What Are The Differences Between Kayak and Canoe?

If you’re facing a difficult decision of choosing between canoeing or kayaking as a new hobby, there are several questions might appear in your head:

  • Which will be the most suitable one for me?
  • Should I choose the one because I like it or the one that is more practical?

Canoe and Kayak are two very similar vessels with a lot of features in common, which is why it caused confusion to many people.

We hope after reading this article, you can gather further information about these two and be able to figure out which one will be the best for you.

canoe vs kayak

Kayaks

Brief History Of Kayaks


A kayak was known for its existence more than 4000 years ago. It was first built by indigenous people at Arctic regions of North America.

The first basic material using to craft was driftwood and whalebone. Then it had upgraded waterproof by stretching animal skins all over the shell with whale or caribou fat sealed on them.

Talk about the design, the Kayak was built not only for hunting purpose but also transporting goods, or it might be influenced by the icy environment which the Inuits lived in, moving through icy water will be much easier with this design.

With closed design, everything will be kept dry and also warm while the boat was out on the water.

The Kayaking was first introduced in Europe in the 1800s. Then it became popular among Arctic explorers and sportsmen.

Finally, in 1936, it was announced to be an official Olympic sport at the Berlin Olympic Games.

You can see how an Inuit traditional Kayak was built nowadays.

Kayak Design


There are two main designs for Kayak which is based on different purpose. One sit-inside kayak, and the other is sit-on-top kayak.

Compare to sit-on-top, the sit inside design seems like more traditional. There are different shapes and sizes for this design depending on the types of water and the situation. It has a cockpit where the paddler can sit, which means their legs and lower body are covered and can be kept away from water.

On the opposite, the sit-on-top design is more modern. The paddler will sit on the top of the kayak. It will be more convenient to jump in and out.

Each design has its own characteristics, but they have one thing in common is the paddle.

The paddle has two blades on each side. You need to use your hands to paddle forward or backward, which means it allows you to use less energy when paddling compared to a canoe.

And the last point, the kayaks are designed to be portable, so they are likely lighter and smaller than canoes.

Usages


paddling a kayak

At first, the kayaks were used as a mode of transportation.

By this time, it becomes more and more popular in daily activities recently.

According to an exclusive report published in 2015, kayaking had become the most popular form of paddling in the USA, with 13 million Americans participating in kayaking compared to 10 million Americans taking part in canoeing.

As mentioned above, there are two types of kayaks which are used for different activities.

Sit-inside Kayaks

The sit-inside ones can keep you warm and away from the water, so it is why they are often used for sea kayaking and multi-day trips.

It can also be used for snow kayaking, but the kayak designed for this sport tends to be shorter than the original one to allow for better maneuverability over the rapids. Moreover, there are also numerous sports which have been using sit inside kayaks such as canoe polo.

Sit-on-top Kayaks

On the other hand, the sit on top ones would be easier to start for beginners, which requires fewer skills for paddling.

This one is especially suitable for fishing.

With the legs no longer being restricted, you can move around quickly.

Besides that, with gears placed at the top of the desk, you can access to them easier than when stored in the hull.

In areas that have warmer climates, if you intend to jump into the water for a quick swim, the sit on top kayaks is the best option. But you will get wet from splashes on a sit on top kayak, which is why it’s often popular in hot weather or warmer countries.

One more point you guys might need to know is the style of each kayak will affect its speed and stability, each one is built for performance in a particular area.

For example, the longer and narrower a kayak will make it faster but less stable it will be. The shorter and wider the kayak is, the easier it will be to navigate in a smaller space and the more stable it will be.

Nowadays, Kayaks are available as both single person and tandem, as both sit on top and sit inside kayaks, so you need to specify your uses before buying one.

paddling a canoe

Canoes

A brief of history


Canoes have appeared for thousands of years.

Many evidences have been found with the oldest was discovered being a wooden dugout canoe that was found in Pesse, in Netherlands, in 1955 and has been dated to be 10,000 years old. Not only in Europe, but other evidences of canoes have also been found from all around the world. The Duncan Canoe – the oldest canoe discovered in Africa, which was found in Nigeria in 1987 and is said to be 8,000 years old. In Asia, an 8,000-year-old canoe also has been discovered in Kuahuqiao, in China.

All of these ancient canoes were dugout canoes, the primary material is trees and logs, and they were hollowed out with axes to create a floating vessel.

Through time, when the Europeans encountered the Native Americans, the design had changed. Native Americans were building their canoes using wooden frames and birch bark, sealed together with tree resin.

Compared to kayaks, the canoes are a quite similar one. They were used to transport people and goods.

It is thought that the native people of the Caribbean used the first canoes in North America to travel from island to island.

Design


A canoe has a traditional boat shape, completely open on top and relatively short on sides.

Unlike the kayak, the paddle on a canoe only has one blade, which means to move forward, you have to paddle from this side and switch to the opposite repeatedly.

This leads to your canoe will run slower than a kayak.

However, there are benches offered on each side of a canoe which allow two people can paddling at the same time.

It will be a little easier to move forward or backward.

Sitting on a canoe is different from sitting on a kayak. While on a kayak your legs are usually straight out, on a canoe, your knees are bent, as you’re sitting elevated on a bench, away from the bottom of the canoe.

The design for seating on the canoe means there is more space for extra gear, as space is not taken up by your legs. And there’s usually even space underneath your bench.

However, not all canoes are the same, as there are different types for different activities.

Uses


Similar to kayaks, canoes were meant for hunting and transporting people and goods from the beginning.

Nowadays, canoes are not only used for traveling but also used in a range of sports and activities.

In 2014, there were still 10 million people in the USA participating in canoeing in spite of a slight decline in the number of people canoeing from period 2010 to 2014.

With its design, canoe moves slowly on the water such as rivers and lakes which is especially suitable for exploring and camping trips with your family.

Just like kayaking, canoeing is also featured as an Olympic sport with both slalom and sprint which means there are also racing canoes that are narrower and more streamlined for faster performance, and are often used by professional canoeists.

Conclusion

Which one you should choose is dependent on individual circumstances.

Firstly, about the size, the Kayaks are designed to be portable, so they are smaller than the Canoes, which means it is harder to move a canoe on the ground compared to a kayak.

You should choose a Kayak instead of Canoes if you don’t live near a lake, a river etc.

Secondly, about the purposes you plan to use it. With space larger than the Kayaks, the Canoes allows carrying more people and goods.

For example, you can bring your whole family, including children, pets and full of gears, heading out exploring or camping.

On the other side, if you’re going to participate in a kind of sports, then a Kayak is the one for you.

There are various designs depending on environmental conditions, your paddling skills and what kind of sport you want to participate in.

And that is it, with that provided information, hopefully you can find the answers to your questions after reading this article and have a wise choice.

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