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Dŵr Gwyn Rhyngwladol Caerdydd, Ffordd Watkiss, Bae Caerdydd, CF11 0SY

Canoe or kayak? Which is which? How do they differ? Which is the best? All questions I have had asked many times when introducing people to paddle sports, were do I start?

Canoeing for the European’s seems to be a generic term for a boat that is paddled rather than rowed. Some would say if canoe is mentioned without the word Kayak then that would be a traditional open canoe or Canadian canoe, confused?

Those thinking canoeing is only traditional Canadian type canoe may well not be European’s or new to the confusion so I will try to help with my opinion on the terminology.

A canoe for me is an open canoe a Canadian canoe or any canoe were the paddler is kneeling and using a single blade paddle. You may well see boats that look very similar from the outside but if the paddler is kneeling and using a single blade then that is a canoe. You may well have seen the Olympics canoe slalom with Disciplines such as C1 and C2. The C stands for canoe as the athlete is kneeling and using a single blade and the number is for number of paddlers so solo or tandem and yes, the boat can look the same as a kayak with a closed cockpit and spray deck.

Therefore, what is a Kayak? Some may think that a kayak is a closed cockpit boat but as stated above this can still be a canoe. A kayak is a paddleboat that is sat in (closed cockpit) or sat on in the case of a wave ski or a sit on top kayak. Kayakers also use a double ended paddle with blade each end and in its earliest form used by Eskimo who invented the Eskimo roll saving themselves from having to swim through the ice by righting there upturned kayak. The sit on top kayak has become increasingly popular, looks far from a traditional kayak, some will argue that it is not a real kayak but it is indeed sat on and not kneeled on, and uses a double end paddle so it can only be kayak.

Therefore, canoes and kayaks have many uses and many looks with many disciplines such as

  • Traditional Open Canadian canoe think Ray Mears
  • Sea Kayak like the original Eskimo design
  • Sprint canoe or kayak like the ones used on the Olympic regatta lake
  • Slalom canoe or Kayak again think Olympics
  • White water kayaks think waterfalls and fearless adventures
  • Free style kayak short and stubby for show boating on rivers and waves
  • Surf kayak like a closed cockpit surfboard just for the sea
  • Polo kayak special design just to play kayak pool polo
  • Sit on kayak great intro boat or off shore fishing platform

It’s all terminology the important thing is there is a Canoe or a Kayak for everybody and ever environment and we can all have great time discovering which we enjoy the most.