Whitewater boat comparisons

Just day dreaming about the day when I can have a whole armada in my garage for different purposes. a Mad River with the IQ system sounds like something that would do everything but excell at nothing since regardless of how you outfit it it won’t be opitmal for something built specifically for that.

In any event I’m currious as to what the advantages and disadvantages are between a whitewater canoe outfitted with floatation and a whitewater yak.

I asume storage with both would be minimal at best so the bigness of the canoe doesn’t sound like it would do you any good. The yak can do a bit more in that you can’t roll a canoe and its smaller so you can sqeeze into tighter places.

I have never done WW in either, I’m just trying to get some insight.

You can roll a WW canoe
If the boat is outfitted properly you can absolutely roll an open canoe with practice. You will however need to bail some water.

I can not even claim to be an intermediate WW paddler, however I have paddled up to class III in both.

This is very much simplfying things, but I prefer the open canoe because of the height you are up off of the water. I always felt more comfortable kneeling in WW than sitting.

I think with most WW kayaks, you have the ability to make more “in the moment (rapid) decisions” where in the open canoe you have to plan a little more when entering a rapid.

With practice, I think you could learn to make the two boats equivelent in up to class III with practice. I have not seen many if any OC paddlers in IV-V water, but I’m sure that there are guys that do it.

You’ll have to wait for more experinced paddlers to reply for more specific answers, but I hope that I helped some.


I have no interest in WW canoeing because I could not be on my knees that long, even with proper outfitting. But there are lots of people that enjoy it and paddle up to class IV. As indicated above you can roll a WW canoe. A related posibility is a C1, which is esdentially a WW kayak that you paddle on your knees and use a spray skirt. Many WW kayaks can be converted to C1 and there are kits to do so. If you want to carry a little more gear, then consider one of several modern creek boats that have a rear bulkhead and storage in the stern (Riot’s Big Gun, for example). Creek boats will handle big water and difficult water quite well.

I’m the opposite of Dr D. Much more comfortable on my knees than sitting on the floor.

IMO the only real criteria for canoe vs kayak is which one is comfortable for you.

Whitewater open boaters make an art of keeping water out of the boat. Good water reading and precise control are key. It doesn’t hurt to learn to handle the boat when it’s swamped either;-)

Closed boaters, kayak & C1, tend to get much more immersed. Right side up, upside down, stand it on end, cartwheel it and on and on.

Which one you do depends on where your interests lie and which is more comfortable.

Whats a C1? is that a specific boat or a class of boats or what?

Also what is a creek boat?

Hey where in NC are you located?
This does not really help you but I saw your favorite river as the little? Where abouts?

-DanC (I am in the Raleigh area)-

A c1 is…
…as the person said, basically a kayak the guts

of which have been altered to accomodate a ped-

astal so that you kneel in it and paddle with a

one bladed canoe paddle.

A creek boat is a type of kayak which typically

is bigger (more volume) and longer. Many,

although not all, have a displacement hull as opposed to the modern playboats which are flat,

short, low volume with the bow and stern decks

having pronounced scoops. They are made to sit on

top of the water and are marvelous for doing

stunts. Typically they have no glide and don’t

track at all well.

In short, creeks boats sit IN the water, playboats

sit ON the water.

That’s a bit oversimplified, but pretty close.

Hey DanC
You didn’t happen to go to Auburn U. back in the early 90’s did you?


There is a set of acronyms
k1 = one person kayak

c1 = one person kayak, closed, paddled like a canoe

oc1 = open canoe, one person


Whitewater canoers that I know use both oc1’s and oc2’s (tandem). A creek boat is a special k1 designed to handle paddling “creeks”. They are sometimes used for expedition paddling when there is a need to carry more gear.

Specific to whitewater, a C1 is a decked canoe. Some as noted are converted kayaks. Rip out the buttpad and thigh hooks. Throw in a pedastal and thighstraps.

Others are designed as C1s. Dagger Cascade and Atom, Perception Gyromax and Slasher, Robson Finkmeister not to mention a whole slew of high end composite boats.

Those of us who paddle them think there is nothing better. Those who don’t think we are nuts.

Your question is going to get a lot of
varied answers and since i have just had a beer and come back from a 3.0 hour drive from Long Beach from some Kayak surfing take my words with a grain of salt. This is my 3rd ww kayaking and b4 this about 20+ years of ww canoeing including the a last 7+ c1. And of course what ever i say someone is going to come along and say “but” with a technical explanation.

I consider c1 boating to be the hardest of the techniques, after all your paddling in many cases a kayak with one blade in a situation with a high centre of gravity. To be a good c1 paddler you have to be ultra agressive and have an a bomb proof roll. I loved the c1 but i wasn’t good enough.

