The canoe , as we know it today, contains a rich history of 5000 years of traditions and innovations. Already in the Neolithic, the first tracks of canoes are found with a very well elaborated manufacturing technique. Little by little, it was occupying an important place in the organization of societies. Initially, it was an indispensable means of transport between the islands and for fishing and hunting . In our days, this boat is mostly used for sporting purposes .


Information of interest

  • Type of vehicle: Nautical
  • Main uses:  Sports, tourist

What is a canoe?

In the nautical world, a pirogue is a long and narrow boat, generally made from a hollowed-out tree trunk, with a sail or oars and sometimes equipped with a seesaw . It was a very used means of transport in the past, especially by the natives of America and Oceania.

  • What is the canoe for?
  • Characteristics
  • Story
  • Types of pirogue
  • Parties
  • How does it work
  • Difference between kayak and canoe

What is the canoe for?

In other times, the pirogues were used for warfare , fishing activities and for moving from one island to another. At present, its use is mainly sports and it is also used for tourism or simply for walks .


  • Traditionally, it is a one-piece boat (a piece of wood) to which benches and other elements can be added.
  • It is open since its upper part is uncovered.
  • It is larger than a canoe.
  • Its shape is long and narrow .
  • It is used with paddles , not with oars.
  • Its weight is light .
  • It is used in rivers, beaches and generally in calm waters with gentle currents.
  • It is navigated head- on unlike how the rowboats are navigated. Thus, to drive the boat, you have to go backwards.
  • It is driven by a helmsman at the rear who is in charge of the vessel’s heading.


The invention of the canoe is very old, as evidenced by archaeological research according to which this type of boat was manufactured already in the Neolithic Age . Thus, it is one of the oldest nautical vehicles that exists . Indeed, in the history of many peoples and tribes on all continents, it played a fundamental role since it allowed them to move from one island to another in the insular regions and constituted an essential tool for fishing activities.

Today, this type of boat is especially popular for sports and tourist activities.

Types of pirogue

There are different classifications to distinguish the types of kayak. Below are the types of canoe that different tribes, such as the Polynesians, used in the 18th century:

  • Fishing pirogues  there were pirogues for fishing on the coast and pirogues for fishing on the high seas.
  • Travel canoes  these canoes had sails and were double, which allowed them to carry up to 60 people. They measured around 12 and 25 meters and were led by 4 to 8 men. With them, it was possible to navigate thousands of kilometers.
  • War pirogues:  these vessels measured between 17 to 25 meters and had a platform for the warriors. Its hull at the bow was sharpened and taller at both the bow and the stern.

On the other hand, it should be noted that according to the Spanish Canoeing Federation , the term canoeing encompasses different types of boats for sports activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, surf skiing, canoeing and hydrospeed .


The characteristics and parts of a canoe can vary depending on the region in which they were built and their function. Below are the parts of a traditional canoe:

  • Bow: front of the canoe.
  • Stern: rear of the boat.
  • Cockpit: central opening of the boat.
  • Seat: movable part of the boat.
  • Hull: inner half of the ship.
  • Deck:  upper half of the ship.

How does it work

To introduce a canoe into the water, from the shore, it is positioned perpendicularly. The bow should be directed towards the shore or dock while the stern end should be further away. The canoe is propelled forward thanks to the blades that allow movement. It is important to specify that the paddles are not attached to the boat, but that they must be held with the hands. It should be noted that the canoe is navigated from the front unlike other boats that are navigated behind the back.

Difference between kayak and canoe

For some, the terms kayak and canoe refer to the same thing. Likewise, the kayak is also said to be a variety of canoe . In fact, in sports, kayaking is part of canoeing.

However, it is important to note that there are slight differences between these. For example, as kayaks are especially used in sports competitions , it is common to navigate them in white water with greater movement, while canoes are used more in calm waters . In addition, compared to kayaks, canoes allow the water that enters them to drain more easily. On the other hand, the kayak is powered by single-blade paddles, unlike the kayak whose paddle is double-bladed .

It should be noted that the word “piragua” is of Caribbean origin and comes from the expression “piraua” which means canoe made with a hollowed out trunk. It is used for the first time in Spanish in the year 1530 . For its part, the word “kayak” is of Eskimo origin and comes from the expression “qayak ” which refers to a small boat made of skins. Apparently the first kayaks were made from sealskins or walrus skins spread over the wooden construction.

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