What can Canadians do best

Canoe, kayak or canoe for beginners?

Max Last updated: March 30, 2019

Do you itch your fingers?

Do you finally want to explore the waters in the neighborhood after years?

Or are you just looking for a cool new water sport?

Canoes, kayaks or canoes are great choices. But which boat is beginner-friendly? Are canoes, kayaks or canoes suitable for beginners?

Canoes and kayaks each have advantages and disadvantages. Kayaks are better suited for beginners because the paddling technique is easier to learn. Furthermore, the boats are smaller and easier to transport. With kayaks higher speeds can be reached and if the kayak capsizes it does not sink.

Before we go deeper into the matter, we need to clarify what is actually meant by the terms. Most people can imagine something under a kayak and a canoe.

Kayaks are narrow boats with a pointed bow that are driven with a double paddle. Many people believe that a canoe is exactly the opposite of being driven with a one-sided paddle. In fact, "canoe" is just an umbrella term for kayaks and Canadians. The latter is an open canoe that is driven with a paddle while sitting or kneeling.

In other words: Whoever speaks of a “canoe” often actually means “Canadian”.

Instead of asking which canoe or kayak is better for beginners, the question should be: Are Canadians or kayaks better for beginners?

At first glance, kayaks hardly differ from Canadians. It seems as if the boats are the same and only the driving technique is different. However, if you take a closer look, you will notice numerous details and fundamental differences. In this article, we'll take a closer look at these differences and the advantages and disadvantages of each canoe.

The story of kayaks and canadians

Historically, kayaks and Canadians can be dated back thousands of years. The origin and reason for using the two types of canoe is different.

The exact determination of the origin of Canadians is difficult to determine. Researchers find boats in Africa and China dating back around 8,000 years. The oldest Canadian found, however, is estimated to be 10,000 years old and was made in the Netherlands.

Canadians were mostly made from whole tree trunks. The trunks were gradually hollowed out with axes and other tools.

Finds in North America, however, indicate a different production method. The recovered boats consist of a wooden frame and birch bark. The materials were glued together with tree resin.

The origin of the kayaks can be better traced. Scientists today believe that the Inuit were kayaks first. Other peoples like the Aleutians or the Ainu already use kayaks.

The exact design varies from region to region. The first kayaks were all made by hand. Wood was often used for the frame and the seal of seals as an outer shell during manufacture. There are discussions about whether whale bones were also used instead of wood.

The light and narrowly built kayaks were mainly used by the local peoples for fishing and hunting. In contrast, Canadians were mainly used to transport people and goods.

The different designs of kayaks and canoes

For novice kayakers or from a distance, canoes and Canadians look similar. Sit-on-top kayaks and Canadians are particularly close together. In direct comparison, however, there are a number of differences between Canadians and kayaks.

Kayaks are built narrower and often taper to a point. This leads to higher speeds and makes kayaks more agile in the water. People sit on the ground in kayaks. The legs are simply stretched out. A double-sided paddle is used for paddling, which ensures more efficiency and speed.

The construction of kayaks also differs from one another. There are two categories of kayaks: sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks. There are models of both variants for one to three people as well as offshoots as fixed boats and inflatable.

Sit-in kayaks are the classic variant. Most of the time, when people think of kayaks, a picture of one of them comes to mind. With sit-in kayaks, the deck is locked and the paddlers sit in a cockpit. The legs are stretched out in the interior of the boat so that only the upper body protrudes from the kayak.

However, more sit-on-top kayaks are sold these days. The top deck of these canoes is open, making them a great choice for amateur paddlers, kayak anglers, and anyone who prefers to navigate calm waters. Sit-on-top kayaks sit on a seat that is included in the scope of delivery.

Kayaks can also be divided into special types such as all-round kayaks, touring kayaks, fishing kayaks, inflatable kayaks, kayaks for oceans, white water kayaks and many more, depending on the area of ​​application and construction. Here, however, that would lead too far.

Canadians weigh a little more and are larger than kayaks. All kayaks have an open deck and the paddlers sit on a fixed bench so that the seating position is higher than with kayaks. A canoe is driven with a paddle that has a paddle blade on only one side. Paddling is a bit more demanding because you don't paddle on both sides, so the paddle side has to be changed constantly.

Just like kayaks, Canadians are divided into various sub-types based on their special characteristics and their respective areas of use. The most popular types of Canadians include all-round Canadians, whitewater Canadians, and racing Canadians.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Kayaks and Canadians

Once you understand the differences in design, it will probably be easier for you to decide between a kayak and a Canadian. As an additional help, we will explain the advantages and disadvantages of both types of canoe below.


Kayaks are built narrow, which has a positive effect on speed. However, the increase in speed comes at the expense of stability. Beginners on kayaks with a narrow width or kayakers in choppy waters can capsize. Especially beginners in the kayak sport must therefore practice rolling with the kayak (Eskimo roll) or getting out of sit-in kayaks.

