How to distinguish canoe and kayak?

Kayaking and canoeing are activities and boats that are often confused. So much so that the sporting discipline includes both names and is called canoeing. But then, what distinguishes these two names? How do you recognize a kayak from a canoe? In reality, although these two boats use a similar means of propulsion, the paddle, and have a relatively similar shape, several elements differentiate them.

First distinction: the paddle

Made up of a handle and blades, in these boats, the paddle plays a triple role: firstly, it ensures the propulsion of the boat. This is, in a way, the engine. Then the paddle also serves as a rudder. By planting the blade to the right or left of the canoe or kayak, the boat will turn to the opposite side. Finally, in more hectic situations, the paddle can also serve as support. Hence the importance of obtaining good information before choosing your paddle.
What is the difference in paddling between a canoe and a kayak? It’s quite simply that in kayaking, we use a double paddle with a blade at each end, and in canoeing, a single paddle.
In the first case, we, therefore, paddle symmetrically whereas in a canoe we have to change sides regularly or practice the “swan neck”. If the canoe has more than one person, they will paddle on each side.

The origins of canoeing and kayaking

The second major difference: is origins.

Origins of kayaking

Kayaking comes to us from the far north. Its story begins on the Greenland side. As its name suggests, it was invented by the Inuit (the famous Eskimos). Originally, it was designed on a frame of floating wood recovered from drifting on which was affixed a seal skin which ensures the watertightness of the boat. They used these boats as their main means of transport in the pack ice. 

Origins of the canoe

The canoe comes to us from the American Indians. We all know its traditional shape with its raised front and rear. As we have indicated, the Indians moved at sea or on waterways with a simple paddle. They mainly used these boats in groups, each paddling on their own. They were not made of skin but were directly carved from a block of wood, generally a trunk. Later, other tribes developed bark canoes assembled using seams.

Position in the boat

Beyond the paddle and the origins, the other point that differentiates kayak and canoe is the position we occupy in the boat.
The kayaker sits in the “classic” way in his boat. This means that it is installed on a seat on its buttocks. Its legs are extended towards the forward tip of the boat. The feet are installed in toe clips. To ensure good stability on the water, the knees are slightly bent and come into contact with the edges of the boat. This ensures good stability, even in the event of waves. This position is valid.
In the case of a canoe, there are two possibilities: either it is a boat in a traditional style, designed for several people. In this case, the canoe incorporates several swimming benches on which the céistes (person in a canoe) are installed like a backless chair. But the athletes you see at the Olympic Games like Tony Estanguet don’t have the same position. : once the canoe is closed (with a skirt), the passenger is installed on their knees in the boat. The first sessions often put the ankles to the test.

Canoe and kayak are not intended for the same uses

Finally, the two boats are rarely used for the same purposes. If in whitewater, you can find both kayaks and canoes, the sea will be the preferred terrain for kayaks and calm rivers (rivers, etc.) for canoes!

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