canoeists can conquer challenging conditions. In some other settings, kneeling on the floor enable the canoeists to paddle with more power.

In general, the seat of canoes is designed like benches. In this way, the person who paddles will be elevated slightly from the floor of the boat.

Kayaks - On the other hand, the seat of the kayaks are attached to their bottoms through the means of molding. The latter is a great method to ensure that the seat won't be taken out whenever you are traversing a difficult route. When kayakers sit on these seats, their legs have to be stretched out in front. This is the most comfortable position they can possibly make.

Furthermore, kayakers always have their knees placed against the side portions of the kayak. In this way, they can generate more stability and balance. An expert kayaker will use this position to create more force while he/ she is paddling.


Canoes - Perhaps the biggest difference between canoes and kayak is their cockpit. From viewing it alone, you will immediately identify if the particular boat is a kayak or canoe. When it comes to the latter, their cockpit is typically open. Nothing is seemingly closed, except for the front and back part where small protective covers are in place.

In short, canoes technically don't have any cockpits. Once you see an elongated boat that remains open, then that is definitely a canoe. They have a design that is somehow reminiscent of rowing boats.

Kayaks - The design of a kayak is quite different from a canoe. The entirety of the boat is closed except for a small cockpit where the kayaker would sit in. It is quite notable that those who are kayaking will have to sit lower than those who are canoeing. You might need time before you can adjust to such kind of setup. But anyway, you'll get used to it eventually.

Because of its design, kayaks are prone to water breach. This is a usual scenario especially if you are boating in surging waters. When it comes to this predicament, a kayaker has to wear spray skirts. These are amenities that prevent the water from coming in.

Check out this video that highlights the structure of the kayak and how to sit on it:



Canoes - Just like I said earlier, one of the key differences between kayaks and canoes are their paddles. Canoes are typically being operated with the use of single paddle alone. And take note, it is not an oar that I am pointing here. You can stroke the paddle in both of the sides of the boat. Some people find this mechanism difficult to execute while others are seemingly natural to it.

When paddling a canoe, a canoeist can use the "J-stroke." In this technique, the person can paddle on just one side of the boat. It is a beneficial method that you should learn especially if you have difficulties in switching sides all the time.

Kayaks - If you are a conventional paddler, paddling with a kayak can be a lot easier. In this particular boat, you are required to use two paddles. There are "blades" that are present on the both of the ends of these paddles. You can either paddles simultaneously on both sides or you can do it alternatively.

Types of Canoes

Now, allow me to highlight the different types of canoes. In this way, you will not get confused by their designs and mistook them as kayaks. That's a “faus pax” that you have to avoid, especially if you are with other boat enthusiasts.

Recreational Canoe - These canoes have a length of around 12 feet to 16 feet. They have a stable design that can be easily navigated by even a single person. This is the type of canoe that you see on lakes and streams.

Whitewater Canoe - Unlike the recreational type, whitewater canoes have a shorter length. This canoe has to be paddled by either one or two persons. It is designed for rushing white waters and fast-moving terrains. Their stability is not that great but they are extremely maneuverable. There are floating panels on its both ends to mitigate water entry.

Racing Canoe - The design of a racing canoe is narrower compared to a whitewater canoe and recreational canoe. Most of the time, this canoe is used by a single paddler alone. People in this canoe has to do a "half-knee, half-sit" position for better control.

Types of Kayaks

Of course, kayaks have different varieties as well. Some people have told me that kayaks have better versatility than canoes. Well, that's something that I have to leave your preferences. But definitely, there are more types of kayaks than canoes. I cannot highlight all of them here, but I will just give you some examples.

Recreational Kayak - This is best used in serene waters with flat terrains. It has a length of around 12-feet long. It is easy to control and easy to ride on.

Whitewater Kayak - A whitewater kayak is shorter than a recreational kayak. Because of this design, the kayak is extremely flexible and responsive to whitewater. They are very buoyant, too! This kayak varies in sizes.

Touring Kayak - The length of this kayak can stretch up to 18 feet. It is also slimmer than conventional kayaks. Despite its lengthy structure, this kayak is unbelievably fast.

Here are some other types of kayaks:

  • Sit-on-top kayaks
  • Inflatable kayaks
  • Racing kayaks

Canoe vs Kayak: Which Should You Choose?

Honestly, I cannot give an exact answer to this question. After all, I do both of these endeavors. I enjoy them, regardless if I am doing them for leisure or the thrill. Riding both canoes and kayak can train you how to paddle better in the water. Furthermore, they can also exercise your body as well.

I am a fan of fishing, so I do fish with my kayaks. I just install fish finders on them to make my job easier. But of course, I am not forcing my preferences to you. You just have to know that these two activities are great.

That's it for now. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.

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