Which to Learn: WW Canoe or River Kayak

I know, I know. They are different things and each has it’s place, but I’m trying to put my effort and skills into one or the other. Here’s my story.

I live in Tucson. Not a lot of water around here. My wife and I do one or two 7+ day canoe trips a year in a 16 ft Old Town Appalachian. Being in the west, we usually have to traverse class II+ or class III rapids. Sometimes we portage, sometimes we run them, and sometimes we line them.

We also have some sea kayak experience.

Last summer we took a three day river kayak class on the Truckee River in Reno. I found the play boats to be a lot of fun and more forgiving than our canoe. However, as expected, I need a lot of work to learn to roll, develop new skills and keep what I learn up to speed. I’ll also need to invest a fair bit of money in a boat, spray skirt, paddle, helmet etc… Even used I’m probably looking at $700 - $1000 for everything.

My wife thinks it’s a better idea to learn some whitewater canoe techniques at Snake River Kayak or some other school. We already have the equipment and some skills.

We’re not adrenaline junkies so I’m really not interested in trying any class IV or higher whitewater. In the past we’ve heavily loaded (i.e. overloaded) our boats but if we go in canoes or kayaks I’m thinking about using a raft as a support boat next time.

Soooo…, what do you folks on this forum recommend, WW canoeing or river kayaking.



the $$$ you’ll spent are not gone be
a lot different:

if you stick with the canoe and you get the hang out of it, you’ll need sooner or later more and different equipment as well: You’ll want solo playboats as well as maybe a tandem playboat (if you work well enough together that is).

And you’ll keep the Appalachian for trips. Only that you might want to upgrade it (if not already done) with float bags, tight straps, skidplates…)

So, the money arguement is not going to cut it. It’s more about what you like better…

And maybe how much room you have at home since most ww yaks fit easily in a basement.

Although solo playboating is more challenging than whitewater kayaking, I prefer canoeing.

great arguments on either side
Why don’t you just tell everyone which one you want to talk your wife into? Folks here can be very accommodating.

Listen to your wife
First, it’s better that way to keep the peace in the home front.

But my think (I’m a kayaker) techniques learn on white water canoe might be transferable to tripping canoe? So even without upgrading equipment, you’ll have new skills to handle the class II-III rapids better.

take the canoe class
Take the canoe class.

  1. Your description of the Reno experience starts with ‘we’ but ends with ‘I’, which makes me think your wife wasn’t as into the kayaking as you were. Or maybe I’m reading too much into your description. If so, sorry…

  2. Investment in equipment will be minimal - you already have a passable whitewater tandem for learning how to play rapids. And if the school you go to is worth its salt, they’ll have lots of open boat models for you to try out.

  3. The skills you learn at an intensive open boat class will transfer not only to your Appalachian but also to kayaking, should you decide to go that route in the future.

    Just be careful - if you build some skills and confidence with whitewater canoeing, you may find yourselves unloading all your gear at rapids, not so you can portage them, but so you can stop and play for an hour before loading back up and continuing on downriver :).

Move from Tucson (?) then do both?
I lived in Tucson for 2 years, I loved the Sonoran Desert and liked the town alot but if you are a paddler, Tucson has to be one of the worst spots in the US to find yourself. i do miss all the hiking opportunities there, the wildlife, and the Monsoons and floods.

If my wife showed any interest at all in boating I’d humor her and take the Canoe course together (you can always leverage a whitewater kayak class later on, say come on out to the Kern and take a class with Aqua-Adventures, etc. Are you talking Snake river as in Wyoming? It’s a great place to paddle if you make a trip that far.

Thanks for the Canoe v. kayak advice
Thanks all for the advice! Here are a few follow-up comments.

First my wife is too smart and will figure out if I only give her one side of the argument - damn!

Second, as someone mentioned, we both enjoyed the river kayak classes in Reno but since then she gives me a weird look whenever I mention purchasing a used kayak in which to learn.

Yes I am talking about the Snake River near Jackson Hole for hte whitewater canoe lessons.

