how to canoe

This Canoeing guide cannot compete with the real experience of actually going into the water to learn how to canoe but you will still learn the basics if you read through this guide.

Here’s the catch about canoeing;

It is a very lovely outdoor hobby that will allow you to experience the water without getting wet, hopefully. It is rewarding, fun, and stimulating which you can share with your family and friends. You can enjoy a lot of things with it including being able to experience the beauty of nature in a new perspective.

Aside from that, you can also enjoy a new set of skills that you can use in life. Plus it has a long list of fitness and health benefits.

What is the Difference Between Canoeing and Kayaking?

difference between canoe and kayak

The difference between canoeing and kayaking can be confusing especially if you are new to water sports.

The difference between kayaking and canoeing can be seen through its history, techniques, and equipment used. Let’s consider each factor one by one in order to fully understand the basics and the difference between both activities.

History of Canoeing and Kayaking – Both started differently

pesse canoe oldest boat

Pesse Canoe – The Oldest Boat

Both kayaking and canoeing can be traced back to different origins. For one, both were initially developed in different portions of the world. With canoeing, the oldest piece of a canoe discovered is named as the Pesse Canoe. According to further studies on the piece, it has been believed to date back sometime between 8000 and 7500 B.C.

This piece of canoe was discovered in Holland. Aside from the fact that it has been regarded as the oldest discovered canoe, it is also the oldest boat found. While the initial place of discovery of this piece was in Holland, the activity was developed further in North America.

On the other hand, Kayaks were separately developed. Their history traces back to the Inuit tribes who used to live in the far North, now consisting of the modern territories of Greenland, Alaska and Canada.

Kayaks were invented with the purpose of serving as boats for hunting. The earlier designs were handmade using seal skins which were stretched to cover wood. Aside from wood, carved whale bones were also used to serve as the main structure, especially in places where wood was not readily available.

Kayaking eventually made itself to the Olympic Games. It was the Europeans who adapted it initially, and afterwards, rapidly growing in popularity. The modern day competitions of both canoeing and kayaking are also done separately, in two different disciplines, sprint and slalom.

Techniques – The Right Way to Paddle a Canoe and a Kayak

Another difference that tells canoeing and kayaking apart has something to do with the techniques that are implemented in paddling.

Canoeists use single bladed paddles in alternating strokes on each side. A hand grips the handle that is located at the edge of the paddle, in the form of a t-shape, with the other hand gripping halfway through the shaft of the paddle.

On the other hand, kayakers uses a double-bladed paddle, hand gripping them right in the center, pushing themselves forward with the right blade first, followed by the left paddle. A certain twisting technique is done so as to maximize the pushing power, while minimizing wind resistance.

Generally, canoeing requires basic paddling only. However, kayakers need to learn advanced paddling techniques.

Equipment – Type of ‘Boat’ Used in Canoeing and Kayaking

As mentioned, canoeing uses a single-blade paddle. The type of boat that is used is one that is open, which means that it can easily adapt to certain positions in paddling, including kneeling on one knee, kneeling on both knees, or even sitting down.

There are different types of canoes used. One is an open canoe, often referred to as OC. When getting a canoe, you will encounter terms such as OC1 and OC2, as well as CC1 and CC2. OC1 means an open canoe with one paddle. OC 2 means an open canoe and two paddles.

Another type of a closed cockpit canoe (CC), usually used for white water rivers, which is available as C1, with one paddle, and C2 with two paddles.

On the other hand, kayaking uses a two-blade paddle. The kayaker may opt to wear a spray deck which helps in keeping water out of the cockpit.

What are the Different Canoeing Equipment?

Once you enter the world of canoeing, you will realize that there are a lot of options in terms of equipment. However, rather than getting them all at once as a beginner, it is often recommended to start with just the basics in order to avoid confusion.

The following are the basic canoeing equipment that you need to prepare:

  • Canoe


Canoes are paddled using a single blade paddle. There are various types of canoes available on the market these days, with some of them made using natural materials. Others, however, are made using polyethylene.

It is up to you which type of canoe material you would like to have. Quite obviously, the price of the canoes also matter depending on the type of materials used.

  • Paddle

You would be delighted to know that there are a lot of options out there when it comes to choosing paddles for canoeing. A canoe paddle is one that has a single blade connected to a shaft that is shorter, with a grip towards the end.

Canoeing paddles are generally manufactured using fiberglass or aluminum. Recent designs and models of paddles are built using wood, with most of them being really lightweight.

A canoe paddle can be purchased in various lengths and shapes. As a beginner, asking for the assistance of a sales person, or one from your canoeing club can help you in making the best option.

  • Buoyancy Device

bouyancy device

If you start to explore out on the open waters, you definitely need to bring with you a buoyancy aid. They are designed to help you swim as you wear them, while giving you the insulation that your body needs.

These buoyancy devices also come in different shapes and designs. Regardless of your option, keep in mind that what matters most is the actual fit and comfort. Make sure that you get the right size in order to achieve this.

The equipment mentioned above are the ones that are considered as essential, which means that every canoeing trip should have them. However, there are also equipment that can be added to your list. They are optional, but they can definitely improve the entire experience, in their own way. Let’s consider some of them:

  • Suits (wetsuit/drysuit), pants, and paddle jacket

The main determining factor whether or not you would need these extra equipment is the temperature of water that you will be canoeing in. You will need a wetsuit if you are working on warm waters, and a dry suit for cold waters.

It is also up to your preference whether or not you would like to wear pants or paddle jacket especially designed for this activity. Some prefer not having them for comfort, while others feel that they are also needed for protection.

  • Throwable flotation devices

Most coast guards require boats which are longer than 16 inches to have a throwable flotation device. With this said, it is not a requirement for canoes. However, if you have one as your option, you have extra protection as you may need it for emergency situations, wherein you need to save another person from drowning.

