Please practice the Camper's Code  Travel Advice: Know Before You Go

Ferren in a canoe on Alouette Lake, looking positively West Coast - photo credit Julie Gallos

To Kayak or to Canoe?

By Amy Clausen

What’s the difference between a kayak person and a canoe person? No, this is not a set-up to some kind of joke. It’s an honest question. What are the essential differences between a canoe trip and a kayak excursion, and why would you choose one over the other?

Kayakers at the end of a river journey

Kayakers at the end of a river journey

Full disclaimer: I grew up in a kayak household. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in the small second seat in my father’s tandem sea kayak while he paddled me slowly through False Creek or in Indian Arm. As I grew up and began paddling on my own, I came to think that the kayak is a more sporty choice than canoeing. This is especially true if you want to ride a sea current or tackle river rapids. The canoe, on the other hand, brings to mind lazy summer days spent paddling on a still lake while loons call from across the water. Clearly all my ideas about canoes I learned from Group of Seven paintings, right?

Ferren in a canoe on Alouette Lake, looking positively West Coast

Ferren in a canoe on Alouette Lake, looking positively West Coast – photo credit Julie Gallos

My opinion of canoeing changed when I met friends who paddle regularly to and from Vancouver beaches, and in lakes all around the Lower Mainland. Even in rough weather, this couple diligently arrives prepared for an afternoon on the water. During a recent camping trip with them, I was impressed when rain kept me and my kayak on the shore, but they paddled bravely around Alouette Lake on a wet and chilly day.

Clearly, both kayakers and canoeists are seeking the same quiet, contemplative moments alone on the water. We can all enjoy the feeling of accomplishment from self-propelling a significant distance, and the thrill of getting up close and personal with wildlife on the shorelines we explore. These moments are often not available to those who travel with loud engines.

A beautiful way to see the city!

A beautiful way to see the city! Photo credit Julie Gallos

On the wet west coast, both kayakers and canoeists need a high level of dedication to get a boat in the water. For one, just carrying your boat takes a lot of work and patience. Manoeuvering your boat on and off of a roof rack with a taller (or shorter) helper can range from “frustrating” to worse. In any weather, getting out on the water means preparing and gathering supplies, including lifejackets, dry bags, jackets, hats, sprayskirts, paddles, snacks and sunscreen galore. By the time you are ready to portage to the beach, a boater can be exhausted already. Once you are safely installed in your boat (with wet feet and at least one bag dropped into the drink), things change. The magic begins! Dip your paddle in the water, cast off from the shore line and enjoy the solitude.

Are you a canoeist or a kayaker? What are your favourite spots around BC for a paddle?

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Published: June 1, 2017


About the Author

Amy Clausen is an avid camper and the blogger behind She is an arts and outdoor educator, and a UBC student. She hikes and kayaks with her family, and enjoys road trips to historic BC towns. She lives in beautiful Port Coquitlam with her partner and young child.

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