Water sports make some of the most exciting activities to engage in either competitively or for recreational purposes.

The idea of defying Mother Nature and moving through a lake, river, or pool undoubtedly arouses adrenaline.

Canoeing has for several years held a distinguished spot among competitive water sports.

It’s also one of the most thrilling and fun activities to engage in with family or friends on a day out or while camping.

So you’ve harbored thoughts of canoeing someday but don’t know where to start?

Ever wondered how guys paddle across the water with so much ease and the expertise of a duck?

In this article, I widen your canoeing perspective and demystify some misconceptions about this lovely sport.

Canoeing is water sports

As an experienced waterman, I’ve experienced many people start naively and the go-ahead to become exceptional canoeists.

What does it take? Let’s get straight into it.

Where did it all begin? Here’s a short background

The history of canoeing varies from one community to the other. What we all agree, however, is that canoeing is one of the oldest forms of water transport known to man.

It might have taken different materials and technologies at other times, but it’s indisputably been used by communities for centuries.

This notwithstanding, the development of canoeing as a modern sport dates back to the 19th century.

In 1866 Scottish explorer and travel writer John MacGregor founded the Royal Canoe Club.

The New York Canoe Club was founded in 1871, while the first canoeing competition in modern history took place in 1874.

Russia became the first country to organize a women’s competition, and by the 1890s, the sport had gained popularity across Europe and America.

The inclusion of the sport in the 1936 Olympics was ultimately a huge breakthrough. Over time, it has evolved in participation as well as technology. It’s widely practiced across the world today.

 Is canoeing the same as kayaking?

Canoeing and kayaking are relatively similar, both in concept and practice.

The main difference is that in canoeing, the vessel is steered using a single blade while a kayak uses a double-blade paddle. 

Furthermore, when canoeing, you can sit or kneel inside the canoe. While kayaking, you strictly sit inside your vessel

Despite these slight differences, the terms canoeing and kayaking are used interchangeably in some parts of the world.

How hard is it to canoe?

Like any other sport, interest is a significant factor in determining how fast you learn and how good you eventually become at it.

For canoeing, you certainly need your muscle energy and fight off aqua phobia.

My advice to people is always to take the sea, the ocean, and the lake as a bubbly, calm friend who is nice to stay along but becomes fiery, uncouth, and unforgiving when angry.

If all you want is fun to spice up your vacation or a day out, you will still have it with some guidance from a trainer.

Ultimately, you will need more time and more than basic training if you want to get into competitive canoeing.

You can never make an Olympic canoeist by putting in a few hours of training.

What do you need to learn how to canoe?

Here are the essentials:

  • A canoe
  • A paddle
  • A life jacket

 How do you steer a canoe?

The real skills of canoeing come into use when steering the vessel in any direction.

This is what we call paddling. When you move your paddle in any direction, you are making strokes.

The strokes keep the canoe balanced on water, and keep moving in any order you want.

Steering a canoe is a skill you can quickly learn and put into fair use.

You will become better if you practice regularly. Here are just a few basic canoe strokes you should learn.

The Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is regarded as the foundation of all other canoe strokes.

The canoeist initiates this movement by placing the blade at a right angle along the canoe’s centerline, then drawing it straight backward.

The J-Stroke

The J-stroke is considered a little more advanced. It’s executed just like the forward stroke, but towards the end, the paddle is rotated and then pushed away from the canoe, forming a J-shape.

The revere stroke

The reverse stroke is primarily the opposite of the forward stroke, done in reverse. In executing this move, you use the back face of the blade.

Draw Stroke

The draw stroke is also known as the “pull-to.” It’s used to change the canoe’s direction or move the canoe from side to side.

The idea is to stretch your shaft hand as far as you can, then place the paddle into the water. Your gripping hand will be pushing outwards as the shaft hand pulls inwards.

By doing this, you create enough force to move the canoe towards the side you are paddling.

Pry Stroke

The pry stroke works in the draw’s reverse direction, meaning it pulls the canoe further from the paddling side.

You place the blade in the water parallel to the boat and very close to the canoe. Your knife should be tilted so that it almost goes underneath the boat.

The gripping hand should be pulling while the hand on the shaft should be pushing out.

These are the most popular canoe strokes but certainly not the only ones.

Experienced canoeists can perform more unconventional and seemingly complex strokes, depending on what they want to achieve.

Is a Canoe faster than a kayak?

