What’s the Difference Between a Canoe and a Kayak?
While people often use ‘canoe’ as an umbrella term for kayaks and canoes, the boat designs, the gear and the paddles have major variances. Both also require different techniques when it comes to learning how to paddle. Here are a few key differences that will help you be able to tell the difference between them.
Shape and Design
By design, canoes were built for stability and have less agility, but a professional can make them move quickly. While both vessels have similar utilitarian functions, they do have different purposes. People often use canoes to transport passengers and supplies when going on leisurely paddles during family outings. By comparison, the sleek designs of kayaks make them more useful for exhilarating water sports. Kayaks developed differently. Initially, they were designed as hunting boats by the Inuit tribes in Alaska, Greenland and Canada. In the 20th century, kayaking became popular as a sport, mainly because of its appeal in Europe.
Canoes have open tops, also referred to as open decks, and often accommodate two or more paddlers. These either kneel down or sit on benches that run across the vessel’s beam. Kayaks have closed tops and generally have only one seat. Because of the closed design, kayak operators usually wear a spray deck, also known as a spray skirt. This waterproof cover stops water from overflowing into the seating area. Since kayaks sit lower in the water, these vessels have higher sides than canoes. Kayakers sit directly on the floor with their legs extended. The paddler is completely ensconced inside the vessel’s closed deck.
Usability and Paddles
Both vessels have uses for assorted recreational activities and can navigate shallow water, rivers, and lakes. However, kayaks are mostly used for paddling whitewater and for running rapids. That’s why kayak operators normally wear buoyancy aids rather than bulky life jackets, which can impede movement. Helmets and nose plugs also constitute part of a kayaker’s gear.
Canoe paddles are short with a T-shaped handle and have one blade. Kayak paddles come with two opposing blades on a longer pole. Since the oars vary so much from each other, they require two different paddling methods. Canoeists place one hand at the end of the handle and the other halfway down the shaft. They make the boat move via alternating strokes on either side of the vessel.
Maneuvering a kayak takes more effort. The operators grasp the middle portion of the paddle and alternately push the right and left blades into the water while pushing themselves onward. Kayakers also have to learn a twisting technique while positioning the blades at the proper 90-degree angle. This helps to minimize wind resistance and to maximize pushing power. Since these boats can capsize, kayakers should learn how to implement the Eskimo roll. An Eskimo roll is a safe technique to help you recover if you happen to capsize in your kayak. It’s a way to quickly roll and recover without hopping out of your kayak and emptying it. There are many different ways to perform a roll and it’s definitely something you can learn and get great at if you practice. This maneuver won’t work for canoe operators because of the vessel’s open top.
Canoeing and Kayaking are Equally Fun Water Sports
Both types of vessels have existed for thousands of years. Canoes were built as transportation devices, and the oldest one on record is approximately 10,000 years old. This makes it the oldest vessel ever discovered. It was unearthed in Holland, but many others of similar age have been found in different parts of the world. But whether or not you choose to go canoeing or kayaking, it’s important to know that both are equally fun! If you live in Moab or are visiting Moab for a while, come try kayaking or canoeing with us here at Canyon Voyages — we have plenty of trips to choose from, and you’ll have expert guides helping you on the adventure.