Canoe vs Kayak

Author: Efrain Silva

Someone asked me, the other day, which of the two I prefer --- the amazing canoe, or the marvelous kayak? And the truth is, they both serve different purposes, different tastes, and come from a different background. Each is quite unique on its own, and here’s what I mean ...let's have a brief look at each of the two, shall we?

On Canoes

A Brief History

The Netherlands holds the first canoe ever recorded, and its use on the waters. It was made entirely of wood, as you can imagine. Hundreds of years ago….

Africa’s oldest boat, interestingly enough, was also a canoe. They called it the Dunfana Canoe. It was the oldest ever discovered, at least in that region of the world. Pretty cool, right?


A canoe differs from a kayak, in many ways, as it relates to its overall design and style --- for one, canoes are entirely open on the top. So you can see around you, above you, and up at the sky differently. The canoe’s sides are short, to an extent, and come right up. You’ll see them rise above the waters.

Also, the canoe is the more traditional looking boat. It’s the one everyone visually remembers at first. It’s got a bench on its end(s) and two people paddle it (one at the front, and the other at the back, leaving the middle unoccupied, or with items in it).


Not only are canoes used for all sorts of water sports and exciting aqua excursions and activities, but they’re also a mode of local transportation, for many. Countless tourism groups explore local rivers and small bodies with canoes, either for pleasure or business alike. You’ll see canoes in places like Indonesia, Bangkok, Japan, and many more --- several make their living off the tourism vibe, as it’s quite expanded over there. Many also own their own canoes, in the U.S., and use them when they go fishing or water rafting.

Other Details to Note

A canoe’s paddle will only hold a single blade, typically, and that is the main difference that can distinguish it, as many have already noted, from a kayak. So if moving in a forward direction, which should be the goal, usually, will be possible at all, then the paddle would need to be removed from the water. Then what? Then, it would have to be re - inserted right on the canoe’s opposite side.

To further add, this requires more time and effort than it would with using a kayak. But many don’t mind. They prefer the ‘old - fashioned’, which is acceptable.

On Kayaks

A Brief History

North America’s astounding Arctic Regions, as has been scientifically found, was where kayaks first developed. Native Americans living there, it was recorded, were the first to come up with the invention, respectively, and thank God they had the will and intelligence to do so --- because many have now benefitted from more convenient water sports and travel, all in all. Whalebone and driftwood, carved by hand with patience, precision, and effort, were the two main materials the original kayaks were made of. These Natives would also use animal skins, stretching them out very carefully over the kayak’s shell.


With kayaks, you basically get one of two types --- those that you can sit inside of, or those that you can sit on top of (they call them ‘sit - inside’ or ‘sit - on - top’, respectively). All kayaks tend to have a paddle, of course, with its two blades --- this means there’s one blade on each of the two ends, of course. As such, this sort of convenient layout or design allows you to get to places faster, or at least, without burning as much energy, which you’ll need. You don’t have to motion from ‘side to side’; just move your hands….


Even the very early kayaks were immensely useful, not only in hunting and rapid transportation of goods or people / animals, but also in water sports and competition. And now more than ever before, as you might have guessed, the need is still there --- and consumers are still paying top dollar for this sort of innovation (some kayaks even cost upwards of $52,000, which the sellers ‘claim’ are the invulnerable kind). More than 10 million Americans canoe, but check this out : More than 13 million Americans kayak! Kayaking is a growing trend in our culture.

Other Details to Note

If you want to go out and do some sea kayaking, then a sit - down kayak will be your best option ; keep that in mind. If your goal is to also engage in multi - day trips or endeavors (for competition, travel, or otherwise), then these will also be your best bet. This type of kayak is also far better, without a doubt, when you’re out and about in colder outdoor conditions. Why? That’s simply because you’ll get less wet, or not wet at all (thereby preventing hypothermia), especially when you’ve attached a skirt to your cockpit.

Common Misperceptions

Final Word?

All that being said, I personally (and I respect all different opinions, as even some of my friends don’t believe the same way I do on everything, which is perfectly okay) prefer canoes because they are more classical looking, give me more exercise when on the waters, and challenge me as a whole. They are also a bit firmer and harder to tip over, in my own opinion (but I could be wrong --- I guess it depends on the specific model you get).

Canoes have their benefits. Kayaks have their benefits. Ultimately, that leaves the choice in your hands, buyer. Which do you think will serve you the best? Please share your thoughts, and leave any other feedback you desire here below ...we’d love to know what you’re thinking! Canoe or kayak, folks?