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Difference Between Canoe and Kayak

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The main difference between canoeing and kayaking is the position of the paddler. In a kayak, the paddler sits inside the boat with his or her legs stretched out in front of him or her. While in a canoe, the paddler sits on top of the boat, kneeling with their legs bent backwards.

What is a Canoe?

a couple practicing canoeing
A couple practicing Canoeing: the deck is open and they are using a single-bladed paddle

Canoes are open-deck boats with a pointed bow and stern and are propelled by a single-bladed paddle. Canoes are stable and easy to maneuver, making them ideal for beginners. At first, canoes may seem difficult to learn because of their instability and the complexity of their paddling strokes. However, they are easier to master because of their slow speed and simple handling. Canoes are also lightweight and easy to transport, making them a great option for camping and fishing trips.

What is a Kayak?

a man kayaking
A man kayaking alone: the deck is closed and he is using a two-bladed paddle

A kayak is an enclosed deck boat propelled by a two-bladed paddle. They are faster than canoes, but can be more difficult to control. This characteristic makes kayaks more suitable for experienced paddlers. Kayaks are also great for exploring narrow spaces like rivers and creeks. Kayaks are easier to learn because of their stability and simple paddling strokes. However, they are more difficult to master because of their speed and maneuverability. Kayaks have compartments to store gear, which makes them ideal for dive trips.

Differences between a Canoe and a Kayak

Paddler Position

The first difference to consider is the position of the paddler. In a canoe, the paddler sits with his or her legs stretched forward. In a kayak, however, he or she sits with knees bent and legs bent backwards.

Number of blades on the paddle

There is also a difference between the paddle used with a canoe and the paddle of a kayak. For the canoe, the paddle is equipped with one blade while for the kayak the paddle has two blades.

Type of water they are designed for

Another difference between kayaks and canoes is that kayaks are designed to travel in rivers and rapids, while canoes are better suited to calm waters like lakes and ponds.

Shape of the boat

Kayaks are narrower and have a closed deck, which makes them more stable on moving water. Canoes are wider and have an open deck, which makes them more stable on open water.


Kayaks are more difficult to transport than canoes because they are larger and heavier. Canoes are easy to transport because they are smaller and lighter.


Kayaks are easier to learn, but harder to master, while canoes are harder to learn, but easier to master.

Comparison Chart: Canoe Vs Kayak

ShapeOpen deckClosed deck
PositionSitting with legs extended forwardSitting with legs bent backwards
Type of paddleSingle blade paddleDouble blade paddle
SizeLarge and wide, heavySmall and narrow, light
LearningHard to learn, but easy to masterEasy to learn, but difficult to master
Ideal type of waterMoving water: rapids, riversCalm waters: lakes, ponds

Similarities between Canoeing and Kayaking

Kayaking and canoeing are both sporting activities that involve using a paddle to propel a boat through the water. In both cases, the person doing the activity sits on a bench of the boat with some differences in leg position. Both canoeing and kayaking can be done in singles or doubles. Kayaks and canoes are also available in inflatable models.


How do I choose between a canoe and a kayak?

When choosing between a canoe and a kayak, it is important to consider your skill level, the type of water you will be paddling on and the activity you will be using it for. If you are a beginner or plan to paddle on calm waters, the canoe is a great option. If you are an experienced paddler or plan to paddle rivers or rapids, a kayak is a better choice.

What is more expensive between a canoe and a kayak?

The kayak is more expensive than the canoe because it is a newer design and is made with more technologically advanced materials. Kayaks are also a better choice for experienced paddlers who want to paddle rivers or rapids and this plays into their price. Kayaks are more expensive than canoes, but they offer more features and benefits for experienced paddlers.

Who invented the canoe and kayak?

The kayak was invented by the Inuit of Alaska and Canada. The canoe was invented by the indigenous people of North America.


As we have seen, there are several essential differences between the kayak and the canoe. These include the position of the paddler, the shape and size of the boat, the number of blades on the paddle, and the difficulty of learning. The kayak is faster and more maneuverable while the canoe is much more stable. If you are a beginner, consider getting a canoe first and when you have gained more experience, the kayak may be a better option, but it also depends on your taste.

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About the Author: Tom Vincent

Tom Vincent graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and social studies. He then started his higher education at the University of François Rabelais in Tours with a DUT Information Communication. To expand his knowledge, he also followed a professional degree in e-commerce and digital marketing at the Lumière University of Lyon. On this project, he is in charge of articles covering language, industry and social.
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