Canoe vs. Kayak: What Are the Differences?

Khusbu Basnet
15 Feb , 2022

An overwhelming majority of Australians over 15 participate in sports at least once a week. One of the most popular sports amongst Australians of all ages is swimming. Yet, Australia also offers a host of other water sports to participate in, like surfing, scuba diving, parasailing, and kayaking. 

If you're interested in kayaking, you may be wondering what the difference is between a kayak and a canoe.

Well, keep reading to learn all about the canoe vs. kayak debate.

What Is a Canoe?

A canoe has an "open cockpit" or deck boat. This is the place where the paddler or paddlers sit. It also has gunwales well above the waterline. Gunwales are the upper edges of the sides.

Since the sides are high, it's harder to get wet or splashed while paddling.

You sit on a bench like you sit in a chair or kneel in a rowing position in a canoe. Most canoes have two or three seats. 

Canoes require you use a one-blade paddle to propel forward. There are paddles on each side of the canoe. Paddlers use the 'J' stroke to go in a straight line. 

Types of Canoes 

When choosing a canoe, it's important to know the four main types. They are:

  • Recreational canoes
  • Flatback canoes
  • Whitewater canoes
  • Racing canoes

Recreational canoes are great for one to three paddlers looking for a steady and stable ride. 

Conversely, whitewater canoes are best for fast-moving water. However, they only accommodate one or two people.

If you're interested in buying a canoe, you should read a canoe buying guide to know which type of canoe is best for you and your needs.

What Is a Kayak?

A kayak has a "closed-cockpit" or deck boat. The gunwales are just above the waterline like you're sitting on the water.

You sit in the middle in a kayak with your legs stretched out. The seat is moulded to the bottom of the kayak. Thus, the sitting area in a kayak is much smaller than in a canoe.

Additionally, since it's close to the water, it's easy to get wet when kayaking.

A kayak uses a double-bladed paddle. Kayakers paddle on alternate sides to move in various directions. 

Types of Kayaks 

When choosing a kayak, it's necessary to know the three main types. Further, these can be divided into seven categories. The three main kayaks are:

  • Sit-inside kayaks
  • Sit-on-top kayaks
  • Inflatable kayaks

The seven subcategories are:

  • Recreational kayaks
  • Day touring kayaks
  • Expedition kayaks
  • Whitewater kayaks
  • Surf kayaks
  • Surf skis
  • Racing kayaks

Recreational kayaks offer the most stability. In addition, they are short to make them more manoeuvrable. These kayaks come in the sit-on-top and inflatable variety. 

Whitewater and surf kayaks offer slightly different shapes to accommodate whitewater or surf waves. They are both the sit-inside variety. 

Again, if you're interested in buying a kayak, you should read a kayak buying guide first. It will help you determine which is best for you.

Canoe vs. Kayak Explained

There you have it—our short canoe vs. kayak guide! 

If you're interested in buying a canoe or kayak, contact us at Waves Overseas. We can help you make the best purchase and get you outfitted with the accessories you need.