Canoeing and kayaking are two activities that are very similar, they both involve paddling in open water in a long narrow boat. They are often confused or the terms used interchangeably. While canoeing is an umbrella term that can refer to both activities, they are both vastly different from the gear down to how you learn each activity.
To start with they both use different boats and gear. Canoes are usually open top boats that are designed to fit two or more people. The seats are usually planks of wood or benches that run across the beam of the boat, or nothing at all which means that the user must kneel while using. On the other hand, kayaks are enclosed and are made to seat one person. Kayak users must sit on the floor with their feet straight ahead, unlike canoes where you sit with bended knees whether it is on the bench or kneeling at the bottom. Canoes usually have higher sides while kayaks sit low in the water.
A canoe’s paddle has one blade while a kayak’s paddle has two, a blade on each end of the paddle stick. As a result of this they require different paddling techniques. For the canoe you use long continuous single strokes which you must alternate on either side of the boat while for a kayak you paddle in a wind milling motion using each end successively.
Kayakers usually have a lot of additional gear because they are usually used to navigate through rapids and whitewaters. The low nature of the kayak and the closed design causes many users to purchase a spray deck to prevent water from entering and filling up the cockpit. Users also purchase helmets, nose plugs and lifejackets.
The oldest recorded canoe was found near Pesse Holland and is estimated to be around 8,000 to 7,500 BC. It is a simple dugout canoe and it is the oldest boat of any kind that was ever found. These dugout canoes have been used by various peoples all over the globe like the Aboriginal people of Australia or the Amazonian tribes. When Europeans traveled to North America they developed the canoe into a design made of birch bark stretched over a wooden frame. This is the template for today’s canoes.
Kayaks on the other hand, were developed by the Inuit people who lived in the far north of what is now Canada, Alaska and Greenland. They were developed as hunting boats; hence their single seat nature and they were made by stretching seal skin over wood or whale bones. The boats were quiet which was ideal for hunting. When Scandinavian missionaries and explorers came to North America they learned to kayak from the locals. Once they took what they learned back to Europe and developed it, the popularity of kayaking spread like wildfire across Europe.
Due to their different functions, picking a location in which to do your activity is very specific as well. If you want to canoe look for waterways that are flat and easy to navigate. A kayaking destination can be rougher like rapids or whitewater. For that kayakers often head to mountainous regions. Some great places to go canoeing include France, the US, Canada and Holland. Some great places for kayaking include Nepal, Northern India, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Now that you know the differences it will be easier to pick which one is right for you. While kayaks are built for rougher waters they can also be used to calm flatter water, however, canoes should never be used on rapids or other rough waters. With that being said, which boat do you prefer?