To most people, a kayak and canoe are the same thing: they are both small lightweight boats that are controlled by paddles. However, each of these crafts is quite unique in their own particular way. Mostly they are both used as recreational boats, perhaps for fishing, water sports and traveling, but in this blog we point out the nuances between these two types of boat.


Both types of crafts are classified by a series of numbers and letters. Quite simply, the letter designates the boat and the number how many people can it hold. There is a myriad of different kinds of kayaks and canoes, but the classification system is relatively simple. Take, for example, a canoe with one paddler, this would be referred to as a C1. A solo kayak, using this system, would be classed as a K1. Whilst canoes have an open top and are open to the water and elements a kayak tends to have a cockpit, this can also be the case with canoes so the classification would also change.

Difference in Purpose

Using a motor trade metaphor, a canoe would be a pick-up truck, whereas the kayak would be named a sports car. Kayaks carry few people, are faster than most canoes and are used widely in competitive water sports. Canoes are more practical, they are versatile and can be used by the family on holidays.

The Different Designs

The biggest difference between the two crafts is that a kayak has a cockpit whereas the canoe has a deck open to the elements. The canoe allows paddlers to move about freely on board but in the case of a kayak the paddlers have secure seating for protection. This is more noticeable in rough water or bad weather where the paddler will have a waterproof membrane around his waist that seals on to the kayak, known as a spray skirt.

Different Paddling Positions

Paddlers in a canoe can either sit of kneel in the boat, they are normally elevated above the water sitting on a seat or kneeling at the front. In a kayak the paddler sits low down with their bum below the waterline, their legs are stretched out in front of them resting on thigh braces.

Different Strokes    

When paddling a canoe, the paddler traditionally uses a single blade paddle, whereas in a kayak the paddler uses a double blade paddle. This is because of the seating position in a kayak, it is low down, near the surface of the water, so a single blade does not give enough propulsion.

It is easier to learn the paddling technique using a double blade and normally allows you to travel faster in the water. Using a single blade saves energy and normally stops any sort of zigzagging as you progress through the water.

Both crafts are built for having fun, the kayak is fantastic for whitewater and fast-moving water, whilst the canoe can take a whole family out for a paddle in some of the most interesting waterways. Both the kayak and canoe are probably the cheapest form of boat you can buy and give any entry level to enjoying all watersports and sailing.