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What Is the Difference Between Rowing Canoeing And Kayaking

What Is the Difference Between Rowing Canoeing And Kayaking?

When you’re manually operating a boat, the act of operating it is known as rowing. But when the boats have different shapes,they can become canoeing or kayaking. Now, what are these things? As the types of boats change, the act of moving them to change their names too.

When you are operating a traditional boat, it’s called rowing. In the case of a canoe and a kayak, the act of moving them is called canoeing and kayaking, respectively. This is understandable, but what goes on people’s minds is that what is the difference between rowing, canoeing and kayaking?

Is there, actually? Is rowing, canoeing and kayaking very different from each other? The answer is yes, they are. These are not three different techniques of operating the same boat. The boat types are different. We will discuss every possible difference between rowing, canoeing and kayaking in brief for you to understand clearly.

The reason why I am discussing these differences is that when I went on to do my research regarding the differences between them, I found that people have written thousands of words where they have pinpointed the differences between boats and canoes kayaks. But they should’ve been doing was pinpointing the technique differences and explained why. So, I will do exactly what needs to be done.

What Is the Difference Between Rowing, Canoeing, And Kayaking?

To understand the difference of techniques, first, you have to understand the differences between the paddle and the sitting positions that are used for operating the vessel.

Difference of Paddle

Rowing: The paddle for rowing is not actually one paddle. For rowing, you need two paddles. These paddles are very long and usually stay pretty far apart on two sides. The rower holds two paddles on the holding point. There’s no factor of dominant hands. Both hands have to be in coordination.

Canoeing:  For canoeing, you would need a single paddle that is comparatively smaller than that used for rowing. The hold of a canoeing paddle actually depends on which side the paddler paddles. If the paddler is paddling on the right side, the right hand is used to hold the lower part and the left hand for the upper part. For the left side, vice-versa.

Kayaking:  For kayaking, you need a paddle that can be used from both ends because kayaking requires to be paddled from both sides. Kayaking requires you to stroke once on each side for one forwarding motion.

Difference of Sitting

Rowing:  You have to sit on a seat facing backwards for rowing, keeping your legs bent. This is because the technique requires you to move your entire body. The rowing technique actually strains a lot of muscles in your body.

Canoeing: In a canoe, either you sit, or you can kneel. The thing with a canoe is that canoeing is usually done on one side, keeping in mind that you don’t move at all from your sitting position. So, it only strains the upper part of our body. You will be facing forward.

Kayaking: Kayaks have cockpits where you have to sit, keeping your legs inside the structure. So, kayaking requires you to move your upper body as well. You have to sit facing forward.

Difference of Technique

This is what you came for, to know the difference of technique among rowing, canoeing and kayaking. I can’t say that you will become a pro after reading this because till you get down on the water on a boat, you will never be a pro. Nevertheless, you will theoretically know how each technique works.


Step 1

You will be facing backwards, so the whole technique is to push the water with the paddles so that the boat moves backwards. So, keep your legs together, they should be bent, and you should be sitting straight. The paddles would be behind you.

Step 2

You have to rotate them with optimum force with the paddles and form a “half C”. Your body has to lean back, and your legs straightened. This will move the boat forward.

Step 3

From your position, you have to push the handles of the paddle down towards your thighs to get the paddles out of water. After that, push them forward vertically, lean forward and bend your legs to get back to the position you were in the start.


Step 1

Canoeing is done facing forwards. It’s comparatively easier than rowing. At first, holding the paddle correctly witha 2-3 feet gap between two hands, put the flat end in the water.

Step 2

Now, push the water using the paddle, generating force from the hand on which side the paddle is placed and control the paddle's balance with the hand holding the top.

Step 3

Take the paddle out of the water and move it forward to the starting position. Do not pull the paddle to gain the step 1 position keeping the paddle in the water. That affects your speed and direction.


Step 1

Hold the paddle with both hands. You can start with either side, as I’m right-handed, I’d explain from the right-hand part. To row on the right side, the right hand will be on the lower end and far from your body to the forward direction, and the left hand will be up and closer to your body.

Step 2

Push the water on the right side following a certain motion which takes the left side far from your body and the right part closer and precisely on the vice-versa position of step one.

Step 3

To keep on moving forward, create a rhythm of steps one and two.

Difference of Water Bodies


For rowing, one has to sit backwards where they can’t see the way the boat is advancing. So, rowing won't be possible if the waterbody is filled with debris or too many turns and curves. So, for rowing can be done in artificial lakes, rivers with weak currents and width, canals etc.


Canoes are meant for traveling fast in water conditions where the water current is slow. Canoes are used for moving products from one place to another by villagers and natives in places like Africa.

So, places like slow-moving rivers, canals, and lakes will be perfect for canoeing.


Kayaking is something done for recreational purposes. The experience of kayaking is directly related to getting thrilled. So, the best water bodies are kayaking, white-water, waterfalls, steep rivers with speedy currents, seas, surfing tides, etc. The kayaking experience in these places will be extreme.

Final Words

I hope I have covered everything there is to know to find the answer to the question of what is the difference between rowing, canoeing and kayaking. If you try and concentrate while reading the techniques, you will have enough theoretical knowledge to help you start any of the discussed activities.

Don’t forget to take safety measures, though.

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