The canoe, as we know it today, has a rich history of 5000 years of traditions and innovations. Already in the Neolithic, the first traces of canoes are found with a very well elaborated technique of manufacture. 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. Nowadays, this boat is mainly used for sports purposes.


Interesting information

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

What is a canoe?

In the nautical field, a canoe is a long and narrow boat, usually made from a hollowed tree trunk, with sail or oars and sometimes equipped with a rocker. It was a means of transport widely used in the past, especially by the natives of America and Oceania.

What is the canoe for?

In other times, canoes were used for war, fishing activities and for moving from one island to another. Nowadays, they are mainly used for sports and they are also used for tourism or simply for walks.



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

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

Types of canoe

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

On the other hand, it should be noted that according to the Spanish Canoeing Federation, the term canoeing covers different types of boats for sporting activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, surf skiing, Cano raft and hydro speed.


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:

How it works

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

Difference between kayak and canoe

For some, the terms kayak and canoe refer to the same thing. It is also said that the kayak is 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 rough waters with greater movement, while canoes are used rather in calm waters. Moreover, in comparison with kayaks, canoes make it easier to drain the water that enters them. On the other hand, the canoe is driven by single-leaf shovels, unlike the kayak whose blade is two-leaf.

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 trunk. It was first used in Spanish in 1530. For its part, the word “kayak“, is of Eskimo origin and comes from the expression “qayak” which refers to a small boat of skins. Apparently, the first kayaks were made from seal or walrus skins spread over the wooden construction.

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Canoe. Recovered on 23 February, 2024, de Euston96:

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