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Canoe, Canadian or Kayak for Beginners? What is best for newbies?

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

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

Canoes, kayaks or Canadians are a great choice. But which boat is suitable for beginners? Are canoes, kayaks or canadians suitable for beginners?

Canoes and kayaks each have advantages and disadvantages. Kayaks are more suitable for beginners because the paddling technique is easier to learn. Furthermore, the boats are smaller and easier to transport. With kayaks you can reach higher speeds and if the kayak capsizes, it won’t sink.

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

Kayaks are narrow boats with a pointed bow and a double paddle. Many people believe that a canoe is the exact counterpart to a one-sided paddle. In fact, “canoe” is only the umbrella term for kayaks and canoes. The latter is an open canoe, which can be used sitting or kneeling with a paddle.

Say: Who speaks of a “canoe”, often actually means “Canadian”.

Instead of asking whether a canoe or kayak is more suitable for beginners, the question should be: Are Canadians or kayaks more suitable 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. If you take a closer look, however, you will notice numerous details and fundamental differences. In this article we will go into these differences and the respective advantages and disadvantages of the individual canoes in more detail.

The history of kayaks and canoes

Kayaks and Canadians can be dated back thousands of years. However, the origin and reason for the use of both types of canoes is different.

It is difficult to determine the exact origin of Canadians. Researchers have discovered about 8,000 years of boats in Africa and China. However, the oldest Canadian found is estimated at 10,000 years and was made in the Netherlands.

Canadians were mostly made from whole logs. 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 traced better. Nowadays scientists are convinced that the Inuit first went on kayaks. Other peoples like the Aleutian or the Ainu already use kayaks.

The exact design varies from region to region. The first kayaks were all made by hand. Often, wood was used as the outer shell for the frame and the hull of sea seals. There are discussions about whether whale bones were also used instead of wood.

The light and narrow kayaks were used by local people mainly for fishing and hunting. Canadians, on the other hand, were mainly used to transport people and goods.

The different designs of kayaks and Canadians

For kayak beginners or from a distance canoes and Canadians look similar. Especially Sit-on-Top Kayaks and Canadians are very close to each other. In a direct comparison, however, a number of differences between Canadians and kayaks are noticeable.

Kayaks are narrower and often pointed. This leads to higher speeds and makes kayaks more agile in the water. In kayaks you sit on the ground. The legs are simply stretched out. Paddling is done with a double-sided paddle, which increases efficiency and speed.

The construction of kayaks also differs from each other. There are two categories of kayaks: sit-in and sit-on top kayaks. There are models for one to three persons as well as offshoots for fixed and inflatable kayaks.

Sit-in kayaks are the classic variant. When people think of kayaks, a picture of such a model usually comes to mind. With sit-in kayaks the deck is closed and the paddlers sit in a cockpit. The legs are stretched out inside the boat so that only the upper part of the body looks out of the kayak.

Today, however, more Sit-on-Top kayaks are sold. The upper deck of these canoes is open, which makes them a good choice for hobby paddlers, kayak anglers and anyone who prefers calm waters. Sit-on-top kayaks sit on a seat that is included in delivery.

Kayaks can also be subdivided into special types depending on the area of use and construction, such as all-round kayaks, touring kayaks, angel kayaks, inflatable kayaks, sea kayaks, white water kayaks and many more. However, this would go too far here.

Canadians weigh a little more and are bigger than kayaks. All kayaks have an open deck and the paddlers sit on a fixed bench so that the sitting position is higher than with kayaks. A canoeist is ridden with a paddle that has a paddle blade on only one side. Paddling is a bit more challenging because there is no paddling on both sides, so the paddle side has to be changed constantly.

Just like kayaks, Canadians are divided into different subtypes according to their special characteristics and their area of use. The best known types of Canadians are Allround Canadians, White Water Canadians and Racing Canadians.

Advantages and disadvantages of Kayaks and Canadians

Once you have understood the differences in design, it will be easier for you to choose a kayak or a Canadian. As an additional aid, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both types of canoe below.


Kayaks are narrow, which has a positive effect on the speed. However, the extra speed is at the expense of stability. Beginners on small width kayaks or kayakers in turbulent waters can capsize. Especially beginners in kayaking have to practice rolling with a kayak (Eskimo roll) or freeing from sit-in kayaks.

