How to Canoe and Kayak

 Canoe and Kayak mostly get confused by people to be the same, but there is a slight difference of paddle and seating between them 

The Canoe is different from Kayak because of the paddle it uses. It is a single-bladed paddle which the paddler propels, usually by kneeling, to take the boat forward. Whereas in Kayak the paddler gets the advantage of seats and uses a double-bladed paddle on the alternate sides to move the boat forward. At Canoe Surfer we also have some information regarding the Best Canoes of all the time for beginners.

Kayak (pros) Kayak (cons)
It is just open from the center, which is why you sit with your legs in front and paddle with double-bladeIt has less storage capacity
Good to go for a soloYou will miss out your children, your pets or any item that carries volume or mass
Low wind profileThough it is good in winds it has less visibility because of the lower seat
Best to take when curves are expected


  How to choose Kayak or canoe is a real question, which will be cleared to you after going through this article. Firstly the general cons of choosing canoe and kayak are in the next table.  


Canoe (pros)Canoe (cons)
It is a full length open, with single paddled so the best way to be there for a person is to either sit with tucked legs or kneeled.
It will get difficult to handle during windy weather conditions
A Canoe is your good to go when you have to load coolers or take your family with youIt being steeper, learning curves will be a challenge for you
Better visibility, higher seating, versatile craftThere are fewer choices in a canoe as compared to a kaya

Seating of Kayak

Here is a kayak buying guide that emphasizes your desire to either sit on top or sit inside with our research on the benefits and drawbacks of sitting either way.

Sitting Inside of your Kayak

Sitting Inside of your Kayak

Sitting inside will help you to feel safe and protected from the elements around. With its lightweight, it is faster and provides you with better accessibility to the storage section.

But don’t you wonder about feeling a little congested well let your intuition sink in, because of the enclosed seating you are going to feel it. This less space will also hinder your jumping techniques when you are coming in back from the water.

Sitting on Top of your Kayak

Sitting on Top of your Kayak


After reading the title, what was the thought that struck your mind? Was it how exciting it sounds to go kayaking while being on top?. Well, sure your feelings are understandable because kayaking provides you with better fishing opportunities and your climbing back from water becomes relatively easy.

However, these features come at the price of being more exposed to the surrounding elements. It also causes the interior storage to be compromised. From the kayak which provides you inside seating, the kayak with top seating is heavier and slower.

To sit properly watch this.

If how to buy a kayak is making you question your capabilities, don’t you worry we have got you covered with a thorough knowledge of kayak, which will help you answer your question.

Role of time in the evolution of Canoe and Kayak:

It was long ago when it was formed to use in lake, river, and ocean. The time will take you back between 8200-7600 BC, to the exciting present. Today canoe and kayak are not only restricted for families to enjoy their leisure time or for youngsters to spend quality solo fishing time, its for all the people who love the thrill and sometimes the tranquility of water.

Here you will find Kayaking for beginners easy with all the kayaking tips once you get to understand which type is best for kayaking and where? Canoe and Kayak are used from clubs to the Olympics. Let’s find out How to Canoe, with different boat designs according to the discipline?

Canoe Sprint:

Canoe Sprint:

It is also called flatwater racing. In this, the paddler uses a single-blade and kneels on one knee. The boat needs to be steered by the athlete’s using j-stroke.  In Berlin 1936, it became an Olympic discipline.

  • C1 is for solo use
  • C2 is for two
  • C4 is for a crew of 4

C1 is 280 cm and C4 is 9 m and weighs 30 kg.

Canoe Slalom:

Canoe Slalom:

In this sport the paddler goes down a 300 m while passing the 25 gates; made of pairs of hanging poles. Colors play a crucial role in this game; the paddling of the boat must be from these poles. Penalties are placed if you strike the pole or miss gates. This allows both men and women to play and last for 25-30 minutes. In 1972, it became an Olympic game.

Both kayak and canoe can be used in this game.

  • C1 for Solo
  • C2 for 2 Men
  • C2M for 1 Woman and 1 Man



Two types of boats are used for this game

  • Kayak
  • Va’a

Va’a is a canoe with a single-bladed paddle, it has outrigger to provide stability.

In 2016 it made its way to the Olympics.

Wildwater Canoe:

Wildwater Canoe:

For this competitive game, the kayaking tips you need to keep in mind are to buy right kayak or canoe which will keep the boat fast and balanced with is a relatively different shape and to take the quickest line. The first Wildwater canoe was held in France in 1959.

