Canoeing vs Kayaking

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 14, 2022  •  6 min read  •  Recreation
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Canoeing and kayaking are both very popular water activities. They may seem similar enough to use these terms interchangeably. However, these are two very different things.

Kayaking has a rich history going back thousands of years. Canoeing also goes back thousands of years. Both were used by Native American tribes in the North Pacific as a way to get around and gather food.

While both canoeing and kayaking have been used throughout history, they are not the same. Let’s look at what both of these are and how they are different.

What is Canoeing?

According to, canoeing is “a very popular water sport played extensively all around the world. Canoeing is a sport where one gets into a little boat made for the sport called a canoe and using a single-bladed paddle to steer the canoe, tries to travel down a stream of a river.”

Canoeing can be used for exercise, recreation, and travel. It can also be used for fishing.

What is Kayaking? defines kayaking as “a watersport that involves paddling using a double-bladed oar and a small boat known as a kayak.” Looking at canoeing and kayaking may make them seem like the same thing. They are used in similar ways, but also rather different.

Kayaking is done in just about any type of body of water. It can be used for fishing, exercise, recreation, and travel. Many people will combine camping with kayaking.

Canoeing vs Kayaking: The Key Differences

While canoeing and kayaking are very similar, there are also some very key differences to look at. Let’s look at a few ways these two water activities are different.

The Structure of the Boat

The main and easiest-to-spot difference is the structure of a canoe vs a kayak. If you put them next to each other, you will see a difference.

A canoe tends to have a wider deck and has an opening at the top. They are also built with higher sides to protect riders from getting splashed when paddling. Canoes also tend to have pointed ends and weigh much more than a kayak.

A kayak, on the other hand, is lower to the water and comes with an enclosed deck. This enclosed deck is used to protect the rider from getting wet. Kayaks often provide a sleeker and lighter design. They are often used for racing due to this type of design.

Canoes may take more than one person to operate, as well. They are heavier, which makes it harder for one person to carry them. The size also makes a canoe more of a two-person vessel, while kayaks come with designs for both one or two people. Even a two-person kayak can be light enough for one person to operate, however.

The Riding Position

The structural differences between kayaks and canoes will also cause the riding position to be different. Canoes are open-decked, which means the canoe rider will often be in the kneeling position. Some canoes are built with bench seating, however.

Kayaks, on the other hand, are enclosed. This causes the rider to be in a position with their legs stretched into the kayak.

A canoe rider will have more freedom to move about the canoe. However, with a kayak, you will gain more back support and more protection from getting wet.

The Paddle

Another difference you will notice is found in the paddle used for canoeing vs kayaking. A canoe paddle will have one bald with a long shaft made of carbon fiber. It’s common to have a T-shaped handle at the top of this type of paddle.

Kayak paddles will have two blades instead of a handle. This allows the rider to alternate between sides when paddling.

Canoeing vs Kayaking: Which is the Right Choice

While there isn’t always a perfect answer, a canoe or a kayak may be better for you. It depends on the comfort you feel with each and how you plan to use your new water vessel.

If you plan to take adventures and you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, you probably want to get into kayaking. However, if you’re looking to relax on a lake and do a bit of fishing, a canoe might be a better choice.

The comfort level you will feel depends on your personal skill level with both. It can be more difficult to work with a canoe due to the size compared to a kayak. However, if you plan to go out on the water with a partner, this may not be that big of a deal.

Kayaks tend to provide more back support, too. If you need the back support, choosing kayaking might be the better option.

A Few Great Places to Go Kayaking

If you plan to take adventures, you will want to get into kayaking. When you do, consider the following five places for your adventures:

While canoeing and kayaking are both different, they can both be quite a bit of fun. Kayaking has become more popular over the past few years. It’s easier to do alone and often more affordable to start as a hobby.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!