Kayak and Canoe: What’s the Difference?

Akash Shakya
31 Mar , 2020

Many people often confuse kayaking and canoeing or interchange them. While they may have several similarities, they are in fact two different outdoor activities involving two different watercrafts. Kayaking of course uses a kayak, a generally closed-top watercraft that sits the rider very close to the water and is more often than not a single-seater. Canoeing on the other hand uses a canoe, a generally open-top boat usually designed for two or more people, with higher sides than those of the kayak.


Physical Differences

Though both crafts are often long and narrow, canoes are typically larger than kayaks and can seat more people. Canoes have benches across their body people can kneel in front of or sit on with their knees bent; whereas kayaks have cockpits with seats right on the floor of the boat, with just enough space in front for the legs to lie straight. Kayaks can either be a sit inside or a sit on top, basically refering to the sitting position of the rider. They can also be long or short, the former being faster and the latter being a lot easier to manoeuvre.

Another key difference between these two vessels are their paddles. Kayaking paddles are longer than those for canoeing and have two blades: one on either end. Canoeing paddles are shorter with only one blade. Because they are designed differently, these paddles require different paddling techniques.



Paddling on a kayak is relatively easier than paddling on a canoe because of its single paddle design. A solo kayaker can easily manoeuvre a kayak without having to switch the paddle from one side of the craft to another; however dripping from the paddle means that kayakers are more than likely to get wet.

Because of canoes’ often larger size and shorter paddle, paddling on a canoe can be slightly more difficult than on a kayak. It may require the rider to move across the canoe and move the paddle from one side of the craft to the other several times. But if there are two or more riders, paddling becomes easier as each rider can focus on paddling on just one side.



The best places to canoe are also some of the best places to kayak, with a few exceptions. While some canoes are designed for whitewater rapids, most are built for slower moving waters. Kayaks on the other hand, can be used for both. Because of their better manoeuverability kayaks can be used for running rapids and paddling whitewater, as well as cruising through more placid waters where Australian canoeing is usually done. Additionally, because of their closed design kayaks offer more protection against the elements and can keep kayakers dry and warm even in cold conditions. So in terms of versatility in the settings where they may be used, kayaks have the upper hand.

Canoes have a different advantage, and that is their ability to carry more loads. They have more room for gear, people and even pets, and are safe enough for all the family to enjoy. This makes them the perfect craft to take on multi-day camping trips.

Canoes are also much more stable than most kayaks, allowing you to stand on them whenever you need to. They also give you a better view of the water since their seats are higher off. With these features, plus their larger space for gear and option to have a trolling motor, they’re an ideal choice for fishing; though some still prefer kayaks that are specially designed for fishing.


Transport & Convenience

Kayaks being the lighter and often smaller craft are a lot easier to carry around and transport, however inflatable models have also made canoes quite portable. In terms of getting in and out of the craft, canoes are much easier because of their open design and stability, though sit on top kayaks are also relatively easy to get in and out of.

Kayaking and canoeing are both excellent ways to explore Australia’s many wonderful waterways. Both give you a unique and breathtaking view of the outdoors, and can be a wild and exciting ride, or a soothing and peaceful one. Whichever craft you choose, make sure that it suits your lifestyle, activities and preferences, and to purchase your craft from a trusted supplier. If you’re planning to go kayaking or canoeing in Sydney, you can buy your watercraft here at Waves Overseas. Take a look at our great selection of canoes and kayaks today or give us a call on (02) 9745 5555 for enquiries.