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Canoe or kayak: What are the differences? 

Before we help you decide between a canoe and a kayak, let’s first see what is the difference between these two types of boats?

Contrary to what many people think, the difference is not in the number of rowers in the boat. It is not about the type of use either, kayaking and canoeing are practiced as well in the sea as in the river or in the lake.

In fact, there are two easily identifiable points of differentiation between a canoe and a kayak:

The position of the rower in the boat

In a kayak the rower is positioned in a seat seated at the bottom of the boat with his legs extended.

The kayaker is therefore positioned on his buttocks, the feet are placed on toe clips and the legs are slightly bent.

In canoeing, the rower is either on his knees (on one knee in the céiste position for the speed canoe, or on both knees). Or seated on an integrated bench at the height of the boat for the canoe tour.

The paddle style

In a kayak we use a double paddle. Rather large in size, it has the particularity of having two blades, one on each side of the handle.

In canoeing a single paddle is used, which is shorter than a double paddle and has only one blade. The single paddle has a handle at its end called “Olive”.

The paddling technique

The difference in paddling technique directly depends on the style of paddle used

In fact, in a kayak, with a double paddle, the paddle movements are alternated successively on each side of the boat.

In a canoe, on the other hand, with a single paddle, the rower will paddle either on one side or the other, and will practice the gooseneck technique which consists of brushing the water with his blade in order to keep the course while paddling only on one side.

How to choose between canoe or kayak?

The choice will be made according to your preferences as well as the use of the boat.

Choosing a canoe

If your preference is for a canoe there are many models depending on the size and structure (rigid, inflatable, removable, etc.)

Three criteria should be taken into account when choosing a canoe:

  • the length
  • the width
  • the rocker

The length

The length will have a direct influence on the speed and maneuverability of the canoe.

Thus, the longer a boat is, the faster it will be, in return it will be difficult to maneuver.

A long canoe will also allow you to have more storage and loading space to deposit your belongings or equipment.

The width

The width of a canoe is measured on the widest part which is in the middle of the boat.

The wider the boat, the more stable it will be. In return, it will lose speed and maneuverability.

The rocker

The rocker is the curve formed by the bottom of the canoe. A canoe can be either fairly flat, we will say that the rocker is moderate, or more curved, we will say that the rocker is pronounced.

The more pronounced the rocker, the faster and more manoeuvrable the canoe will be.

If you want to hike and ride in calm water, a rigid canoe with a built-in bench, long and wide with a moderate rocker and with room to store things will be ideal.

Inflatable canoes have the advantage that they can be easily stored and transported. These canoes are intended for recreational recreational use.

There are canoes for one person and others for more than 4 people, so be sure to choose a canoe according to the number of people you want to accommodate in the craft.

Choosing a kayak

If your preference is for a kayak, your choice should be based on its structure and size.

The thinner and shorter your kayak, the faster and more maneuverable it will be.

The rigid kayak is the most popular, robust and very efficient it is however more bulky.

The inflatable kayak, although increasingly solid thanks to techniques like high pressure inflation, is reserved for family and recreational use. It has the big advantage of being extremely light and compact.

There is also the folding kayak, which represents an alternative between the inflatable hull and the rigid hull because it manages to combine the best of both worlds, rigidity and minimal bulk.

The kayak according to its use

Fishing kayak

Short and wide, this kayak gives priority to stability, it is possible to stand on this type of boat. Some are even equipped with a pedal boat system to propel themselves with the strength of the legs.

Whitewater kayaking

Short and thin, super manoeuvrable but also very unstable, whitewater kayaking is reserved for descents of tumultuous rivers, for experienced kayakers.

Sea kayak

Sea kayaking and generally longer than other types of kayak, in order to be able to set course in heavy seas.

In any case, when you want to go kayaking at sea it is necessary to have a fin or a rudder in order to have better stability and better control of the direction.

The centerboard is located under the kayak while the rudder is located on the rear part.

If the centreboard will stabilize the boat from hull movements in windy conditions, the rudder will allow you to steer as with a rudder.

Sit-on-top kayak

This type of kayak is ideal for beginners.

Unsinkable and very stable, it will allow you to discover the discipline and to practice short walks in calm water or on the seaside.

Open kayak or closed kayak

For walks and leisure outings alone or with others, it is better to favor an open kayak with a good width for better stability and able to support the weight of your belongings.

For rivers of the river type and difficult conditions (cold, rough seas, water that enters the boat, etc.), a kayak with a closed cabin should be preferred.

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