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

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: December 8, 2022
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The main difference between rowing, canoeing, and kayaking is the type of boat that is used and the way in which the boat is propelled.

Key Takeaways

  • In rowing, the rower faces backward while the paddler faces forward and kneels in the boat while canoeing
  • In canoeing, paddlers paddle from a kneeling position, using a single-bladed paddle to move the boat forward
  • In kayaking, paddlers paddle from a seated position, using a double-bladed paddle to move the boat forward

Definition Of Rowing, Canoeing, And Kayaking:

Rowing is the activity of using oars in racing boats. The oars are attached to the boat using oarlocks,  making it different from other paddling sports. The athlete sits inside facing towards the stern to propel the boat forward and uses the oars. The activity exercises all the major muscle groups, including abdominal muscles, glutes, lats, biceps, triceps, and quads. Muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance are also enhanced. The larger athletes’ increased power tends to compensate, though extra weight doesn’t increase the drag on the boat. 

Canoeing is an activity that involves paddling with a single-bladed paddle a water-based sport. Canoe camping and canoe racing such as canoe marathons and canoe sprints are some of the recreational forms of canoeing. On lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds, other forms include a wide range of canoeing. To navigate a decked canoe through a course of hanging up or downstream gates on river rapids in the wildest time possible, canoe slalom or whitewater slalom is a competitive sport in the Summer Olympics. 

Kayaking is moving across the water using a kayak. With the paddler sitting facing forward, legs in front, and using a double-bladed paddle to pull the front-to-back on one side as the other is in rotation,  a kayak is a low-to-the-water canoe-like boat. Although inflatable and sit-on-top kayaks are growing in particular, most of them have closed decks, depending on what the paddler would like to do. The type of water to be paddled, the kayaks’ sizes, and shapes vary drastically. Fishing, diving, rescue during floods, and wilderness exploration are useful outdoor activities they can do due to their range and adaptability.

Differences Between Rowing, Canoeing, And Kayaking:

GearRowing uses a boat for effective movement on the water.Canoeing uses a canoe which is an open vessel where you can kneel or sit.Kayaking uses an enclosed vessel called a kayak. Allowing you to stretch your legs out in front of you,  it has a hole where you can sit in the middle.
Strained musclesYou will use the arms and legs in rowing, with the arms for transferring power and more force coming from the legs.The upper body muscles will be strained through the movement of the paddle when paddling in canoeing. Uses active use of the legs muscles in paddling, which is very durable but can make the boat capsize.
Different controlsRowing uses oars that are held in place by oarlocks to propel the boat forward. Canoeing has a shorter paddle with only one end. To determine your direction, you will have to switch from side to side while rowing. In kayaking, a long paddle is used to control the kayak. It has blades on both ends to push you through the water efficiently.
Different travel directionRowers go backward while paddlers go forward. You will sit with your back in the direction of travel in rowing.You’ll be turned in the direction of travel when paddling canoes.When propelling a kayak, you’ll be paddling while going frontwards.
Type of water bodiesIn oceans, artificial lakes, canals, or rivers, you can enjoy rowing as an outdoor activity or a sport. In slow-moving water like lakes or canals, canoeing is a great activity. You can do more intensive activities in a kayak due to the canoe’s open-top design. Visit waterfalls, white water locations, rapids, and the sea, for more of a thrill in kayaking.

What Are Some Of The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Rowing, Canoeing, And Kayaking?

Are you having trouble choosing between rowing, canoeing, and kayaking? That should not bother you anymore because it all lies on the type of water you’re planning to sail on and your current budget. Let’s take a look further at the advantages and disadvantages that each of them has. 



1. They are easy to control.

2. To strengthen your skills and muscle, you can use rowing machines on dry land.

3. They can be powered by up to 8 people, therefore, allowing room for teamwork.

4. Have a great speed compared to canoes.


1. Due to the lack of portable inflatable options, rowboats are less portable.



1. It can be easily maneuvered.

2. You will have much space for storing your belongings.

3. More than one person can use it.

4. They are easy to board in and out of.

5. Convenient for adventure with friends and family trips. 


1. You will lose your belongings as they will float away, in case you capsize.



1. Are more thrilling, especially if you have several tricks to attempt.

2. All your belongings will stay dry.

3. There is a high possibility of staying safe in case you capsize.

4. Kayaking is the best option if you’ll be traveling over some distance.

5. It is appropriate for adventures and solo trips.


1. Offers a smaller amount of storage capacity for your belongings.

Rules Regarding Rowing, Canoeing, And Kayaking:

1. Be careful to go out to the waters under an experienced instructor to avoid making unnecessary controls.

2. Choose specialized and quality equipment that is adequate for the environment.

3. Before heading to the stormy water, ensure you check the condition of your equipment. For instance, tie the helmet straps so that they don’t come off when you’re out in stormy weather.

4. Avoid situations with increased risk.


After reading through this article, I hope all the information helps you make the best choice that suits your taste between rowing, canoeing, and kayaking. Make sure you pick out the best equipment if you like the idea of heading out onto the open water. Considering their uses, go for what will work best for you because they’re all not necessarily the same. The best solution will be greatly influenced by your intentions on the open water, your budget, and your expectations. Go ahead and make the experience memorable and adventurous!


  • https://www.quora.com/What-is-Difference-between-Rowing-Canoeing-and-kayaking
  • https://www.tutorialspoint.com/canoeing/canoeing_vs_rowing_vs_dragon_boating.htm

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