For this purpose, you can use

  • Canoe Singles C2
  • Kayak singles K1
  • Canoe Double C2



It focuses on the plays and tricks rather than covering the distance. If you know tricks to flip your boat, here is your winning ticket because you own the game here. Single-blade is used while the paddler kneels. In 2004, it was introduced to the Olympics.

The types of boats that are eligible for this game are

  • Kayak
  • Canoe

Canoe Marathon:

Canoe Marathon

As understandable by the name, distance is what matters in Canoe Marathon. The boat that covers the longest distance in the shortest time wins the race. Specialized boats are designed for this game, as the rules describe the length and weight of the boat that can participate. In 1984, it became part of the Olympics.

The boats for this game are

  • Kayak Single and Double
  • Canoe Single and Double

The boat’s design is very much similar to squirt boats.

Canoe Polo

Canoe PoloThis is an aggressive game for which the boat is designed to be stable and quick. In this game, the team has five players which compete to score more than their opponents. All you need is guts because it involves injuries and collisions with the combination of teamwork, kayak, and ball-handling skills.

This game is played for a tenure of 14-20 minutes and to increase the tension shot clock is introduced.

Ocean Racing

ocean boatOcean racing, surfski is used, which is longer than normal kayak and canoe. The double-bladed paddle is used to go forward. Ocean racing sport was initiated in South Africa in 1958 and the required distance to cover by players was just 46KM. In 1972 the distance was 240KM, and now the race has evolved to become a multi-day game.

Dragon Boats

Dragon boats

Isn’t the name exciting? Yes, it surely creates thrill and a fun fact is you can design your boat as a dragon. On the beat of the drum, the team using a single-bladed paddle tries to cover the distance in the shortest time.

With all the sports described above, hopefully, you have got an idea about how to pick kayak according to your needs.

Let’s get moving towards the learning of how to kayak or How to canoe? The little insight that you might want to know is rather than searching for how to canoe or how to kayak separately you can continue reading this article which is going to provide you with enough knowledge that you will become an expert in kayaking and even if you are presented with a canoe your skills developed by this reading will not make you hesitant of trying.

How to Kayak and Canoe

If it is your first time just try to look for the following things

  • Sunny day rather than windy
  • Small and calm water
  • Sand beach

Let’s start the kayaking 101 and canoeing techniques.

Know your boat

  • Kayak


For kayak, you need to find the right spot where the water is calm and there are no rocks. After finding the right place slide your kayak in the water with the bow (front) while holding the stern (back). As the kayak is moving in the water you should walk along with it and after that, you need to get in the kayak.

But now you and your kayak both are in water so you need to be careful about getting in the boat. As at water, the kayak does not get fully balanced to avoid any injury you should place your paddle at the back of your seat perpendicularly. Now gradually put your leg in and shift your weight with butt, and keep the other foot on the ground. After successfully dividing your weight into halves now is the time to take your other leg in the boat. One thing is constant all this time and that is your hand on the paddle.

There you are sitting on your kayak fully balanced. Bravo!

  • Canoe


As the canoe has space it is better to fill it near the water instead of pushing so much weight from the other end. Try to manage the canoe with heavy items in the center while light items at both ends. Do not forget to tightly pack the items so they do not shift when in water. Now comes the other part where you have to decide your position from being

  • Bowman
  • Sternman

There is no need to quarrel on the designation, the one who is more into seeing things should be a bowman and if you are more into giving directions to other then sternman is the right position for you to be at. The sternman has to ask the bowman to switch sides with a paddle when needed. Even if you are a beginner or experienced life jacket is must to wear. Make sure everyone is wearing the life jacket of their sizes. Get into your canoe carefully either by asking your partner to hold it for you or securing it with the dock

Once you are in, push off and get started.

Time to paddle!:


Do not worry if you know nothing about the paddle, because we are starting the scratch so you can understand your paddle to steer. Kayak uses a double-bladed paddle that is in the water to push you and your kayak forward and the shaft is part that you hold.

Beginners are seen to make the most common mistake which does not cause much of an effect but if done it will make you tired in less time. The direction of your paddle, yes it is needed the right amount of thinking before placing in water. The concave or smooth side of the paddle should face you; through which you want to pull the water.

The side is the second factor to consider and no doubt it is confusing. Try to find some horizontal writing on your paddle and if found place it in the upright position. Do not worry, if you could not find it because we have got you covered, notice the paddle. Note which side is horizontal and place it at the top, the bottom should have a tapered effect.

