why kayak

This is my first post here, so I hope my question hasn’t been asked a 100 times before. My wife and I have paddled canoes and recreation kayaks for a few years intermitantly. We paddled the Tuckaseegee in the NC mountains with friends last week and there’s just something about white water canoes that really intrigues me. They are both pretty accomplished canoeists. Can someone explain the nuances of canoes in white water vs kayaks.

Thanks in advance!


There is a good natured rivalry
If you drop in to Boatertalk.com you will note that WW canoeists (sp?) make joking critcal remarks about kayakers and vice versa. For the record, there are kayakers, C-1’ers (closed boat, kneeling position, canoe paddle), and OC-1’ers and OC-2’ers (open boat with flotation). Actually I have seen single persons going down class III rivers in open canoes with no flotation and doing quite well. Being a WW kayaker my perspective is quite biased but even though I admire what people can do with a single bladed paddle and I know defintely it is not for me. You really do have to kneel to effectively deal with significant WW and I cannot handle that. Rolling a WW canoe is certainly possible but quite hard to do and learn (C-1 is easier). If you can’t roll then you will be dealing with emptying your boat and getting back in when it is quite difficult. Some people like that. I don’t.

Good answer, Dr. Disco.
I started in open canoe, spent time in c-1, then did some kayaking. Now that I should wear glasses on the river, kayaking can be too splashy, c-1 involves painful deep kneeling, but open boating gives that “SUV” view of things, occasional sitting if I prefer, plus easy access to water bottle and that nuisance bailer.

canoe vs. kayak vs. sea kayak
Back in my youth, I solo open-boated the Nantahala at flood stage with no problem and little flotation. I pretty much maxed out what one can do in an open boat. Then I switched to kayaking and had some fun with that, but eventually dislocated my shoulder. Then I took two decades off from boating (for those of you who are counting, that means that the Nantahala Outdoor Center had just opened when I was there)and I have now picked up sea kayaking, which is loads of fun, good for your heart – and it has loads of toys for gear-heads. I won’t go back to serious whitewater kayaking at my age because I have kids and the sport has changed too much, and not in a good way, IMHO. So take from this what you will, but I love where I am now. You too need to just be happy where you are, and just because you do one doesn’t mean that you can’t do another either at the same time or a little later…but I do miss my old grumman canoe.

'nother aspect
There’s something else that should be mentioned in this thread. Canoes ride over things, and ride on the water. Kayaks ride around (or into), things and ride through the water. It’s really a totally different experience to do the same water, at the same level in both a canoe and a kayak. Also, canoeists therefore rely a lot on reading the water, and on being able to just bang over or through a lot of stuff that kayakers rely on manuverability for. The kayaker relies on a skirt and perhaps roll skills, whereas the canoeist relies on the high position of the boat to avoid trouble, or just go over it. Neither is “better”, but many folks wind up with a decided preference for one or the other. I think of the canoe as a sort of SUV, whereas the ww kayaks are more like sports cars.

This is just one personal perspective, (and many will disagree with even this), but the way I look at it, in a properly outfitted canoe, it’s a little tougher to get in trouble on the easy stuff, but if you do get in trouble, you’re really in trouble. The learning curve on the kayak, is in some ways steeper, but it can do more technical water, if the paddler is up to it.

If you are just comming down the
river in the wave trains and running the rapids the canoe is fun, but if you want to see the difference, just sit on the bank at the Nantahala falls and watch the little WW kayakers lined up to play in the hydraulics, and you will see the difference.



Everything Dr disco and g2d said
i agree with. I too was a ww canoist in both open and closed canoe and switched into kayaking for a variety of reasons. First my ability in rolling was just not adequate enough and rolling a kayak was much easier for me. Second, a kayak was much more comfortable to sit in than a closed canoe (c1), third i found kayaks lighter to carry than open canoes. Fourth, my body was just getting worn out and needed to change from mainly using on one side while paddling canoe to more of a balanced concept of paddling kayak. That last comment once again proof to me that “age sucks”. In terms of skills, a skilled closed white water canoes can do anything a kayaker can. At heart i must admit i am still a canoiest.

True, but have you seen Dick Wooten
surfing at Lesser Wesser in his Blue Hole OCA, with NO flotation, and taking very little water?

There are certainly things I can’t do in my MR Synergy on the Nanty that I can do in my C-1 or kayak, but I have learned to hit the same eddies and surf the same big waves. It just takes patience and a little determination. I have seen kayakers register surprise when I line up with them on some of the staging eddies.

Knees and hams
If your knees are shot and won’t take much kneeling you need a kayak.

If your hams are tight and your back gets sore from sitting on the floor you need a canoe.

Also it’s easier to thrash and crash through a rapid in a yak. But to paddle either a canoe or kayak well takes talent, skill and practice.

Keep it coming
Thanks folks! These are just the comments that I’m looking for. How about cost. It appears from my short time in research that kayaking may be a little less expensive to be properly outfitted. This is a consideration, since I’ll be outfitting two of us.


At it’s most basic level
A canoe is something you sit in; a kayak is something you wear. A different stroke for different folks is all. Both have advantages and disadvantages go with what you enjoy.

WW canoeing
is “the chess of the Mountain Dew sports”. Water reading is much more important in an OC than in a Kayak. An OC, being less responsive, has to anticipate more, and being open, has to try to find a dry line.

And the single blade, as opposed to the “training paddles” kayakers use ;), requires alot more in the way of technique.

All in all, you will have a much longer learning curve in the OC.

But in capable hands, a WW OC1 can do just about anything a kayak can do. The Nanty is not even remotely close to the max of what can be run in an OC.

OCer’s as a rule do tend to do less wave and hole play than kayakers, but that is due more to the individual paddlers, and not the boat.

I have spent plenty of time surfing in waves and holes when the kayaks were just hanging out the eddy…

Alot of my kayaker friends find that after a few years they no longer find the local cl 3’s challenging enough; they are constantly trying to find bigger/more technical water to challenge themselves. But in my various OC1s, I am always able to find challenging new moves to try, even on rivers that I can almost run with my eyes closed.

I look at kayakers as being like downhill skiers, while the OCers are the telemarkers. Objectively, downhill skis are the “best” way to get down the mountain. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most enjoyable way to get down the mountain.

Paddle whichever you enjoy more- K1 or OC1- but don’t get into K1 just because you think OC1s are limited in what they can do.