Finally I was going to post a photo of us running some whitewater in the San Juan River Utah with a heavily overloaded canoe but can’t seem to attach it to this message.


Don’t give up selling your wife
When it comes to wives, you’ve got the silver bullet argument in favor of WW kayak: It is safer than a canoe in class III whitewater.

Since it is easier to handle than a canoe, you are much less likely to come out of the boat and end up swimming. Wives can’t resist arguments like that.

He’s selling his wife?
Well then, he can get the money for a ww kayak at least.

oh no
you’re not getting me to touch that one (though I heard that renting can be more lucrative).

Well, with a steady income

– Last Updated: Nov-20-06 7:57 PM EST –

maybe they could buy 2 ww boats. ;-)

(Just kidding, McGinty! Whatever you and the Missus decide to do, have fun and be safe! Although I think it would be best to ASK her first what SHE would prefer to do.)

Tripping in a playboat is not very comfortable. Big river-runners or canoes are the way to go.

I’d say canoe, since you already have one.

Kayaking is fun, if you are looking to take up a new sport, but for tripping versatility, the canoe wins.

You can’t really compare
a 16 ft tandem canoe to a solo WW kayak.

That’s like comparing an SUV to a sports car.

Before you decide, you need to try a solo WW canoe with proper outfitting (thigh straps, pedestal, float bags, etc.)

You will find that a short, nimble solo WW canoe is a very different animal than your Appalachian.

You’ve already got some single-blade skills; it would be a shame to waste them by switching to a training paddle. :wink:

I agree - if you’ve already got the canoe and like tripping, upgrade your ww skills in the canoe.

Sounds like you’ve got lots of room to grow, and with new skills/confidence, you’ll surprise yourself at the class III runs you’re Appalachian can do!

If you don’t want to be a class IV adrenaline junkie, remain among the few, the proud, the ww canoeists!

But as you discover more ww canoeing, you’ll be buying more gear anyway!


Don’t listen to them. Go for the
white water addiction. Sell that nice canoe related stuff of Tilley hats, wooden gunwales and Bill Mason and join us in the world of white water kayaking in plastic. You’ll like it, we will like you, the sex is great and you will be young and attractive. “You will be assimilated”.

Wait a Minute!!!
I already have a 17 ft plastic kayak and none of the things you mentioned have happened to me. Are you trying to say size doesn’t matter!?! That’s just crazy talk!!!


Kayaks are for Kidz

– Last Updated: Nov-21-06 12:16 PM EST –

Canoes are cool.

nuff said.


edited to add...
Nah not really 'nuff said. Sometimes my dogma can't resist chasing my karma.

If you want to learn to run your tripping boat with better control in harder rapids go with the canoe lessons. Kayak skills won't do much for that.
Most folks seem to find whitewater kayaking gives them more bang for the buck. It does not take a whole lot of talent or practice to be comfey playing class III in a yak.
Some of us though, enjoy the added challenge of open boating. For me, whitewater kayaking is just too easy to be much fun.
Of course many kayakers simply move on to more difficult water and/or rodeo type playboating, accepting greater risk to gain greater challenges.

adrenaline junkies
can still get their fix in a canoe.

A WW canoe can go nearly anywhere that a kayak can go.

4+ is about my limit (for now), but I know open boaters who run cl 5s like the upper gauley, bottom moose, etc.

Of course, it will take you significantly longer to get to that skill level in a canoe, compared to a kayak, but the journey is half the fun.

Try INFLATABLE Whitewater Kayaks …
… Might be a great option for you. Very stable and no rolling required, yet they’re very maneuvearble and fun. I have one for friends so they can paddle along me in my hardshell ww kayak – several people have become hooked on paddling thanks to even just mw cheap Sevylor XK1 ($330-440+ new), but better ones are the Aire Tomcat series or their Strike, NRS Bandit is high performance, stable, and very fun but only weighs 17 pounds! (tandem is 28ish?), and for easy, short Class III rapids and easier water there’s even the Sevylor K79SB Orange Torpedoe for $150+ – I’d get something better, though.

Great info and advice here: