It’s a question we’ve all asked at some point. What is the difference between a canoe and kayak? After all, they look very similar. The main way to know the difference is by looking at the type of paddle being used. Canoeists use a paddle with a blade at just one end, whereas kayakers paddle with a blade at each end.
But there’s much more to it than that… Here’s our top five ways of telling canoes and kayaks apart.
Differences between canoes and kayaks
- Purpose. If you think of a kayak as a sports car then a canoe is very much the people carrier of the paddling world. Kayaks are favoured for competitive conditions or where water may be challenging. Canoes are for meandering with the family down a winding river on warm summer day.
- Another of the differences between canoes and kayaks is design. Canoes normally have an open deck. You can pack your picnic easily into them. Kayaks tend to have a closed deck. You won’t be able to see the lower half of someone kayaking. Because they are open, canoes offer more freedom of movement for paddlers. Kayaks, on the other hand, offer more secure seating and protection with their closed deck.
- Seating is another difference to look out for. Canoe paddlers will sit or kneel. They will sit on a seat and place their knees against the top edge or rim. When kneeling canoe paddlers will wedge their knees against the sides of the boat for stability. You can’t see kayakers lower body but their legs will be stretched out in front of them in the kayak. Their knees will be resting on thigh braces for support.
- Paddles. Yes, paddles are another of the differences between a kayak and a canoe. Canoe paddlers tend to use single blades. Kayakers will have a blade on each end. A single blade is not effective for kayakers as they sit low in terms of the waterline. Double bladed paddles are much faster, so if speed is your goal purchase a kayak and a double blade.
- The final way to tell the differences between a kayak and a canoe is their classification. Both vessels are classified by letters and numbers: C for canoe and K for kayak. A C1 would be a solo paddler canoe. A C2 would be a tandem canoe. Canoes designed for harsher conditions are different. These canoes can have closed tops like kayaks. A solo normal canoe would then be called a OC1 (Open Canoe 1) with the sturdier canoes taking the term C1. A solo kayak is a K1. A tandem would be called a K2, and so on.
So, now you know how to tell the difference. It will also help you choose what you want. If you after speed and fast water then you need a kayak. If you simply want a leisurely but active day out with the family, choose canoe.