difference between a canoe and a kayak

Difference Between a Canoe and a Kayak


When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, many people turn to water sports. Two popular options for this are canoeing and kayaking. Despite some similarities, these two types of boats have some key differences that every beginner should know.

Size and Shape

Perhaps the most obvious difference between a canoe and a kayak is their size and shape. Canoes typically have an open hull design, with higher sides and a flatter bottom. They are typically wider than kayaks, which makes them more stable and easier to maneuver. In contrast, kayaks have a closed deck design, with a longer and narrower shape. This allows them to move faster through the water and handle rougher conditions.

Seating Arrangements

Another noticeable difference is how the paddlers sit in each boat. Canoes usually have bench-style seats for two or more people facing each other, while kayaks have individual seats that are lower and closer to the water. The paddlers in a kayak will often use their legs and hips to help control the boat, while canoeists use their upper body strength to steer the boat with a single paddle.

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Intended Purpose

Finally, the intended purpose of each type of boat can differ as well. Canoes are often used for recreational activities such as fishing or leisurely paddling on calm lakes and rivers. They are also frequently used for wilderness camping trips. Kayaks, on the other hand, are often used for more adventurous activities such as whitewater rapids, surfing, or touring in the ocean. Their smaller size and maneuverability allow them to handle choppy waters and navigate tight spaces.


In conclusion, while canoes and kayaks share some characteristics, they are quite different in many ways. The size and shape of each boat can affect how it performs in different types of water and the number of people it can accommodate. Furthermore, the seating arrangements and intended purposes of each boat can determine the type of outdoor activities it is best suited for. With this newfound knowledge, you can choose the boat that’s right for you and get out on the water with confidence.

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Table difference between a canoe and a kayak

Canoe Kayak
Open-top design Cockpit design
Usually wider and more stable Narrower and faster
Paddled with single or double blades Paddled with double blades only
Can be paddled from kneeling or sitting position Paddled in seated position with legs extended
Can be used solo or tandem Can be used solo or in pairs