Canoeing and kayaking are popular water sports that offer endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. While both activities involve paddling through the water, they differ in several aspects. One of beginners’ most commonly asked questions is whether canoeing is more challenging than kayaking.

Here are the differences between canoeing and kayaking, and answer which one is harder.

What Is Canoeing?

Canoeing is a water sport that involves paddling a canoe through water using a single-bladed paddle. Canoes are open boats that can accommodate one or more people and are propelled by the paddler’s strength and technique. Canoes come in various shapes and sizes, from small solo to large family-sized canoes.

Canoeing is a versatile activity that can be enjoyed on calm lakes, rivers, and even whitewater rapids.

What Is Kayaking?

On the other hand, Kayaking is a water sport involving paddling a kayak through water using a double-bladed paddle. Kayaks are narrow, closed boats designed to be faster and more agile than canoes. Kayaks come in different styles, including sit-in, sit-on-top, and inflatable kayaks.

Kayaking is popular for exploring waterways, coastal areas, and open oceans. Kayaks are designed to be more manoeuvrable than canoes, making them ideal for narrow passages and rough waters.

Is Canoeing Harder than Kayaking?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the individual’s physical abilities, experience, and the type of water they are paddling in. Here are some of the differences between canoeing and kayaking that can affect the difficulty level of each sport.

1. Paddle Technique

One of the main differences between canoeing and kayaking is the paddle technique. Canoeing involves using a single-bladed paddle, which requires a different technique than a double-bladed paddle used in kayaking. In canoeing, the paddler needs to switch sides of the boat to change direction, which can be challenging for beginners. In kayaking, the paddler uses a back-and-forth motion to steer the boat, which is easier to master.

2. Stability

Canoes are wider and have a flat bottom, making them more stable than kayaks. This means canoes are less likely to tip over and better suited for calm waters and carrying gear. On the other hand, Kayaks are designed to be more agile and faster, making them less stable than canoes. This means kayaks require more balance and experience to stay upright in rough waters.

3. Physical Demand

Both canoeing and kayaking require physical strength and endurance to propel the boat through the water. However, canoeing requires more upper body strength as the paddler needs to use only one arm to paddle. On the other hand, Kayaking involves using both arms to paddle, which distributes the workload more evenly. This means that kayaking can be less physically demanding than canoeing.

4. Experience

Another factor influencing the difficulty level of canoeing and kayaking is the individual’s experience. Beginners may find canoeing harder than kayaking, requiring more coordination and technique to paddle in a straight line. However, experienced canoeists may find kayaking harder, requiring more finesse and control to manoeuvre through rough waters.


Both activities offer unique challenges and rewards, ultimately due to personal preference and experience. If you are a beginner, try both sports and see which one you enjoy more. Regardless of your choice, always remember to wear a life jacket, follow safety guidelines, and have fun!

Are you looking for an unforgettable adventure on the River Thames? Moose Canoe Hire, our friendly rental centre, offers a range of canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals, perfect for exploring the beauty of the Thames. Book your canoe hire in the Thames today!