The wide construction gives Canadians a lot of stability. The chance to capsize with a Canadian is quite low. But the big disadvantage is: If the Canadian capsizes first, the boat does not swim like a kayak – it sinks.


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

Canadians weigh more and are bigger than kayaks. Alone the boat can hardly be lifted onto the roof racks. Small cars may not withstand the weight. Usually Canadians are transported in a trailer for the car and then brought to the water like kayaks with a kayak trolley.


Depending on the exact model, the space on a kayak can be very limited. So give some thought to packing. Your equipment should not be too extensive. Many kayaks offer space for stowing luggage. Some (more expensive) kayaks also come with one or more watertight storage hatches where equipment, provisions etc. can be stored. where you can find space. Tandem kayaks are designed for the weight and luggage of two paddlers. On these boats you will find more possibilities to store a drybag or equipment.

Canadians are better suited for trips with a lot of luggage on board. There is always plenty of room on the large boats. The camping equipment, changing things and provisions for a canoe trip of several days can easily be stowed in the bow, stern and under the seats of a Canadian.


The backrest of kayaks provides more comfort. However, the seat that comes with the kayak is often not very comfortable. Many paddlers use extra cushions to make the seat more comfortable or replace it with another model. When kayaking, the legs are stretched. This posture can become uncomfortable on longer trips. Therefore sufficient legroom is a decisive purchase criterion for kayaks.

Canadians’ wooden benches do not have a backrest. Sitting on the benches can also become uncomfortable after some time. However, the open deck and the higher seats provide a lot of freedom of movement. Canadians can easily change their seating position from time to time.

Efficiency when paddling

Kayaks are driven with a double paddle. It is much easier for beginners to learn the paddle stroke when kayaking. After just one hour, beginners will have learned the basics and will be able to navigate safely 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 ride a straight line, you must always switch between the two sides of the boat. The paddling technique is difficult for beginners to learn. Beginners tend to zigzag.

Kayak or Canadian: What is better for me?

The differences in the construction method have now been clarified. But are kayaks or canoes better for you? The decision depends essentially on four factors: Your experience in paddling, your transport possibilities, the area of use and the amount of equipment.

  • Experience: Beginners in paddling are better advised to choose a Canadian. These canoes are wider and therefore offer more tilt stability. However, it must be noted that if the boats capsize, it quickly becomes problematic. Unlike kayaks, canoes do not swim.
  • Transport possibilities: Your ability to transport the canoe can be a knockout criterion. The transport of a large, heavy Canadian is sometimes only possible with a kayak trailer for the car. For kayaks, however, roof racks on the car are almost always sufficient. Carrying a kayak from the parking lot to the water is also easier. Inflatable kayaks are extremely comfortable to transport. A large backpack is enough.
  • Application: The accessibility of the water is also important. In areas that are difficult to reach, the lighter and narrower kayaks are more suitable. In addition, the selection of kayaks is larger. For whitewater there are special whitewater kayaks. Longer tours are best done in touring kayaks. This wide selection is missing for Canadians.
  • Amount of luggage: For short trips the maximum amount of luggage is not decisive. However, canoeists who plan tours lasting several days need far more provisions and equipment. In theory, kayaks are therefore the better choice for short trips and Canadians should be used for the right adventures. In fact, the average speed of kayaks is higher, which facilitates long trips and shortens journey times. Maybe you won’t need so much luggage.

So, are kayaks or Canadians better suited for beginners?

The truth is that there is no clear winner. If you ask the question to kayakers or fans of Canadians, you will hear different answers. Quickly you get a whole list of advantages of kayaks as well as disadvantages of Canadians or it goes exactly the other way round.

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

If you don’t have a car, you have to go for the inflatable kayak. Water sports enthusiasts with a small car without a kayak trailer are best advised to use a kayak. Only paddlers with a large car and roof racks can choose between kayaks and canoes.

The speed of kayaks is higher, but these canoes lose some stability. Unlike canoes, however, even a capsized kayak floats, which is especially important for beginners. The paddling technique in a kayak is also easier to learn, which is especially good for beginners.

For the average icediger, who likes to do smaller tours or is completely new to canoeing, we recommend a kayak for the beginning. Special beginner kayaks are extra wide and offer a high degree of stability. Many of these models are also inflatable, which significantly reduces transport and storage costs.





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