The wide construction gives Canadians a lot of stability. The chance of capsizing with a canoe is very slim. The big disadvantage, however, is that once the Canadian capsizes, the boat doesn't swim like a kayak - it sinks.


Kayaks weigh less than Canadians. For this reason, the transport of kayaks is less laborious. Fixed kayaks made of materials such as fiberglass are very light and can be transported on roof racks without too much effort. And Land a kayak trolley helps transport the boat. Inflatable kayaks even fit in a backpack when rolled up. You can get to the water yourself by public transport.

Canadians weigh more and are larger than kayaks. The boat can hardly be heaved onto the roof rack on its own. Small cars may not be able to withstand the weight either. Canadians are usually transported in a trailer for the car and then brought to the water with a kayak trolley like kayaks.

Storage space

Depending on the exact model, the space on a kayak can be very limited. So give yourself a few thoughts when packing. Your equipment shouldn't be too extensive. Many kayaks offer space for stowing luggage. Some (more expensive) kayaks also come with one or more waterproof storage hatches, in which equipment, provisions, etc. can be stored. Tandem kayaks are designed for the weight and luggage of two paddlers. On these boats you will find more options to stow a drybag or equipment.

Canadians are better suited for trips with a lot of luggage on board. There is always enough space on the big boats. Camping equipment, changing items and provisions for a multi-day canoe tour can easily be stowed in the bow, stern and under the seats of a Canadian.


The backrest on kayaks provides more comfort. However, the seat provided is often not very comfortable. With extra cushions, many paddlers make the seat more comfortable or replace it with another model. When kayaking, the legs are stretched. This posture can become uncomfortable on longer tours. Therefore, enough legroom is a crucial purchase criterion for kayaks.

The wooden bench seats used by Canadians do not have a backrest. Sitting on the benches can therefore become uncomfortable after a while. The open deck and the higher seats, however, provide plenty of freedom of movement. Canadians can easily change their seating position every now and then.

Paddling efficiency

Kayaks are driven with a double paddle. Learning to paddle while kayaking is much easier for beginners. After just one hour, beginners have learned the basics and can safely navigate across the water. However, advanced paddling techniques are still a challenge.

On Canadians, the athletes paddle with a normal paddle, which has only one paddle blade. If you want to drive a straight line, you must therefore always switch between the two sides of the boat. The paddling technique is difficult to learn for beginners. Beginners tend to ride on a zigzag course.

Kayak or Canoe: Which Is Better For Me?

The differences in construction have now been clarified. But are kayaks or Canadians better suited for you? The decision essentially depends on four factors: your experience in paddling, your transport options, the area of ​​application and the amount of equipment.

  • Experience: Beginners in the sport of paddling are better off reaching for a Canadian. These canoes are built wider and therefore offer more stability. It should be noted, however, that if the boats capsize, it quickly becomes problematic. Unlike kayaks, Canadians don't swim.
  • Transport options: Your options for transporting the canoe can be a knockout criterion. A large, heavy Canadian can sometimes only be transported with a kayak trailer for the car. With kayaks, however, roof racks on the car are almost always sufficient. Carrying it from the parking lot to the water is also easier with a kayak. Inflatable kayaks are extremely comfortable to transport. A large backpack is enough.
  • Operation area: Accessibility of the body of water is also important. The lighter and narrower kayaks are better suited for hard-to-reach areas. In addition, there is a larger selection of kayaks. There are special whitewater kayaks for whitewater. Longer tours are best done in touring kayaks. Canadians lack this wide selection.
  • Amount of luggage: For short trips, the maximum amount of luggage is not critical. Canoeists planning multi-day tours, however, need far more provisions and equipment. In theory, kayaks are a better choice for short tours and Canadians should be used for the real adventure. In fact, the average speed of kayaks is higher, making long trips easier and reducing travel time. Maybe then you don't need that much luggage after all.


And? Are kayaks or Canadians better for beginners?

The truth is that there is no clear winner. If you ask the question to kayakers or fans of Canadians, you get different answers. A whole list of advantages of kayaks and disadvantages of Canadians quickly comes up or it works the other way round.

The fact is that both types of canoe have their pros and cons. A look at the differences may help you. The possibilities to transport the canoe are a real knockout criterion.

If you don't have a car, you have to use the inflatable kayak. Water sports enthusiasts with a small car without a kayak trailer should use a kayak. Only paddlers with a large car with roof racks mounted can choose between kayaks and canoes.

The speed of kayaks is higher, but these canoes lose a bit of stability. In contrast to Canadians, however, even a capsized kayak swims, which is especially important for beginners. The paddling technique in the kayak is also easier to learn, which is particularly beneficial for beginners.

We therefore advise the average ice tiger who likes to organize smaller tours or who is completely new to canoeing to a kayak to start with. Special beginner kayaks are built extra wide and offer a high degree of stability. Many of these models are also inflatable, which significantly reduces the effort required for transport and storage.


[1] https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/publikation/long/2220.pdf

[2] https://www.welt.de/reise/nah/article180207792/Schweden-Eine-Paddeltour-mit-dem-Kajak-durch-Vaermland.html

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