No, canoe vs. kayak is not a controversial Supreme Court decision, but it is a decision that some boaters have to make. It used to be that if you wanted to carry more than one passenger, the canoe was the only way to go. Today the choice is less clear.

For starters, a canoe lends itself to calmer waters. No one takes a canoe out on the ocean, so you could say that a canoe is a bit more limited in its applications, and that’s fair. A canoe is about the joy and solitude of being on the water. It glides quietly along and lets you enjoy the surroundings, like a creek or tributary of a river.


Setting out in smoother waters? Canoe is the way to go.

One of our family’s favorite things to do back in Central Florida was to rent a canoe on the Wekiva River, paddle upriver to Wekiva Springs, then float back downriver with the current. It was a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. People used to fish off them, too, and canoes can work for angling without much fuss. Just toss your rods and tackle box in the middle and off you go.

A canoe is generally more expensive than a kayak because of the way they are made. Lots of kayaks are built with injection molding technology, so they can be mass produced. Lots of canoes are still made with hand lamination, so they’re a bit more labor-intensive. Old Town makes fiberglass canoes and even old fashioned wooden canoes, which are genuinely beautiful, but cost upward of $9,000. So, it’s also fair to say you’ll pay more for a canoe that does less than a kayak.


Ready to explore? Choose a kayak as your method of transportation.

Kayaks, which are cheaper, generally speaking, can be custom-fitted for more uses. There are kayaks for exploring, for fishing, kayaks for one or two people, for calm water or for rapids. Again, because they can be mass produced, prices start much lower than canoes.

Another option kayaks offer that canoes do not is alternative propulsion systems. Sure, you can paddle a kayak to your hearts’ content, but there are kayaks available with a pedal system that spins a propeller or pedals that actuate articulating fins that push the craft forward, both of which steer with a rudder at the aft end. Many of the propulsion systems pop out for easy beaching. Canoes just don’t offer that.

What you choose will depend entirely on what you enjoy or maybe even where you live. If you live on the East Coast, a canoe can work on lakes and rivers and even calm portions of the Intracoastal Waterway. If you live on the West Coast where there is less protected water, maybe a kayak is the way to go.

Either one will get you out on and enjoying the water, and isn’t that the whole point?

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Written by: Brett Becker
Brett Becker is a freelance writer and photographer who has covered the marine industry for 15 years. In addition to covering the ski boat and runabout markets for, he regularly writes and shoots for Based in Ventura, Calif., Becker holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in mass communication from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.