Difference between Kayak and Canoe

Nautical Channel
30 Mar 2023
NEWS | Canoe/Kayak

When we talk about canoeing, many people get confused with the terms of the boats used in this sport. 

It seems that we are talking about the same boat, but the truth is that they are different. In this article we will explain the main characteristics of these types of boats.

The main confusion between kayak and canoe is due to language. We could say that in both cases we are talking about the same boat. In fact, canoeing is generally used to refer to all types of boats, whether they are canoes or kayaks. 

The main difference between kayak and piragua is the origin of the word. The name piragua came from America and Spain, while kayak comes from the Inuit. They were called Inuit to the generic group of people who inhabited the Arctic, such as Canada, Alaska or Greenland.

The canoe is much heavier and wider than the kayak. In addition, the boat is fully open and is normally used for calmer navigations.  
The kayak is not fully open, but is more closed and narrow. The paddler is fully seated and is much closer to the water. In a canoe, the paddler is seated, but also kneeling.

The paddles and the positioning of the paddler

Another difference can be found in the paddles used to propel you during the activity. 
  • In kayaking, the athlete is seated and uses a double-bladed paddle
  • In canoeing, the athlete is kneeling and uses a single-bladed paddle.

Number of people

Another aspect to differentiate these two boats is the number of people that can enter. 

Normally kayaks are for 1 or 2 people, although there are competitions and specific boats for up to 4 people, which is the maximum.

The canoe due to the materials in which it is made and its capacity can carry many more people. There is no minimum, but there is no maximum either, it depends on the canoe in question, but it can be 1, 2, 3, 4 and up to 10 people (in this case we refer to recreational canoes, not sport canoes).

The Shape

And finally, we can see differences in the shape of the canoe or kayak. The canoe usually has the same shape front and back, while the kayak because it is more sporty you can see the difference between stern and bow.

We would like to clarify that within the canoes we could differentiate two types. Those boats that are used for competition, and others that are more recreational and leisure.

Although these terms are quite confusing due to their similarity, we hope we have helped you to differentiate between kayak and canoe.
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