Putting c1 aside, I consider ww yaking to be a wetter sport than ww canoeing. Kayaks wear the water where as in open canoes you have that extra few feet between you and H2O. Yea, the open canoe is going to get a boat full of water and it surrounds you but you don’t wear the water like a kayak does because in a yak water is essentially inches away. Most ww canoeists get by without rolling but a kayaker has to - soon. When it comes to rolling i would say an open canoe is a slower heavier boat to roll.

What else, wwater kayaks are generally smalller and push less water = less work and are easier to carry that boat to the friggin take out. Winter time and snow or ice less water in the boat than an open canoe and a tad warmer.

What else, if you are interested in ocean surfing a kayak in my opinion is the way to go. They keep water out while an open canoe can doesn’t. Kayaks in the surf have that extra blade which make things a heck of a lot faster to catch the wave and get past teh break. .

On the positive having a canoeist sit up higher and can see the river route a heck of a lot better.

In ending, seeing a good canoeist is awesome, especially a tandem team that is working in sync. I think learning to handle a ww kayak is easier to learn as is the kayak roll.

Heck, there are a trillion ww kayakers to a fewer number of ww canoeists, there is a reason.

what ever your choice, have fun.

In ending, try them both and maybe ask your same question in “boatertalk”, since there appear to be so few white water boaters on this site.

I’m outside of Goldsboro. Me and a few friends have done all of Lillte inside Wayne county up to where it flows into the Neuse (which is a suprisingly small little side stream at that point) and several miles into Johnston County. The next trip will probably add everything up to I-95.

No I am not that old… Did you know a Dan C? I hope he was a good guy!


Creek boat
A creek boat isa kayak designed to survive narrow, rocky, obstacle-filled descents where getting pinned or trapped is a serious risk. They have rounded, high-volume ends instead of the thin flat ends of a playboat.

I’m a WW kayaker
Hi, I’ve done nothing in canoes, but love WW kayaking, albeit, easy WW. Class 2 at most. But I did take the time and spend the effort on a WW boat. It’s a bit of a cross between a playboat and slightly creeky: high volume front with low volume tips if that makes any sense. It’s a Perception Method Air. A very nice, stable boat that spins on a dime, surfs like crazy and dives through waves only to gently bobble up. As opposed to canoes it’s a lot more maneurvable. You don’t have to just punch through the waves but you can spin into one and surf, eddy in and out, feel the waves passing under you, on a hot day you can dive through one and be in water up to your chest and cool off. It’s a blast! As I said, I’ve never done anything in a canoe, but I chose kayaks because they are lighter and easier to handle, less bulky in the water and a lot of fun in the waves and very quick to respond with minimal effort. I’m a 5’2" woman and like things I can handle alone. If these are your goals, get a WW yak.

I didn’t think I was old enough to get a response like that!

As best I can remember (everything’s a little hazy from that period of my life…) his name was Dan Chastain. He was a nationally ranked paddler in C1 slalom. This was before I was into paddling. We just partied together on occasion.


Dream-On :slight_smile:
That title wasn’t supposed to sound like an admonishment…rather an encouragement to let your mind drift through ALL the possibilities :slight_smile:

I’ve had the opportunity to do ww in both kayaks and canoes. I started in kayaks back in the early 80’s and switched to canoes about 7 years ago. I just gave away my last kayak in December.

Yes you can roll an open canoe. Nolan Whitesell did a great job of perfecting that back in the 80’s. You asked about creek boats vs play boats, and certainly the vast majority of those responses will be re kayaks, but there are canoes designed for the same. There are some new short narrow canoes… 9 ft and less with enough rocker to make ‘em look like a banana. While I’m not suggesting you run out and buy one… as long as your dreamin’ go ahead and check em out :slight_smile:

As for “storage” not being an issue (I assume you mean volume for carrying stuff), you might be surprised! This past Saturday we did 18.5 miles in a remote desert canyon, and due to weather conditions the trip was over 10 hours. It sure was nice to have the food and clothing that we wanted (and the BIG thermos of coffee :slight_smile:

Keep dreaming about WW, but don’t limit your dreams to preconceived ideas. Go ahead and have fun and check out the extreme stuff… when you temper it with a bit of reality, there are still some gigantic opportunities out there :slight_smile:

As a WW canoe paddler living in the heart of whitewater country, it’s a bit daunting to see the huge popularity of WW kayaks and still get the strange looks as you launch a solo canoe. There IS a distinct advantage to boating in a yak in that the paddling and maneuvering is pretty straight forward, relative to that of a canoe. With the huge popularity of WW kayaking, there is also a much larger selection of boats available for yaking than for canoeing. But the canoes and canoeists are out there and the techniques for making it through class V are well proven.

One interesting caveat; quite a few of the WW canoe paddlers that I know, started in kayaks and transitioned to canoes. Please note that I said “transitioned” and NOT “graduated” or “moved on to”… unlike a lot of the threads you’ll read here, I don’t believe one boat is better than another, there are simply different preferences. Heck, some of my best friends are “butt-boaters.”

Dream on…and when your done…get in the water and paddle !