Whitewater canoe vs kayak

So I went up to do a class III run yesterday and was planning on taking my ww canoe (Millbrook Shacho), but there was a really strong headwind and as soon as I put in and paddled around a bit, I realized that my kayak (Jackson Zen) would be a better choice. Of course, my skill level in the canoe (which I purchased last year) has a lot to do with it. However, I have just found myself wondering if there’s much reason to do both. I love the challenge of technique in the canoe. But I also enjoy the stability and ease of use of my kayak. I’m thinking maybe of selling the fancy whitewater canoe and using the kayak for whitewater and buying a tandem canoe for easy days on the river (class I-II). Has anyone else had this dilema? One other thing in favor of the kayak, is that people actually kayak out here (Rocky Mountain region), whereas I only know a very few ww canoeist and they tend to keep to themselves. I just don’t know if having two different types of whitewater boats is worth it!

If I were a groupie paddler, I would
sell my Millbrook and bone up on my kayaking skills.

When I take an open boat out to the Rockies, I step down the difficulty, running stuff I can do without a kayak safety crew.

Back when I was pretty good, I paddled c-1. Nice high seat for boat scouting, plenty of hole busting ability.

Kayaks are great. It’s just that there’s something too symmetrical about them.

There is no rational reason to paddle whitewater.

We do it because it feels good and makes us smile.

So don’t try to be rational about your boats.

Keep the ones that make you smile.

Sell the rest.

well said
That is about as good advice as I have heard.

There are a lot of advantages to a whitewater kayak as opposed to an open boat.

I can roll a kayak much more easily than I can an open boat.

The strokes are symmetrical: no need for ergonomically difficult cross strokes.

In a decked boat no need to worry about getting water in the boat.

There are strong braces available on both sides.

Easier to stay warm and dry using nothing more than a dry top (as long as you stay in the boat).

And kayaks are much less affected by adverse winds.

Having said that, I prefer canoeing. Perhaps it is because I started out in canoes. Maybe it is because there are a greater variety of strokes and more technique involved.

There are some modest advantages to open boats. One does have a better vantage point of what is coming up downstream.

Longer boats do bridge holes somewhat better.

They are somewhat easier to get in and out of quickly.

You are less likely to get trapped and pounded heads down in a shallow rapid.

And it is generally easier to get at stuff in the boat.

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I think I’ll keep the canoe for another year (it has only had 3 voyages!) and re-evaluate then. I’m doing a canoe clinic in Durango next weekend so hopefully that will give me a fresh perspective. Speaking of groupies, that has been one of the hardest things for me about the paddling culture. I really like to do things solo but sometimes that’s not practical (or safe), but when it is I usually take my bike and bike shuttle back to my car!

Is that a Kent Ford clinic?

Agree with Tommy
Paddle what you like. I am an open boater, and have never even thought about switching to a kayak. There are many times, though, that I am the only open boater paddling with a group of kayaks, and there are some challenges.

First, the lines are different. My kayak friends love running big waves and drops that I will try to avoid. They are also more concern about holes that my canoe can punch through easily. On the positive side, I find that this forces me to choose my own lines, so my read and run skills are getting better.

I also find that kayakers running class III (and higher) expect that you will have a roll, and seem to be more uncomfortable with swimmers than open boaters. I try to be self-sufficient, and self-rescue whenever I can, so the positive side to this is that I’ve developed good self-rescue skills. If you have a roll, this won’t be an issue.

Of course, if your skills aren’t up to the run, you shouldn’t do it. I tend to stick to class II/III runs. As my kayak friends develop more reliable rolls, they tend to move up to class III/IV runs. There are times when we go our separate ways.

So I guess your decision depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are more interested in running the big stuff, you should probably stick with the kayak. If you are interested in open boating, I’d work hard to hook up with other open boaters in your area. Whitewater boaters don’t tend to be solitary paddlers. You may have to start with easier trips until they see what your skill level is, but I would be surprised if they weren’t wiling to help another paddler along.

Good luck.

Easy solution…

– Last Updated: Jun-16-14 10:45 AM EST –

For the time being; hold onto both the canoe & the kayak.
In time your "problem" will probably sort itself out; and you'll pick one boat, or the other.
Give yourself some time to decide.............
You may find it's nice to have different options available.

I always thought that people seeking the one, do all/ be all boat, were wasting their time.
Still feel that way.
There is no such boat in my opinion.
That's why so many paddlers have multiple boats.