The Sports Archives – Canoeing vs. Kayaking


Kayaks typically involve double-bladed paddles — a notable difference from canoeing!

The increased frequency of hot, humid days during summertime often drives both competitive and recreational sport enthusiasts closer to water. Various different types of water sport exist, providing diversity in how athletes can continue celebrating their favorite water-bound activities. Some sports involve people occupying and traversing pools, lakes, or rivers themselves, while others may involve exterior devices or equipment: namely, boats! Two common boat-oriented sports which are popular both recreationally and competitively are canoeing and kayaking. Though both of these boat-based sports are alike in many ways, they also feature some differences that make them each unique. Here are some of the components of canoeing and kayaking that make them similar, as well as the facets upon which they diverge.

Similarities of Canoeing and Kayaking

Birchbark canoe

Though perhaps not as effective as a kayak in many ways, the canoe is nothing if not a work of majestic elegance.

            The most obvious similarities between these two sports lie in location and environment – both canoeing and kayaking involve a body of water, the use of a boat-like flotation mechanism, and a manually-operated propulsion device. The sport itself takes place typically in a river, lake, or stream. The handheld paddle is specifically-modeled to be held by the boat operator and differs in design from an oar because it is not connected to the boat. While the canoe and kayak (boat chasses after which each sport is respectively named) differ in details, both are similarly shaped overall and fulfill an identical purpose.

The sports themselves both feature a variety of formats, including marathons, races, and even camping. Canoeing or kayaking marathons are races that tend to focus on endurance and/or distance, while other races are known for their brief “sprints” across shorter areas. Canoe or kayak camping differs in that it is more often recreational than competitive, and is comparable to camping on land. Canoers and kayakers will load up supplies (often carried in the boat or on worn backpacks) and drift along the water for extended periods.

            Where They Differ


Another depiction of the differences between kayaking (top boat and paddle) and canoeing (bottom).

Naturally, each sport would not exist in its own right if not for the discernible differences between them. Major differences come in the design of the equipment – each sport’s boat and paddle. Kayak boats are built to accommodate a sitting position unique from that of a canoe, which may even require passengers to kneel depending on its particular design. Additionally, canoeing almost always involves the usage of a single-bladed paddle, whereas kayaks are often accompanied by dual-bladed rowing devices.

Both canoes and kayaks are thousands of years old, but their origins differ slightly. The designs of canoe boats came in great variety and were developed exclusively by many different cultures – however, all of them featured a similar, elongated frame which tapered at the ends and opened up along the top. Perhaps the oldest known canoe in the world is the Pesse canoe, carbon-dated between 7000-8000 BCE. This ancient boat resides in a museum located in the Netherlands. The history of kayaks is very different. Originally created by the Inuit (indigenous peoples of arctic and polar regions) this “hunter boat” was purposed primarily for hunting and fishing, but as time passed, it accumulated popularity in European countries and is now known across the entire world!

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2 Responses to The Sports Archives – Canoeing vs. Kayaking

  1. Great post and Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: The Sports Archives – Canoeing vs. Kayaking - Tokyo Olympic Games 2020

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