Aside from being a safety device, it can also be used as seat pads for more comfort. Aside from an actual flotation device, you can also opt for a rope bag that can be used as a rescue throw bag.

  • Knife

In this case, knife plays a role in just any emergency situation, but not really a primary need for canoeing. However, you may have already heard of stories wherein canoeists get tangled up with their ropes, or even stuck under a raft after capsizing, and having a knife could probably save a life.

  • Dry Bag

A dry bag could come in handy if you are planning to bring extra things during your canoeing trip. For example, you can keep your camera or snacks dry inside one. Make sure, though, that you attach it inside carefully to avoid the bag from drifting off the waters. You may also want to bring sunscreen with you, given that you will be exposed to sun, especially during the summer months.

How to Choose the Best Canoe?

One of the most important equipment that you need to carefully take into consideration is a canoe. With this, there are some factors that need to be taken into consideration. Let’s consider them right on.

Canoe Types

Determining the type of canoe that you will buy depends on the actual purpose of use. Some designs are well suitable for lake paddling, where straight line tracking as well as efficiency is required.

There are canoes that are also idea for use in swift moving streams and rivers, where loss of efficiency is tolerated in order to make room for agility. Here are the most common types of canoes that you can take into consideration.

  • Recreational Canoes

These canoes are designed to be maneuverable, steady and very easy to control. They are also designed typically with shorter proportions and length with greater width. They are also popular for overnight explorations, for use between two to three users.

  • Whitewater Canoes

These canoes are designed to accommodate one or two paddlers, primarily used for whitewater canoeing. Most designs include flotation in the stern and bow to prevent water from filling in the boat.

  • Racing Canoes

These canoes are designed primarily with high performance in mind. They are typically longer and narrower, asymmetrical in shape, usually designed with eccentric appearance and features.

  • Expedition Canoes

These canoes are purposed for heavy loads and long trips. They are usually used by more than two paddlers, with spray skirts fitted occasionally with it. These canoes paddle best as they are weighted in order to compensate for higher levels of depth and displacement.

Materials Used

These canoes also come with different types of materials used. Here are the most common materials used in manufacturing canoes.

  • Kevlar Composites

Kevlar is a composite fabric that is woven, and is 5 to 10 times stronger compared to steel. Canoes made using this material are 20% lighter compared to other materials. These canoes may be expensive, but are lightweight, and durable, making them a good investment with a long term value.

  • Fiberglass Composites

Composites refer to fibers that are formed as a mold, bonded using resins in order to create a hull. Canoes that are made of fiberglass composites are generally light, strong and rigid. When they are compared to other types of materials, they can be finitely shaped, thus creating cleaner entry lines. They are easier to repair as well.

  • Wood

Wooden canoes are easy to paddle. They also come as a work of art, as most of them are handcrafted. While they are quite intricate to build, and are often fragile, they are options that yield higher performance.


Best Locations for Canoeing

 best locations for canoeing

There are different locations where you can enjoy canoeing. Let’s take a look at some options, along with recommended places. Keep in mind, however, that the locations are spread across different countries, and are recommended by other canoeists.

  • Canoeing Parks

There are different canoeing parks that are available where you can go for a canoeing adventure. This refers to actual parks, both public and private, where there are specific section designed for this specific activity.

One recommended option is the Everglades National Park, which is found in Florida. There, you can enjoy paddling while witnessing the gorgeous sunsets, while looking at silhouettes of cruise ships in the distance.

  • Famous Rivers

One of the famous rivers where you can head out for a canoeing expedition is the Amazon River. What makes canoeing in rivers worth trying is that you also get to enjoy a real adventure, being able to witness the amazing tropical rainforests.

  • Beaches and Open Waters

If you head out to Asia and the Pacific, you will be able to see some of the most amazing beaches where you can enjoy canoeing. These places are often a destination, not just for recreational canoeing, but also for competitions.

Tips for Beginners in Canoeing

 canoeing tips

Canoeing can be learned personally, that’s a fact. However, the activity becomes more fun and successful when you know, not just the basics, but other details that will equip you with the right amount of knowledge.

As such, the following are some tips that beginners can take into serious consideration:

  • Take Lessons

Lessons in canoeing are considered as affordable insurance, and a guarantee to a better canoeing experience. This means that you also need to choose a good club, or an institution which offers these lessons.

A good instructor should be one that is recognized by a canoeing organization. Despite the fact that you can learn the techniques from a non-professional, it would be best to get instructions from someone who knows about it. The process that you have to go through during the lessons is considered as an investment for this craft.

  • Start with paddling solo

While most canoes are designed to accommodate two people, the best way to hone your skills is to learn it first by yourself, before learning how to tandem with another paddler. In fact, most experts would agree that paddling solo at first will allow you to learn proper techniques, enabling you to get to know your personal style even better.

  • Choose the right equipment

At this point, it is important to analyze your purpose of canoeing. Are you planning to canoe for recreational purposes? Or to eventually join a competition, and make it as your sport. Regardless of your option, investing in a good set of equipment will allow you to foresee your future in this activity.

True, you may have to spend money in choosing the best option, but it can be considered as a valuable investment in the long run. This is particularly applicable, especially if you are planning to consider canoeing as a serious activity or sport.


Indeed, canoeing is a very interesting activity. Given the right amount of details as your background information, you will certainly be able to enjoy the sport, maximizing its potential. Keep in mind that observing the tips above will help you attain a better experience overall. At the same time, making sure that you have the right equipment at hand is as equally important. These refer to equipment that works best for you personally, according to comfort and fit, you have the best combination which will allow you to enjoy canoeing at its best!

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