The paddle needs to have griped properly with your right or left hand depends on you being right-handed or left-handed. Let the paddle work its way in your hand to reposition itself.

  • Forward stroke

Sit firmly on your kayak and pay attention to your body movements as they play a vital role in kayaking properly. For side stroke, either left or right move your torso anti-clockwise. For a right stroke, you will extend your right arm and retract your left arm and vice versa. Let the paddle rotate from one hand to the other when one stroke is over and you are moving towards the next stroke, rotate your grip alongside.


If you are paddling on the right side, your right hand should be on the top and vice versa. Make sure to put the paddle in the water as far away as you can without standing up from your seat. Bring the paddle back in a smooth sweeping way without lifting it and when you cannot go back any further lift the paddle and start again. Since you have a partner while canoeing you need to sync with each other to keep the canoe moving forward smoothly, one tip does not paddle on the same side as your partner always paddles on the opposite side.

  • J stroke

To go on the left side the sternman should do a backward stroke on the left side; this backward stroke is J stroke.

  • Draw

If you want to make a turn to the left the sternman should draw on the right side of the canoe. If needed both the sternman and bowman should do a draw on opposite sides to make a sharp turn.

Watch to learn J stroke and Draw.

Back to where it started


If there is a dock, it is a plus point for you. Tie your kayak to the dock and get out of it smoothly. But let us look on the side of the road, what If there is no dock then it is the time you must use some other kayaking techniques to get out properly. Here your paddle comes handy once again; use it to steady your kayak. Once your boat gets stable and you are coming out on a dock, place your bottom on the deck and then your legs to land safely. If you are at shallow water put one leg on the shore, stabilizes the boat and take out the other leg.


Come paddling towards the shore with the front pointed towards the line. Stop steering and let the canoe come slowly towards the point. Tie it as you would have tied your kayak on the dock and move out of a canoe. And if there is no dock, get out slowly and peacefully.

Discuss with your partner who will get out first but it has observed that the bowman should come out first and hold the canoe. As he holds the canoe, the sternman should make his way out by stepping one foot at a time.


There are certain tips for our readers which will make you an extraordinary kayaking expert.

Faster Kayaking:

As your core is stronger make more rotation of your torso with covering more water and less rotation of arms.

Position of arms

Keep your arms straight and forward. People with long arms need to sync their arm movements outward with the paddle

Canoe sprint

Jump in your canoe by running as fast as you can in the water.

Foam pad

If there is no seat, it is better to kneel on a foam pad then on the floor of the boat


Before going in water keep in mind your clothing choice. On a bright day, you will prefer light clothes but it will be better if you know the water temperature. Because if you tip in you may not want to regret your clothing choice, additional tip brings spare clothes.


If your boat collapse or some hurdle occurs focus on the people around you and try to save them


Even if you are experienced in kayaking it is better to take someone with you.

Sit on top

If you have just starting kayaking opt for sit on top kayak. It is easier to paddle and much easier to get in and out in comparison to a sit-in kayak.

Used Kayak:

How to buy a kayak while going easy on your pocket while having the adventures of like you can go for purchasing a used kayak.  It is good for experienced paddlers as they will be able to answer the following checking-kayak questions based on their past experiences

  • What is the comfort level?
  • How long will it stay the same way?
  • Can the water enter the boat?
  • Is the space sufficient according to your body structure?
  • does it fulfill your needs?
  • how stable is it?
  • Is this shape right for my kayaking needs?

There are other characteristics that will also define if the kayak is worth a chance or not.

Just buying the right kayak is not enough; buy the right material for it too. According to the type of kayaking you are planning on doing in the future will help you in the purchase of right paddles and helmets for it.

Health benefits

Canoeing or kayaking will leave you not only with great adventure but also great health.

  • Helps you in weight loss
  • Strengthening your back.
  • Enhances your stamina.
  • Vitamin D increase
  • Helps strengthen arms, shoulders, and chest
  • Good for Abs
  • Better heart health
  • Improved mental health

Tipping tip

It is normal to tip, keep hold of your nerves as canoes do not sink. If your kayak gets completely turned push in a diagonal and swim towards the shore while holding it. Wear a life jacket and take buoyancy aid with yourself and you got your own back.

Keep experiencing nature in different ways and we wish that your 1st trip goes without getting wet.


So we have seen the main differences between these types of boats, their rowing style, how to board them correctly, what activities can we get into and their health benefits. Hope this all-encompassing guide helps you take your canoeing or kayaking skills to the next level.


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