Several factors determine the speed of each vessel. The skills and experience of the kayaker or the canoeist come top on this list.

Kayaks, however, are generally considered faster because of their design and mode of steering.

The double-bladed paddle, for instance, makes them more efficient and more comfortable to balance.

They also sit low in the water, giving them less wind resistance.

On the other hand, Canoes tend to be more comprehensive and sit flatter and deeper in water.

A canoe will thus have to cut through the water, unlike a kayak that floats on the water surface.

All factors are held constant; a kayak can move twice as fast as a canoe.

Suppose you want to sink deep into your heart if you aim to have fun while canoeing, don’t worry much about the speed.

Instead, learn to steer the canoe in whatever direction as swiftly as you can.

With time and practice, you will work on speed and possibly make it into the Guinness Book of Records.

Is canoeing dangerous?

All water activities pose a certain measure of threat to human beings.

We are land-creatures, only that we learn to work on water through skills and experience.

While going on a canoeing expedition, the best you can do is prepare as if danger will come calling.

Whether you are a novice canoeist or a veteran, a Personal Floating Device(PFD) should be an essential, must-have requirement.

Take your life jacket with you, no matter how brief your trip is or how calm and friendly the water looks.

If Mother Nature keeps the river or lake calm and clear, you might face the most significant threat while canoeing is complacency.

Human error accounts for the highest number of accidents. Among the worst that could happen is your canoe flipping upside down.

If help doesn’t come swiftly, without the right skills and experience, you could be in deep-sea trouble, literally. Be cautious; don’t test the waters.

How hard is it to flip a canoe?

A canoe is ordinarily very stable on the water and therefore mostly very safe.

In the unfortunate event that it flips over, the hardest thing is turning it upright. 

It becomes challenging because you will be trying to work the boat and treading water simultaneously. Skills and experience come in handy.

At this point, your key focus should be saving your life; try to be calm to think of quick actions rationally.

Is Canoeing Safe for non-swimmers?

 Canoeing is a relatively safe watersport for anyone, with or without swimming experience.

However, you cannot efficiently participate in a watersport if you are afraid of water.

If you have an extreme fear of being in a large body of water, you may need to first build up your confidence by learning how to swim or generally spending time around a water body.

As a long-term plan, if you take up canoeing as a watersport, swimming should surely be of the essential skills you pick up.  

I strongly recommend that anyone taking a watersport learn some basic water rescue techniques, swimming being the most important.

When working on water, you never know when such skills will come in handy.

Can you take a canoe in the ocean?

Yes indeed. You can take your canoe out for a ride in the ocean. As a precaution, choose a time when the weather is calm. It’s also wise to stay close to the shoreline.

The ocean is naturally an unpredictable environment, and situations change quite rapidly.

It may seem calm and warm but suddenly become stormy and hard to deal with.

Great caution is needed to canoe in the ocean safely. Several factors, such as tides and currents and your canoe’s shape and size, will play out in dealing with an ocean experience.

Advantages of Canoeing

Canoeing is not only a fun-filled watersport but also an excellent way to unwind and even keep fit.

The following benefits might provoke you to take up canoeing pretty soon.


The canoe is a great way to relax the mind-body, and soul.

You engage all your body muscles virtually and therefore get the benefits that come with an intensive workout.

It’s an excellent cardiovascular workout, helping to keep the heart healthy and strong as you paddle through a water body.

Unlike other types of workouts that tend to be tedious or too demanding, canoeing is fun.

Consistent canoeing also helps to make your arms strong as you build muscles.

This is one unique way of building muscles away from the gym and weightlifting activities.

Recreation and Relaxation

Floating on water is always a fascinating experience.

It gets even more replenishing and refreshing when the fun involves family or friends as the cold breeze blows across your face.

You are almost assured it takes with your stubborn thoughts.

By the end of the exercise, you will be more relaxed and happy.

Boosts Travel and Tourism

For organizations and nations, this is an excellent income-generating activity.

Canoeing is a unique watersport that institutions can take advantage of to boos travel and tourism.

In some countries across Europe and America, canoeing is highly promoted. 

The Final Word

This old means of transport has evolved over time and now stands as a superbly recognized fun and competitive activity.

Whether you participate as a starter or an experienced canoeist, there is so much to gain and even learn from nature.

If you have an interest in canoeing, be assured of great fun. It’s a refreshing sport that will leave you in love, amazed, and amused by the gifts of nature.