Canoeing is an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages, athletic abilities, and backgrounds. One of the most ancient forms of transportation, today in the first world people mainly canoe for recreational purposes. The fact that there are different types of canoeing is often lost on beginners learning how to canoe. This is because the differences between the canoes are not readily noticeable to the untrained eye. Here is a list and description of different types of canoes to help you navigate the different options you have when choosing a canoe.
Recreational CanoeThe typical recreational type canoes are the most common. These canoes are stable and durable. They are generally made of either plastic or aluminum and contain no frills. These are the canoes you’ll find in big-box sporting good stores, as rentals at your local lake, and in fleets at summer camps. If you want a versatile canoe that you can paddle around the local lake you’ll want to choose a recreational canoe. These canoes are durable and can be left outside without worry for damage.
Intermediate and Advanced CanoesThe next type of canoe is an upgrade from the standard recreational canoe. They differ in the quality and workmanship of the boats from their less expensive cousins. Canoe enthusiasts will invariably want to upgrade from a plastic or aluminum canoe and the designs that usually follow. These paddlers opt for lighter materials, faster designs, and more comfortable amenities on their boats. These “nicer” boats will probably need to be purchased from a canoe outfitter or local sporting goods shop. Some of the uses of an intermediate canoe are longer paddles, bird watching, and fishing. These are the canoes of canoe enthusiasts.
Whitewater CanoesThere are canoes made specifically for whitewater and river paddling. These boats have high sides to keep water out and have a high degree of rocker. Rocker refers to the curvature from bow to stern. They also have flatter bottoms which enable them to turn quicker but adversely affects the tracking, the ability to paddle straight. Whitewater canoes also have places to tie floatation bags into the stern and bow of the canoe. This flotation keeps the canoe from sinking when it takes on water or when it flips over which is to be expected in whitewater paddling. A final note about whitewater canoes is that they are generally paddled while kneeling which keeps the canoeists center of gravity lower in the boat and offers a more aggressive paddling position. The “seats” are designed to accommodate a kneeling position.
Racing CanoesCanoe/Kayak has officially been an Olympic Sport since 1924. There is two types of canoe racing, flatwater and slalom (whitewater). Racing Canoes are for an elite group of canoeist and as such are not very common at all. These canoes are made of lighter materials such as fiberglass, Kevlar, and composites involving multiple materials. Racing canoes are also narrower at the beam, track very well, and are “tippy” to novice paddlers. Whitewater slalom canoes have closed decks and spray skirts similar to kayaks.
Other Specialized CanoesCanoes can also be bought with other activities in mind. Canoes made primarily for the purpose of canoe camping have room for gear and places to attach them toy. Fishing Canoes can have rod holders attached to them. Virtually any sport that is done in conjunction with canoeing has their own spin on canoe design and accessories.
Solo Canoes and Tandem CanoesAll of the other above categories represent different types of canoeing and different types of canoes. It should be mentioned here that all of the above categories of canoes can be purchased either to be paddled alone or with another person. Solo canoes are made to be paddled by one person. They are usually shorter and can be narrower to allow for ease of switching from paddling on one side to another. Tandem canoes are meant to be paddled by two people. Generally, these are much more common, are faster, and easier to paddle for beginners. As any husband and wife who’ve ever shared a canoe will attest, they also make for some great fights between the person in the bow and stern.