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How well do you know your canoeing?

Canoeing / Featured / Home Slider / Slider / June 14, 2016

What’s for you – a kayak or a canoe? While these crafts share many similarities, they are very different in their own ways. Read below to understand their differences!

Design of boat

Often, an ancient canoe has an open deck while an ancient kayak has a closed deck. The closed deck design of a kayak allows the additional use of a spray deck that could keep water out of the cockpit.

Also, canoes are commonly observed to be pointed at both ends while kayaks are narrower in structure.


For canoeing, paddles used are flat and single-bladed. On the other hand, for kayaking, paddles used are curved and double-bladed.

Paddling position

In a canoe, the paddler either kneels or sits on a raised seat with their knees placed against the top edge and rim of the boat. Either way of positioning, the canoer aims for maximum balance of the craft.

In a kayak, the paddler sits with their legs stretched within the cockpit.

But why the difference? To answer that question, one has to look back in time.

Back in the ancient times, canoe was created and used by the natives of North America as a means of transporting goods and people through lakes and rivers of North America. Therefore, heavy emphasis was placed on stability of craft with maximal load onboard.

To meet the needs, canoes made were often made out of large tree trunks of great circumference. A double-bladed paddle would be hard to use in boat with wide width and hence, the practice of using a single-bladed paddle was adopted.

Unlike canoe, kayak was invented by the artic inhabitants, now known as the Inuits, as a means of hunting. From region to region, the structures of the kayak varied according to the needs of the inhabitants. When stability and storage were the emphases, kayaks would be designed to be wider and shorter. When speed was the emphasis, kayaks would be crafted to have longer and slender body.

Nevertheless, most if not all ancient kayaks still share a common characteristic that is closed deck with a cockpit for sitting in. This prevents cold Artic water from entering the craft.

In today’s context, the structure of the craft is no longer a direct indicator to identify whether the craft is a canoe or kayak. It’s a common sight for canoes to look like kayaks and vice versa.

Thankfully, paddles and availability of raised seat within the craft still remains as good indicator to distinct the two crafts.

While humans no longer need to hunt for food, it remains that paddling enthusiasts still ensure the leisure of paddling out to fish. For the speed lovers and challenge seekers, slalom events in whitewater offers them heart-stopping exhilaration of a roller coaster. Not forgetting the nature lovers, paddling down a river or swamp allows one to bask in nature and be lost in the moment!

Pick up a paddle and a craft, be it a canoe or a kayak, you would be surprise at the plethora of experiences and joy that paddling can offer!

Photo courtesy of Singapore Canoe Federation

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