• A canoe is a light, narrow boat.

  • It is open. 

  • A kayak is a light, narrow boat.  

  • It has a closed top.

  • They are moved using different paddles.

 

A caonoeist uses an oar with a single blade ©Getty Images

A caonoeist uses an oar with a single blade ©Getty Images

Canoes and kayaks are small boats that are used in competitions and also for recreation. 

Both men and women compete in canoeing and kayaking events.

Competitors in canoeing events kneel in their open-topped canoes.

They use a paddle with a single blade. They grip the top of the paddle by its handle.

 

A kayaker in a whitewater competition ©iStock

A kayaker in a whitewater competition ©iStock

 

 

Competitors in kayaking events sit in their closed-topped kayaks.

They use a paddle with a blade at each end. They grip the middle of the paddle.

The kayak has a small rudder and the competitors use their feet to move the rudder and so steer the kayak.

 

 

Some canoeing and kayaking events are for just one competitor in a boat. They are called singles events. Other events are for boats with two competitors. They are called doubles events.

Some canoeing/kayaking events are held on a river where the water is 'flat'. These are called 'sprint' events. Other events called slalom events are held on a course of rushing water and are called 'whitewater' events. In slalom events, there are poles set through the course of rushing water, and they are called gates. Competitors must zig zag around the gates through the course. The competitor with the fastest time wins.

Kayaks and canoes are also used for peaceful recreation ©iStock

Kayaks and canoes are also used for peaceful recreation ©iStock

History of canoeing and kayaking

Thousands of years ago the first canoes and kayaks were used as transport by hunters of caribou, fish, birds, and sea mammals such as seal, sea otter, walrus, and whale. Canoes and kayaks were used on rivers, lakes and in the sea.

Read about canoe/kayak events at the Olympic Games: